Celebrating 50 Years of the ICRC's Contribution to Humanitarian Action in Malaysia
The year 2022 is a significant milestone for Malaysia, which is home to the first regional office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in South-East Asia. Marking 50 years of the ICRC in Malaysia, the golden jubilee is made even more memorable as it coincides with the 60th anniversary of Malaysia's accession to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the core treaties of modern international humanitarian law (IHL).
In commemoration of this special occasion, a celebration was co-hosted by the ICRC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Zenith Putrajaya today.
"We have to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, because in November 1972, just 10 years after Malaysia acceded to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, then Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tun Abdul Razak Hussein graciously welcomed the ICRC to establish its first Southeast Asia Regional Delegation in Malaysia," said Biljana Milosevic, head of the ICRC's regional delegation in Kuala Lumpur. She elaborated on the various close collaborations the ICRC has with the authorities and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS), from the assistance provided together with MRCS to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in Pulau Bidong to the first course in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) given to the Malaysian Armed Forces in 1988 and the continuous visits to places of detention, to today.
YB Dato' Sri Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed appreciation for ICRC's long-standing contributions to the country and its people over the past 50 years. In his keynote address, Dato' Sri Saifuddin Abdullah reaffirmed Malaysia's commitment to protect and promote international humanitarian law and to strengthen cooperation with the ICRC. He recognised that the ongoing collaboration between the ICRC and various government ministries and agencies has proved instrumental in improving the implementation and promotion of international humanitarian law in Malaysia.
Her Highness Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz Binti Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, Tunku Temenggong Kedah, the MRCS national chairperson, underlined the over 50 years of friendship with the ICRC in its humanitarian journey. "The ICRC has been one of our key partners in humanitarian responses, from the Vietnamese Boat People to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to a strengthened collaboration with the ICRC for many years to come to reduce human suffering and further our humanitarian objectives," she said.
While the ICRC's first activities in Malaysia can be traced back to the 1940s, its half-a-century-long presence in the country began following a 1972 letter from then Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, welcoming the opening of the first ICRC regional office for South-East Asia in Kuala Lumpur in March the following year. The celebration today was also attended by Christine Cipolla, ICRC regional director for Asia Pacific, who is officially representing ICRC President Peter Maurer to mark this occasion. She noted, "The ICRC commends Malaysia in its constant commitment to humanitarian action and for continuing to influence global policy discussions and debate on humanitarian concerns of the day. We are grateful for this long-standing relationship with Malaysia."