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Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement faces growing challenges to its humanitarian action.

16-11-2005 News Release No.05/65

Joint press release - On the first day of the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, currently being held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, speakers at the opening plenary outlined the challenges facing the organization, including ensuring unimpeded access to vulnerable people, protecting its independence and neutrality, and the shift in the nature of armed conflicts.

Han Wan-Sang, President of the Republic of Korea National Red Cross, highlighted the fact that access to needy people is imperative for the Red Cross and Red Crescent. “Drawing on our collective experience and wisdom, we must find the most desirable and effective ways to realize our commonly-held vision,” he said.

For his part, Mohammed Al-Hadid, Chairman of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, argued for effective solutions to new and emerging humanitarian challenges. “We should not lose sight of the fact that only action which has an impact, focused on real needs and carried out in professional, credible and coordinated way, can, in the long run, further strengthen our position – and bring in the much-needed resources”, he noted.

Invited keynote speaker Sadako Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, identified the protection of civilian victims of war as a key issue, and went on to say that underlying political and security problems must be addressed by political leaders with military support when necessary. She also noted that assistance has to be based on the needs of the victims, not on political expediency and called for better cooperation between humanitarian actors and human rights organizations.

Susan Johnson, the Federation’s director of operations, underlined the need for better access to communities and a longer-term approach to helping people to successfully fulfill the Federation’s commitment to increase operations.

She also stressed the importance of international advocacy. “We must remember that neutrality does not mean silence. We must call attention to needs and press governments to live up to their own obligations to their citizens. The foundation of our Red Cross Red Crescent action rests on our continued ability, in increasingly politicized and militarized contexts, to be and to be seen as neutral and independent humanitarian actors,” Susan Johnson reiterated.

Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), pointed to the shift in the nature of armed conflicts, most of which are now internal, often characterized by a crisis of legitimacy of the state and involving a greater diversity of warring parties with equally diverse objectives as a major challenge to fulfilling the ICRC’s humanitarian mandate.

The situation, he explained, was further complicated by elements such as the ‘war on terror’, the widespread proliferation of weapons, mass migration, competition for resources and a collapse of public services.

Every two years the Council of Delegates brings together all Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to debate and agree on action points to implement their global humanitarian mission.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Florian Westphal, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)  

 tel. + 82 10 3982 8112  

 Marie-Françoise Borel, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)  

 tel. +82 10 3982 8156