Gaza reconstruction conference

12 October 2014

Speech by Robert Mardini, ICRC head of operations for the Near and Middle East. Cairo, 12 October 2014.

Honourable representatives of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Norway, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honour to be here today and to address such an important and influential audience. It is also an immense responsibility: the stakes are nothing less than the dignity and the future of the population of Gaza.

The human cost of this conflict is severe. Thousands dead and wounded – and one of every four victims was a child. Thousands of homes and properties destroyed,  families without a roof, clean water or electricity. Over four hundred thousand people fled their homes and nearly a quarter had no home to return to; entire neighbourhoods are today in ruins.

One of the victims of the August conflict was international humanitarian law, the basic rules that all fighting parties must obey. The ICRC is undertaking a thorough review of the conduct of hostilities (or warfare) during the conflict. The results will be shared confidentially with all the parties and the ICRC will, once again, engage with each side on the concrete steps needed to ensure that such a tragedy never be repeated.

The ICRC was both an actor and a witness in this tragedy. Throughout the 52-day conflict, ICRC teams - with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, the Magen David Adom and other members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - worked day and night. Together, we collected the injured and dead, gave medicine to hospitals and repaired power lines and water networks, even as fighting raged around us.

We pay solemn tribute to the members of the emergency services who lost their lives while carrying out their duties.

In the immediate aftermath, the ICRC and the PRCS further expanded their relief operation to help 150,000 people who lost their homes and their livelihoods.

This work is vital, but it is not enough.

Honourable hosts and guests, this conference is a golden opportunity. It is essential to heal the wounds of war, to ease the suffering and to repair the damage done.

But let me be clear: more than new houses, new hospitals, and new schools, what the people of Gaza need, especially its young generation, is something much more precious: Hope.

Gazans expect this conference to deliver hope: they literally need fresh air and clean water, and they need restrictions on the movement of people and goods lifted. But they also need to know that the world will not only support their physical recovery, but that a future of promise awaits them, a dignified future, far from their already unbearable plight prior to this conflict.

Excellencies, this is a unique moment: we have the chance to turn political momentum into concrete steps to ensure much-needed reconstruction, but also to ease the deadlock in which Israelis and Palestinians have been stranded for too long.

On behalf of the ICRC, I appeal to your responsibility to ensure that the humanitarian factor is at the heart of the political solution.

After so much suffering, it is time for human dignity to prevail.

Thank you.