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Bosnia-Herzegovina: President speaks out regarding missing, civil society

29-07-1999 News Release 99/30

ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga has said that efforts to build stability in the Balkans must have a direct impact on the lives of people affected by a decade of war.

Dr Sommaruga was speaking at a press conference today on his arrival in Sarajevo to attend the summit of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. He welcomed the Stability Pact initiative but cautioned that it must be based on transparency and partnership with local authorities.

President Sommaruga stressed that the area of key concern for the ICRC, which has worked in the region since 1991, was the plight of tens of thousands of families in Bosnia, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – including Kosovo – who remained without news of relatives who disappeared during the fighting.

“For these people,” he said, “stability means not just the absence of fighting or the creation of jobs, but is linked intimately with peace of mind and heart.”

The Red Cross remained committed to acting on behalf of the families for as long as the problem persisted, and urged the authorities in all the countries concerned to make every effort to respond to the families'need for information.

Dr Sommaruga also emphasized the importance of strengthening civil society, and referred to the role played by the Red Cross – in war and peace – in all countries of the region. In some areas the Red Cross structure had collapsed along with the former Yugoslavia itself, and their renewal and strengthening was high on the list of ICRC priorities.

Dr Sommaruga stressed the ICRC's deep sense of responsibility. “We owe it to the people of this region, “ he concluded.