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Celebrating 150 years of humanitarian action

18-11-2013 Statement

Council of Delegates chairman's statement. Council of Delegates 2013, 17-18 November 2013, Sydney, Australia

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can be proud of its achievements. As we speak, thousands of volunteers and staff in the Philippines work tirelessly to respond to one of the worst typhoons ever seen in the region. Others in Syria risk their lives in one of today’s deadliest conflicts.

We, delegates of the Movement gathered in Sydney for our biennial event, pay tribute to their courage and dedication. We draw inspiration from the millions of volunteers and staff around the world, who every single day help to alleviate the suffering of people caught in the midst of humanitarian tragedies caused by man-made and natural disasters.

If we want to be at the forefront of tomorrow’s humanitarian action, our Movement must not just allow change to happen – it must drive the change we know is coming.

Our history and experience stand us in good stead to face the future. In today’s rapidly evolving world, we know the Movement must embrace tomorrow’s challenges for humanitarian action if we are to move with the times. We want to be even more relevant to the people we serve and make a greater and lasting difference to their lives.

We all see the shifting dynamics in the humanitarian landscape. All around the world, the people we aim to help are better informed and able to express their needs. There is closer scrutiny and higher expectations from States and the public.

If we want to be at the forefront of tomorrow’s humanitarian action, our Movement must not just allow change to happen – it must drive the change we know is coming. We must work better and faster together to mobilize resources and maximize efforts. This is what we are doing in the Philippines and in Syria, trying to help people in their hour of extreme need. In this way, we boost our accountability vis-à-vis our donors and the people we serve. When needed, we must be able to speak with one voice to the world about crises and our responses to them, and to shape the global humanitarian agenda.

We cannot meet these challenges without a creative, collaborative and innovative spirit. This is particularly true in the fields of community action, communication and education. The globalization of information networks offers countless opportunities and tools for connecting staff and volunteers. It enables them to share experiences and ideas, and to stand shoulder to shoulder in real time in the face of crises. Mobile technologies will help us and local communities be better prepared for and ready to respond to disasters, by providing life-saving information and engaging with people in need.

Women and young people must be given stronger voices as enablers and drivers in sustainable development and humanitarian action.

We undertake to harness the power of humanity that we embody in our diversity. We must promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in our Movement. Women and young people must be given stronger voices as enablers and drivers in sustainable development and humanitarian action. We want stronger partnerships with non-Movement organizations, including the private sector, when it benefits the people we help, and without compromising our principles and reputation.

Our Movement has a great future. It has a unique capacity to respond to the humanitarian crises and sustainable development challenges ahead of us. We form a truly global network of humanitarian organizations with 15 million volunteers working with and within communities all over the world. We also have a collective capacity to influence major debates, such as the post-2015 development agenda, that relate directly to those whose lives it will transform.

Thanks to our emblems, we have developed over time a unique identity in the humanitarian sector. The challenge now is to maintain its protective use when carrying out our humanitarian duty as well as using our brands to better support our communication and fundraising efforts in an inter-connected and increasingly competitive environment. These imperatives will need to be met together and in the sole interest of the people we strive to help.

Our Movement has a role to play in ensuring that international humanitarian law remains relevant in today’s conflicts and does what it’s meant to do – protect those who are most vulnerable, and those who seek to help the most vulnerable. We are calling upon States to carefully consider the potential humanitarian impact of new technologies of warfare and to ensure their legality. Our concern relates in particular to remote-controlled, autonomous and cyber weapons. We reaffirm our resolve to work alongside governments and civil society towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. We are calling upon States to uphold the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons. On all these issues, the components of the Movement must encourage States to actively contribute to optimizing mechanisms to foster compliance with the law.

we commit to working together as a Movement to build a stronger, more relevant and united network, whose sole ambition is to save lives, relieve suffering, protect livelihoods and build resilience,...

Together we will strive to prevent and tackle key patterns in today’s humanitarian crises: obstacles blocking the safe access of health personnel, aid workers, and Movement staff and volunteers to vulnerable people in dangerous contexts, including armed conflicts; violations committed against the civilian population, including widespread sexual violence against women, men, girls and boys; and disasters linked to factors such as climate change, depleting natural resources, and the growing population and inequalities.

Finally, in the face of mounting challenges to independent, neutral and impartial humanitarian action, our Fundamental Principles represent our greatest asset. The year 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of their proclamation. The 32nd International Conference, scheduled to take place that year in Geneva, will examine what these core historical principles mean in practice.

In the meantime, we commit to working together as a Movement to build a stronger, more relevant and united network, whose sole ambition is to save lives, relieve suffering, protect livelihoods and build resilience, genuinely and with humility, with and for the people we serve. We, leaders of the Movement, have an immense responsibility towards the most vulnerable and towards our own people, now and in the years to come.


Photos

 

Peter Maurer
© ICRC