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Stability act Summit

30-07-1999 Statement

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 29 - 30 July 1999 - Statement by Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

I would like to begin by saying that it is a distinct honour for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to be invited to this important summit of the Stability Pact for South - Eastern Europe. I also wish to commend the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Finnish Presidency of the European Union for their warm and generous hospitality.

Over most of the last ten years, south-east Europe has experienced immense hardship. The people of this region have endured immeasurable pain, suffering and trauma. Throughout this period, the international community has sought political, humanitarian and, at times, military responses to the cause and consequences of a succession of conflicts.

You are, as I am, aware of the shortcomings that we have shown in these attempts. Too many people have failed to receive the protection to which they are entitled.

In this regard, the initiative of the Stability Pact is particularly welcome. Indeed, it expresses a strong sense of commitment on the part of the international community to bringing about lasting political, economic and social solutions to key issues at stake. It is important that this initiative is regional in scope and that it seeks transparency and partnership with the local authorities concerned.

From the ICRC's perspective, a crucial element in this process will be the stability to ensure that the spirit and dynamics generated by the Stability Pact have a firm and effective impact on the daily lives of ordinary citizens.

At this juncture I would like to draw your attention to the lasting and tragic plight of ten thousands of families here i n Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Croatia and in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- including Kosovo -- who remain, in some cases years after the end of active hostilities, without news of close relatives.

Stability is often defined, first and foremost, in political or macro-economic terms. Stability in the everyday lives of many people is however, linked to peace of mind. Long-term stability and coexistence among communities will be achieved only by keeping this very important dimension -- that is, the need to provide answer to anxious family -- high on all our agenda. I hereby reaffirm the ICRC's unwavering commitment towards the families of those still unaccounted for throughout the Balkans.

Allow me to take this opportunity to refer also to the importance of strengthening civil society. Here I would like to underline the very significant role played by thousands of local Red Cross workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. With community level reconstruction under way in some places and beginning in others, Red Cross volunteers are often the primary guarantee that the assistance will reach most vulnerable members of society. Hence they, as well as the families of the missing, must maintain a prominent position on the agenda within the Stability Pact framework.

By strengthening the Red Cross structure in the region, the ICRC is striving to make its own contribution to the building of civil society.

Allow me to conclude by re-emphasizing that we must not lose sight of our profound responsibility. We owe this to the people of this region.

Ref. EXSO 99.07.30-ENG