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Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference rallies international community to tackle humanitarian challenges

30 November 2007

The 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent ended with a commitment from some 1,500 representatives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and of States party to the Geneva Conventions to stronger collaborative humanitarian action. Delegates agreed a collective response was required to tackle the humanitarian consequences of four great challenges as each one of them exceeded the coping capacity of individual States or single organizations.

Environmental degradation and climate change
In order to best protect the most vulnerable from the consequences of more frequent and more severe disasters and the results of environmental degradation and climate change – and in order to assist them effectively, community action as well as disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures will be stepped up.

International Migration
In countries of origin, transit and destination, the essential priority will remain, for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, to assist people made vulnerable by migration, and human trafficking and exploitation in particular, whatever their legal status. The commitment includes not only material help, but also advocacy to combat discrimination against migrants and promote respect for human dignity.

Violence, in particular in urban settings
The role of States is central in the protection and care for populations exposed to violence. But all parties agreed united and community-based comprehensive efforts were essential to prevent, defuse and mitigate violence, especially to assist young people affected by violence.

Emergent and recurrent diseases and other public health challenges
The growing threat of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, among other public health challenges, must be met by strengthening health systems and developing national health plans, especially at the community level, where the preventive and caring action of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are most effective.

Noting the complexity of these humanitarian threats, Juan Manuel Su├írez del Toro, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said: "These challenges are closely interrelated, and cannot be addressed without meaningful cooperation between governments, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and other partners.”

Organized under the theme “Together for Humanity”, the five-day meeting also adopted several resolutions.

A first resolution sought to clarify the nature of the unique relationship between National Societies and their government. They act as official auxiliaries to public authorities in the field of humanitarian action, including dissemination of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), disaster preparedness and relief, health and care. The resolution stated that this role does not extend to all activities of the National Society, which must be free to fulfill its mandate, and has a right to refuse action conflicting with the Movement’s Fundamental Principles.

A second resolution on IHL, reaffirming, among other points, the continued relevance and applicability of IHL’s fundamental guarantees of protection for people, irrespective of their status, in both international and non-international armed conflicts, was also adopted. “I am pleased to see that the International Conference, once more, stressed the importance of IHL and the fact that it remains relevant in armed conflicts today, by adopting a resolution to that effect,” said Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The adoption of the resolution concerning the “Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance” is considered an historic step to help governments achieve essential legal preparedness for disasters. The guidelines will allow them to solve legal problems before disaster strikes, instead of addressing them in the chaos following a crisis to ensure aid reaches victims more quickly and effectively.

Conference President Mandisa Kalako-Williams pointed to the importance of community action for effective results. “Our response to these challenges must begin at the local level if it is to be successful and sustainable. Our work can – and it already does – build vital resilience at the community level. This is where the complementarity between humanitarian actors can truly express the meaning and the concrete impact of the Movement’s new slogan, Together for Humanity”. The Movement is made up of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Movement’s highest deliberative body, the International Conference meets every four years and sets the Movement’s humanitarian agenda for the next four years.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact: Carla Haddad, deputy head of media relations, ICRC
Tel: + 41 79 217 3226
Pierre Kremer, head of media unit, International Federation Tel: + 41 79 226 4832
IFRC Media Service duty phone Tel: + 41 79 416 3881