China: the ICRC opens a regional delegation for east Asia
On 20 July 2005, the ICRC and the People's Republic of China signed an agreement for the opening of an ICRC regional delegation for east Asia in Beijing. Interview with the ICRC's delegate-general for Asia and the Pacific, Reto Meister.
Why has the ICRC chosen to establish a presence in China?
The establishment of an ICRC presence in the Chinese capital is the result of a long process of exchange and consultation; it illustrates the institution's aim to evolve and to be in a position to truly demonstrate the global appeal and significance of its mandate. At the same time, China itself is in the process of looking outwards to assume a greater role and more responsibilities both at a regional and global level.
The opening of the Beijing delegation also fulfils the ICRC's ambition to maintain dialogue with all major, global actors which include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. We believe the establishment of this delegation is a real opportunity that will pay dividends in the future.
What activities will the regional delegation carry out?
The regional delegation brings the ICRC closer to areas marked on the one hand by very strong economic development and, on the other, by a potential for tension. So, being in Beijing and able to cover the Far East from this location gives us a privileged point for observation and networking.
Take, for example, the situation on the Korean peninsula. More than 50 years after the suspension of hostilities, the humanitarian consequences of the conflict are all too current and satisfactory answers must still be found and implemented.
Despite the fact that we have been able on occasion to provide humanitarian services – on the repatriation of Korean citizens from Japan for example - we hope to achieve further progress in helping the two national societies on the Korean peninsula to move forward on the separated families issue. I think our proximity to the area will enable us to have a greater operational impact in the future.
Being on the ground, we will also have new opportunities to disseminate information on ICRC activities worldwide and to promote international humanitarian law to a wider audience. We aim to intensify the promotion of IHL to the armed and security forces in all four countries covered by the regional delegation ( see below* ). In addition, there is an opportunity to build up new relationships with civil society -- the media and law faculties in particular.
In the domain of communication, we will also offer information and services through our Chinese website thus reaching a very large audience worldwide.
What level of cooperation do you expect with the national society?
In particular we expect relations with the Red Cross Society of China and with the Republic of Korea National Red Cross to be strengthened considerably. Both these national societies are in the process of exploring possibilities of becoming active beyond their own frontiers. Joint operations in a given country in the field of health, to take one example, could be envisaged. This kind of collaboration is something that we hope to develop in the future.
* China, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
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