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“Protecting human dignity”


28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, 2 to 6 December 2003



 The conference, which takes place in the first week of December in Geneva, will bring together representatives of 179 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the 191 States that have signed up to the Geneva Conventions. There will also be observers from National Societies awaiting recognition, the UN, NGOs and other interested organizations.  


The organization of the conference is in the hands of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement supported by the ICRC and the International Federation in Geneva. The planned outcome will be in the form of a declaration backed up by an “Agenda for Humanitarian Action.”

 Stark analysis of today ’s realities  



As a first step the organizers defined what they believed were the humanitarian challenges faced by the international community. They included:

  • Lack of respect for human dignity and human rights is widespread.

  • Access to people affected by armed conflict or other disasters is often difficult.

  • International humanitarian law is not followed adequately and there are too many serious violations.

  • Poverty and inequality put people at increased risk from disease and disasters, denying them the right to life, health and dignity.

  • Intolerance and discrimination also marginalize groups and individuals in society.

  • Acts of violence aimed at spreading terror and the fight against terrorism further complicate the work of humanitarian organizations.


 An opportunity for action  


The conference is an opportunity to tackle some of these issues and reassert the overriding importance of laws that safeguard human dignity.


The “agenda for humanitarian action ” will contain a series of concrete goals. The conference will develop this by focusing on four key issues.

 The missing  


One of the saddest legacies of war and internal violence is the number of people who go missing and the anguish faced by those they leave behind. The conference will identify action to prevent disappearances, improve information on people unaccounted for, and deal with the issue of handling human remains. It will recognize the need to support the families of missing people and clearly establish their “right to know.”




 The arms issue  


The conference will seek to stimulate progress in addressing key humanitarian concerns related to weapons. It will affirm t he need to renew international commitment to end the suffering caused by antipersonnel landmines, to address the human cost of other ‘explosive remnants of war ’ and to strictly control the availability of weapons. It will also call for action to prevent biotechnology from being misused to create new means or methods of warfare.

 Reducing the impact of disasters  


Millions of people each year are affected by disaster, and the number is growing. The conference will identify ways to make “disaster risk reduction ” a reality. It will consider a range of practical actions that governments and National Societies can take to incorporate risk reduction, disaster management techniques, awareness and preparedness in their policies and practices. It will also present the findings of the International Disaster Response Law (IDRL)project.




 Changing attitudes to HIV/AIDS  


The stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases is a direct threat to human dignity. The conference will identify action by governments and National Societies to tackle stigma and discrimination and action to reduce the risks and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other diseases in programmes where the RCRC and governments already work together.


 Pledges and workshops  


There will also be ten workshops on specific issues linked to the conference themes. They will provide an opportunity to debate in a free and open way outside the formal agenda of the conference.

The pledging system started at the 27th Conference will be repeated in 2003.This time pledges can be made well in advance of the conference and will be posted on the ICRC web site. This will generate a sharing of ideas and allow governments and National Societies making similar commitments to link them or agree to cooperate.

On the penultimate day of the conference there will be a series of other items including reports on the issue of the emblem and on the auxiliary role of National Societies.