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Pacific: Conflict preparedness

17-05-2001 News Release 01/19

Two workshops on conflict preparedness attended by representatives of the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the National Societies of Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were recently held in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

" The purpose of the workshops was to discuss working conditions in situations of conflict or internal disturbances, review National Society responsibilities and discuss ways and means of building up response capacity, " said Dr Thomas Gurtner, head of the regional delegation for the Pacific. " It was also to assist National Societies in drawing up conflict-preparedness plans. "

The workshops covered such topics as the difference between international humanitarian law and human rights law, action to be taken in conflict situations, the protection of the red cross / red crescent emblem, the fundamental principles, various constitutional issues and the importance of dissemination and communication.

Several case studies were presented in these workshops and the representatives of the Fiji Red Cross and the Solomon Islands Red Cross shared their personal experiences of the recent conflicts in their countries and discussed the impact of these conflicts on their Societies.

Ms Tautala Mauala, National Secretary of the Board of the Samoa Red Cross Society, attended both workshops. She said that the experiences of the Fiji and Solomon Islands Societies showed that you could never know what the future held and that you always needed to be prepared.

" The Pacific is prone to natural disasters, " Ms Mauala pointed out. " In Samoa we only drew up a disaster plan after we were hit by two big hurricanes. We shouldn't wait until things happen - and that applies to conflicts as well. "