Diplomatic Conference on the adoption of a Third Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions
Opening remarks by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, December 5, 2005
Madame Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This conference is called to take a decisive step toward the true universality of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
" This protocol " – I quote from Article 1 of the draft Third Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions – " reaffirms and supplements the provisions of the four Geneva Conventions (…) and, where applicable, of their two additional protocols (…) relating to the distinctive emblems, namely the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the Red Lion and Sun, and shall apply in the same situations as those referred to in these provisions. "
By adopting the Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions this Conference will reaffirm existing international humanitarian rules regarding the emblems and introduce an additional emblem with equal status and relevance.
For long, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has sought, with the help of the governments, a comprehensive and lasting solution on the question of the emblems, acceptable to all parties in terms of substance and procedure.
The International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent adopted resolutions supporting this objective in 1999 and 2003. The Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, at its last session in Seoul on 16-18 November, adopted by consensus a Resolution urging all National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to approach their respective governments in order to underline to them the necessity to settle the question of the emblem at this diplomatic conference through the adoption of the proposed draft Third Additional Protocol with the aim of achieving subsequently, as soon as possible, the principle of universality.
The Council of Delegates is, as you are well aware, the body where the representatives of all components of the Movement meet to discuss matters which concern the Movement as a whole. As Chairman of the Council in Seoul and as President of the International Committee of the Red Cr oss, " guardian " of the international humanitarian law, I invite you to both support the Movement's goal to reach universality and to foster the efficiency of international humanitarian law by adopting an additional emblem for the protection of the victims of armed conflict.
The Third Additional Protocol on the emblems is of an exclusively humanitarian nature. As an international treaty it has to be adopted by the States Party to the Geneva Conventions. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement therefore needs and requests your support to reach universality and fulfil its mission as best as it can. I thank the Swiss Government, in particular the Foreign Minister, Madame Calmy-Rey, Ambassador Godet and Ambassador Pfirter for the strong commitment to this important humanitarian issue and for having convened this Conference today.
A week ago, in this very building, the Chairman of Magen David Adom in Israel and the President of the Palestine Red Crescent Society signed a Memorandum of Understanding and an Agreement on operational Arrangements. These texts, beyond the precise wording of the different points, reflect a strong common humanitarian commitment, a genuine spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. The dedication and courage of the two Societies who carry out their humanitarian tasks admirably well under often very difficult circumstances deserve to be praised. You can, by adopting the Third Additional Protocol, also facilitate their humanitarian task. The Memorandum of Understanding starts with the following words: " Magen David Adom in Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society, in an effort to facilitate the adoption of the Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and to pave the way for the membership of both societies in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement;… " . The ICRC, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Standing Commission support these objectives. I hope this C onference will do so as well.
In the interest of the credibility of the Movements fundamental principal of universality and in the name of all those in need of the best possible protection and assistance I would be grateful to you for adopting the Third Additional Protocol at this Conference, I would be very grateful indeed. It is time. Thank you.