The 50th anniversary around the world Starting point for a "humanitarian groundswell"
11-08-1999 News Release 99/33
National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all over the world are carrying out a wide range of activities on and around 12 August to mark the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, taking part in the ICRC's " People on War " campaign and promoting awareness of the rules governing warfare.
These activities on the national level are aimed at a variety of target groups. In cooperation with the authorities, educational institutions and the military, a number of seminars, round tables and conferences on international humanitarian law (IHL) are being held. Some National Societies have translated the Geneva Conventions into their national languages for the first time, while others are supplying schoolchildren with IHL classroom packs and books containing stories illustrating practical cases. Lectures on IHL are being given at high schools and universities, grants awarded to IHL students, and youth group meetings organized to spread knowledge of the humanitarian principles.
The media are being briefed extensively with a view to creating an ongoing dialogue on the significant role they can play in the dissemination and implementation of IHL. Public interest in the 50th anniversary has been fostered through exhibitions, concerts, sports events, the issue of commemorative stamps, opinion surveys, competitions and rallies, the planting of trees, campaigns promoting the emblem and film festivals, as well as through the media. Most National Societies are using their press contacts to have the material produced by the ICRC's " People on War " Campaign Unit published in their national media.
On 12 August itself, special programmes will be broadcast on TV and radio, and articles and editorials by Red Cross/Red Crescent representatives will appear in newspapers and magazines. In Geneva, the President of the ICRC will read out a Solemn Appeal reflecting the concerns of people consulted on IHL throughout the world. The appeal will be endorsed by a group of prominent figures invited in their personal capacity, including United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Swiss federal, cantonal and city authorities, diplomats based in Bern or Geneva, and the heads of international organizations will attend the commemoration ceremony.
The results of the " People on War " consultation will be presented to the 188 States party to the Geneva Conventions and the 175 National Societies during the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (31 October - 6 November 1999).
And then what? A more wide-ranging humanitarian plan of action will be debated and adopted during the Conference, and the results of the consultation will give the awareness campaign new momentum. Together, the events marking 12 August and the public presentation of the results of the consultation will be the starting point for the creation of a " humanitarian groundswell " which should surge forward into the new millennium. The public awareness of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the Geneva Conventions already achieved through the Millennium and the People on War campaigns is expected to stimulate far-reaching debate on core issues which will contribute to the drafting of the humanitarian agenda for the beginning of the 21st century.