Developing partnerships to promote research and innovation

Within the Central Tracing Agency, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Missing Persons Centre partners with a broad range of institutions to promote a research agenda on those who become separated from their loved ones or go missing, the protection and management of the dead, and the families affected.

The Centre collaborates with relevant institutes, think tanks, universities and expert organizations on cross-disciplinary research projects that seek to inform evidence-based policy and practice, raise awareness and galvanize action. The hub also supports and facilitates research conducted by others, by providing them with access to information and data.


PRISM: The impact of a loved one going missing

The Project Researching the Impact of Separated and Missing Family (PRISM Family) seeks to understand how having a family member missing has affected the health and well-being of people living in Australia who have been forcibly displaced. The study is a collaboration between the Refugee Trauma and Recovery Programme at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, the Australian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross. PRISM Family is a longitudinal study combined with qualitative research that tracks people who have a loved one missing over three years and measures how their experiences change over time as they reach milestones in their search for their missing loved ones. The initial findings will be available from 2024.

Global number of missing persons

While the number of missing persons registered with the ICRC alone has grown by 120% over the last five years, there are no global or consolidated figures for the number of missing persons worldwide. Official figures for missing persons do exist in some countries; in others, however, only broad estimates are possible. There are myriad reasons for this: for technical or political reasons, not every country in the world has a reliable count of missing persons, and the definition of and way to report a missing person can also vary, depending on the place or circumstances. This makes it extremely difficult to convey the enormity of the problem. While the ICRC collects around 25,000 new cases of missing persons from families every year, the lack of a global figure hampers joint efforts with the global community of practitioners to move the plight of missing persons further up the international agenda and to obtain the necessary resources to respond effectively to families who are desperate for news. In an attempt to tackle this issue, the ICRC, together with the University of Southampton’s Centre for Population Change, will conduct the first-ever study on the feasibility of estimating a global number of missing persons by undertaking a selection of case studies. Depending on the outcome of this initial phase, a further phase may be launched, to include more case studies.

Gender and diversity aspects in the field of missing persons, those who have become separated, the deceased and the families searching for them

All over the world, activists, researchers, advocates for transitional justice and peace and security, and humanitarians are calling for a gender and diversity perspective to be incorporated into human rights and humanitarian policies and programming as a matter of operational effectiveness and efficiency. This exploratory research unpacks the gender and diversity aspects of why people become separated from their families, go missing or die in situations of armed conflict, other situations of violence or in the context of migration, and of the risks and experiences they encounter. It also examines how gender and diversity aspects have an impact on the needs of families and family members, on their capacity to search for their missing loved ones and on their experiences and coping strategies in the absence of a missing relative. The study highlights that many of the reasons for going missing, experiences and capacities are shaped by a person’s gender, age and other diversity factors – including membership of a minority or marginalized social or ethnic group – and the  intersectionality of those factors.