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Daily bulletin of the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, issue 4


Effective response to disasters

Effective response to disasters and improved cooperation between players was the subject of Wednesday’s debate in the plenary commission. More than 50 National Societies, governments and observers joined in the debate on theme two of the plan of action, entitled Humanitarian action in times of armed conflict and other disasters.  

There are four goals to theme two, which it is hoped can be achieved through 12 specific actions outlined in the draft plan. The drafting commission, which meets separately, will consider amendments offered by National Societies and governments.

The four goals of theme two are as follows:

Effective response in disaster situations through improved national and international preparedness.
Strengthened mechanisms of cooperation and coordination amongst states, the Movement and other humanitarian actors.
Provision for the rights and acute needs of the most vulnerable people as the first priority for humanitarian action.
Understanding of the respective roles of political, military and humanitarian actors, and protection of humanitarian personnel.

 Vote for a new Standing Commission  
Fifteen people are standing for election to the new Standing Commission. Voting will take place on Friday when delegates will be asked to elect five members. Together with two ICRC and two International Federation representatives, they will make up the nine-member Standing Commission, which will hold office for four years.

CVs of all candidates will be circulated today in pigeon holes and information on voting procedure is in your conference dossier. A roll call of the conference will be made before voting begins.


 The nominations are as follows:  
Prof. Amoussouvi Samuel Ahouangbevi (Togolese Red Cross)
Dr. Mohammed Al-Hadid (Jordan National Red Crescent) 
Dr. Abdul Rahman A. Al Swailem (Saudi Arabian Red Crescent Society) 
Mrs Monique Basque (Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire)
Mr. Lawrence S. Eagleburger (American Red Cross)
Mr. Aurélien Eteki Mboumoua (Cameroon Red Cross Society)
General Georges Harrouk (Lebanese Red Cross)
Dr. Nenad Javornik (Croatian Red Cross)
Dr. Claude Jean-François (Haitian National Red Cross Society)
Mr. Tadateru Konoe (Japanese Red Cross Society)
Mrs. Christina Magnuson (Swedish Red Cross)
HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands (The Netherlands Red Cross)
Mr. Richard Morgan (Australian Red Cross)
Dr. Mohlalefi Moteane (Lesotho Red Cross Society)
Dr. Hugo Palazzi Moscoso (Bolivian Red Cross)

 Behind the scenes  

Do you realise that there are more than 170 staff from the International Federation and the ICRC are working hard behind the scenes at this conference? It has taken almost a year of planning and preparation to ensure that everything was ready and that all runs smoothly.

Installing a nd maintaining computers and photocopiers is the job of the technical support group. Stephane de Bois Brillant, who runs the group, began planning last January. Besides setting up the computer network for staff and the internet café, he organized a 24-hour technical support service comprising three teams of two people. “We haven’t had any major technical problems to solve but it has been very important to be always reachable giving reassurance to everybody working in the conference,” he says. His group has also organized the audiovisual systems in the plenary rooms, a new concept which allowed for screening every intervention, and also introduced a radio system for the runners.

Ms. Joyce Duffuor, working on the registration desk, now has blisters on her feet from standing up all day. She is one of 15 people working at the desk in different shifts, registering all the people attending the conference, updating the participants list, answering questions and distributing documents. “We have 620 pigeonholes for National Societies, governments, observers, the International Federation and the ICRC. By noon each day, I have already completed at least seven mail distribution rounds,” she says.

The translation service is another of the invisible pillars of the conference, which has three official languages: English, French and Spanish. Every text used and every resolution made has to be translated, and this takes a total of 24 people, working two different shifts, with the afternoon shift often working well into the night. “Sometimes it’s difficult because even the smallest word change in an urgent, important document requires us to know the exact context or background, and there is not always time for that,” says Renee Cabrera, in charge of the evening Spanish translation team.

All the typing, translating and photocopying of documents is coordinated by a team of seven people in the document coordination team. It has taken strict proc edures and good coordination to provide an efficient service to all participants, says Ms. Anne Ijeh, member of the team. “Sometimes we have had too many different requirements coming in at the same time, but this is inevitable,” she says.

It is thanks to Rafael Jimenez’ team that all the papers and documents distributed during the conference have been photocopied and made available. With three teams of four people, the document production service has provided a 24-hours service. Fortunately, says Rafael with a smile, the photocopy machines have worked perfectly all week.

