Opening address

From: “31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent” 28/11/2011 Geneva

Madam President of the Swiss Confederation,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Leaders of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Red Cross and Red Crescent friends,
سيداتي وسادتي
дорогие друзья.

This 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent convenes under the slogan ‘Our world – your move, for humanity’. For our common humanity; for the world we share and which again faces enormous challenges – wars and conflict, environmental threats, financial crisis, food shortages – to mention but a few. These challenges threaten not only the functioning of governments but also organizations like ours and – perhaps even more important – the everyday lives of people, in particular the most vulnerable in our societies, who ultimately, as a rule, end up paying the price for all hardships.
This gathering of Governments and National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent as representatives of civil society is unique, in the true meaning of the word. Nowhere else, in no known structure, do these parties sit together, next to each other, on an equal footing, as equal partners, to analyze and discuss common humanitarian concerns.
Further, this happens in a setting, in which political controversies and interests are left outside this building, which contributes to an environment that is not exactly everyday practice, especially for representatives of States. The fact that it is the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement that sets our agenda, adds to the uniqueness of this Conference.
Reflecting on how this is possible in today’s so often divided world, leads me to the concept of trust. Trust in each other, trust between individual states and National Societies, trust in an open and honest dialogue, where no party is expecting to be taken advantage of or used for narrow political gains – in spite of the political agenda of governments and the humanitarian priorities of the Movement.
The aims of this Conference are to strengthen humanitarian law and local humanitarian action. I want to underline the word strengthen. In public perception, both mentioned areas of work are already intimately linked to the Red Cross Red Crescent. In the past, this Conference has been instrumental in developing humanitarian law, in emphasizing the importance of adhering to it and ensuring it stays relevant in the situations it is intended for. In the same way, the work of National Societies, reaching the smallest and most remote communities in every country of the world, is almost a synonym for humanitarian action in people’s minds.
We come back to trust: the Movement enjoys the trust of beneficiaries, as well as of donors, supporters and partners that it will stay true to its fundamental principles, especially to humanity, impartiality and neutrality, in all its actions. As a matter of fact, the Red Cross Red Crescent is seen as the ‘public good’ all around the globe. This I have personally experienced when witnessing a variety of situations where trained volunteers, proudly carrying our emblems, have met people in need – such as migrants landing on the island of Lampedusa, victims of earthquakes and floods or drug users rescued in the streets.
In spite of impressive achievements, there is always room for improvement – as with everything in life. The issues we will discuss and deliberate upon during the next 4 days will in the end clarify what exactly we aspired for when setting strengthening as an objective – and you will be vital architects and contributors to that development.

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