Explanatory note to the Memorandum of Understanding and the Agreement on Operational Arrangements


31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, 28 November to 1 December 2011.

On 28 November 2005, Dr.Noam Yifrach (YR), chairperson of the executive committee of the Magen David Adom (MDA) and Mr Younis al-Khatib (YK), President of the Palestine Red Crescent (PRCS), signed in Geneva a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) . They also reached an agreement on operational arrangements (AOA),  setting out the practical implications of certain provisions of the MoU.

I) The content of the Memorandum of Understanding

Under the MoU, both National Societies (NS) have agreed that they will work in conformity with the legal framework applicable to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967, including the IVth Geneva Convention.

The two NS also recognized that PRCS is the authorized National Society in the Palestinian territory.

The MoU foresees that the MDA will have no chapter outside the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel. Furthermore, operational activities of one society within the jurisdiction of the other society will be conducted in accordance with the consent provision of resolution 11 of the 1921 international Conference.

The two NS have also agreed that they work together and separately within their jurisdiction to protect the emblems against misuse and work with their authorities to ensure respect for their humanitarian mandate and international humanitarian law.

Both NS will use a distinctive emblem in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the Third Additional Protocol and the Statutes and Rules of the Movement. Both NS agreed to cooperate in the implementation of the MoU.

II) The content of the Agreement on Operational Arrangements

Under the "Agreement on Operational Arrangements", which is an expansion of §6 of the MoU and is thus considered as an Annex to the MoU itself, the MDA and the PRCS have identified a number of practical issues on which to cooperate.

MDA has agreed to assist PRCS by lobbying and advocating with the relevant Israeli authorities in securing freedom of movement for PRCS ambulances and vehicles throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory in order to provide urgent medical assistance and facilitate other humanitarian services for all those who need them.

This advocacy includes facilitating the establishment of separate fast lanes for the passage of ambulances through checkpoints to bring patients to Israel hospitals when necessary and to facilitate the passage of patients through the Allenby Bridge (to Jordan), between Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the stationing of PRCS ambulances in East Jerusalem.

Furthermore, MDA and the PRCS committed themselves to enhancing their cooperation in fulfilling their respective humanitarian mandates. This was to be realized through the establishment of a hotline between the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) of both Societies, the development of a communication system, the exchange of knowledge and experience, the convening of regular meetings between their EMS, youth and volunteers, and the organisation of awareness raising programs and cooperation in blood bank issues.

The agreements were signed prior to the Diplomatic Conference convened in Geneva from 5-8 December 2005 for adopting a third additional protocol  to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It was foreseen that a number of topics from these agreements would be implemented after the 29th International Conference in June 2006, upon admission of the two Societies into the Movement.

III) The monitoring of the implementation of the agreements

Upon concluding the negotiations, both Chairmen requested the Swiss government to monitor the implementation of their agreements and to report on it to the next International Conference, which would take place in Geneva in June 2006.

Although major delays in the implementation process could not be avoided, the process itself brought the two societies together and led to improved operational cooperation between them.

On 11 February 2007, the PRCS and MDA requested the ICRC and the International Federation to set up a mechanism to monitor implementation of the MoU and its associated AOA signed in 2005. They recognized that the work of the two Societies would be facilitated by such a mechanism.

In June 2007, the two institutions approached Minister (Hon.) Pär Stenbäck of Finland with the request to record and report on progress towards the implementation of the agreements. Minister Stenbäck accepted this function on a voluntary basis.

It was agreed that the Monitor would present his written report to the two NS prior to the CoD scheduled for 22-23 November 2007.

The major area of progress reported by the Monitor in 2007 was the establishment of a PRCS emergency medical service (EMS) with 5 PRCS ambulances in East Jerusalem.

The Monitor also mentioned an agreement reached between the two NS according to which responsibility for EMS operations in Israel settlements located within Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967 would be transferred by MDA to other entities. Despite the fact that a fair number of contracts of transfer of the ambulances have been already signed with these authorities, the Monitor had to acknowledge that the appearance had, as of 2007, not changed and that the ambulances were still bearing full MDA markings.

After having considered the Monitor's report, the CoD of 2007 and the 30th International Conference requested that the appointed Monitor continue his mandate and reports on progress towards the full implementation of the MoU to the 2009 CoD, and through it to the 31st International Conference. The participating governments and National Societies unanimously called upon the independent Monitor to report to the International Federation and the ICRC on the following two topics:

  1. Progress towards the full implementation of the MoU ;
  2. Steps taken to support and strengthen the monitoring of the implementation of the MoU and to support cooperation between the two National Societies.

Pursuant to the IC resolution, which invited "interested NS to support the work of the Monitor upon the Monitor's request", the Monitor invited a representative of the American Red Cross to accompany him on missions to the region starting from September 2008. The ICRC and the international Federation continued to provide support to the Monitor as did the Finnish and the Norwegian Red Cross by assigning their legal advisors as assistants to the Monitor.

Considering that by the end of May 2008 limited progress could be reported (Report of 31 May 2008), the Monitor was asked by the ICRC and the International Federation to verify the continuation of the implementation of the agreements and to provide them with another interim Report (Report of 5 March 2009)  before the next CoD in November 2009 in Nairobi.

In his comprehensive report to the 2009 CoD, the Monitor dealt in detail with the specific requirements of the MoU, concluding that some commendable results had been achieved, but that the final steps in the process had not been taken.

The CoD in its resolution 1, requested the Monitor to continue to report regularly on the progress of the implementation of the MoU, as he deemed necessary. The resolution also requested the ICRC and the International Federation to make provisions for a report on the implementation progress made in this file to the next CoD in 2011 and through it to the 31st International Conference.