And as for this daily bulletin that you are reading, you can thank a team of nine people and two photographers, working in shifts to provide a summary of the day’s proceedings and to highlight events happening around the conference centre. The bulletin is written in English and sent to translation, then designed in all three languages before being distributed and posted on the web site. The bulletin that you find in your pigeon holes in the morning is usually “put to bed” at around 2 or 3 am.

 Today's workshops  


 Use and development of SPHERE standards - from 5.00 pm in room A, EFTA building.  Sphere’s humanitarian charter recognizes that victims of war and disaster have a basic right to assistance and sets minimum standards for disaster response. This workshop will focus on issues surrounding a rights-based approach to humanitarian assistance; the link between rights and service standards, the roles and responsibilities of players on the humanitarian scene and the implications for programme planning and funding.

 Strategies for assisting children affected by armed conflicts: turning goodwill into action - from 5.00 pm in room B1, ITU building.  Current trends in conflict frequently involve tactics which target the civilian population, particularly children. Discussions at this workshop will focus on learning from the experience of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies who run programmes in this area to strengthen assistance and coordination.

 Did you know?  

The name Geneva comes from the Celtic word Genava meaning “at the water’s mouth”. In the local language, French, the city is called Genève , and in German (which is spoken in two-thirds of Switzerland), its name is Genf .
Geneva became part of the Swiss Confederation in 1815.
The city of Geneva has 178,000 inhabitants. The canton of Geneva, which covers an area of 282 square kilometres, has 405,000 inhabitants, of whom 38 per cent are foreigners. 
The city is at an altitude of around 400 metres above sea level.

Find out more about Geneva at the tourist information stand in the CICG lobby.

Around 150 delegates took part in a tour of Geneva last week between the end of the General Assembly and start of the International Conference. The two-hour bus tour took in the international organizations, lakeside parks and monuments, while a walk through Geneva’s old town enabled participants to photograph the birthplace of Henry Dunant on Rue Verdaine.

 Pledging to protect women and childen  

Protecting the rights of women and children has been the subject of many of the pledges made this week at the 27th International Conference. The governments and National Societies of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), the Mozambique Red Cross and the Spanish Red Cross, pledged to work to prevent the recruitment and participation of children in armed conflicts. The particular needs of children traumatized or adversely affected by the horrors of war are to be addressed by the Colombian, Swedish and Spanish Red Cross Societies, all of whom have pledged to improve dissemination of information and strengthen their programmes in this field.

Gravely concerned about the increasing use of sexual violence as a war tool, the ICRC pledged to emphasize respect for women and female children through its activities. Sexual violence is specifically prohibited under international humanitarian law and the ICRC will actively disseminate this to parties to armed conflicts. President Cornelio Sommaruga signed the ICRC’s pledge, which also covered ensuring that the specific protection, health and assistance needs of women and female children in situations of armed conflict are properly addressed through its operations. The US government similarly pledged to protect the rights of this vulnerable group with a contribution of US $1 million over the next four years.

His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, as president of the Monaco Red Cross, pledged to increase contributions for international aid significantly and urge his government to ratify Protocols I and II additional to the Geneva Conventions. The Monaco Red Cross will also launch a programme of basic training in first aid for the public.

So far, more than 220 pledges have been received, of which the majority are from National Societies. All governments, National Socie ties and observers are encouraged to submit their pledges before the deadline at 5 pm today. Please note that pledges made orally in the plenary session still need to be submitted in writing at the pledge desk.

 New Publication  

Kluwer Law International is launching a new series of publications on international humanitarian law. Yves Sandoz, the ICRC’s director for international law and communications, will launch the series today at 1.15 pm in Room A of the EFTA building.

 Don’t miss the videos...  

ICRC and Federation videos are screened every day at lunchtime on Level D. The videos lasting 5-10 minutes each cover field operations and activities. The show begins at 12.30 pm and carries on through the lunch break with soundtracks in English, French and Spanish. A video on Hurricane Mitch, one year on, will be shown today.

 Health tip of the day  

A good night’s sleep is essential for you to feel at your best during the next day’s meetings. Do not go to bed on an empty stomach – take a light dinner and avoid alcohol or stimulants such as coffee. Keep the room at about 18 C. Take it easy for 30 minutes before sleeping – have a hot bath or shower, listen to soft music to relax your mind and breathe slowly and deeply.

 This bulletin is for information purposes only. It does not constitute an official record.