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Red Cross Red Crescent issues universal call to action to tackle today's humanitarian challenges

25-11-2009 News Release 240/09

Nairobi / Geneva – The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is ready and determined to lead the way in tackling today's most important humanitarian challenges.

Concluding the first-ever Red Cross Red Crescent Council of Delegates held in Africa, Red Cross Red Crescent leaders from more than 180 countries called on governments and other stakeholders to join forces with the Movement to help improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

Meeting 150 years after the battle of Solferino, which led to the creation of the Red Cross Red Crescent, the Council expressed its solidarity with all those struggling to cope with'today's Solferinos'– whether it is the suffering caused by armed conflicts, natural disasters, poverty, climate change or the current global economic crisis.

The Council of Delegates is a biennial meeting of the leadership of 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. It met from 23 to 25 November in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Council said that the Red Cross Red Crescent, as the world's largest humanitarian network, would continue to push decision-makers to prioritise the welfare of those worst affected by today's humanitarian crises. It also stressed the Red Cross Red Crescent’s commitment to Africa, underlining that humanitarian challenges on the Continent need to be tackled from a global perspective. The Council said that the Movement would work as one to promote solutions and sustainable progress in Africa based on a common sense of responsibility and with a view to ensuring that African communities can make the difference by and for themselves.

The Council warned that climate change had become a major driver of weather disasters, affec ting millions of people worldwide, and called for a greater investment in risk reduction, community resilience and disaster preparedness as key strategies for climate change adaptation.

Climate change along with war, violence and poverty have forced tens of millions of people to leave their homes and join the ranks of the internally displaced. A new policy adopted by the Council of Delegates commits the Red Cross Red Crescent to take steps to prevent internal displacement and, where that is impossible, to provide lasting support to the displaced and the communities that host them.

The Council also expressed the determination of the Red Cross Red Crescent to help and speak up for tens of millions of migrants seeking a better life outside their home countries, including those living outside or at the margins of conventional health, social and legal systems.

Whether they are displaced or residents, countless people affected by war and other situations of violence have insufficient access to health care because medical workers and facilities are attacked or threatened. The Council said the Red Cross Red Crescent would defend the rights of wounded and sick to have access to health care and work towards better respect of health care personnel and facilities.

Furthermore, concerned by the growing impact of epidemics on the social and economic development of poorer countries, the Council asked for greater support to facilitate access to health services and for scaled-up programmes enabling communities to better prepare and cope with health related risks.

The Council also reaffirmed the Red Cross Red Crescent's long-standing commitment to tackling the devastating impact of weapons that keep on killing long after hostilities have ended: anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. It called for better respect of the international laws adop ted to prevent and address the destruction wrought by these weapons and it urged participants at the forthcoming Cartagena Summit on a Mine Free World to increase significantly their assistance for victims of anti-personnel landmines.

The Council called on States to reduce the human cost of the uncontrolled availability of arms, including through regulating transfers of all conventional arms and ammunition, and welcomed the fact that the elimination of nuclear weapons was now back on the international agenda.

Alarmed by the massive human cost of armed conflict worldwide, the Council stressed the Red Cross Red Crescent's conviction that international humanitarian law offers the best available legal protection for those suffering because of war. It said that 60 years after the adoption of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, what was needed was better respect for existing rules and further development and clarification to ensure that international humanitarian law fits the ever-changing reality of war.

One hundred and fifty years after the Red Cross Red Crescent was born out of Henry Dunant's drive and inspiration amid the bloodshed of Solferino, the Movement is convinced that today's Solferinos require a collective response from the international community based on renewed local and global partnerships. Tens of millions of youth, volunteers and staff of the Red Cross Red Crescent are making their move every day, showing that everyone can make a difference in our world.

Our world. Your move. 

For more information, please contact:
  Nicole Engelbrecht at the ICRC: +254 722 512 728
  Anna Nelson at the ICRC: +41 79 217 3264
  Andreï Engstrand-Neacsu at the IFRC: +254 733 632 946
  Pierre Kremer at the IFRC: +41 79 226 48 32