The Power of Humanity

From 7th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates – Rome, 17 November 2006

It is a great honour for me, for the Italian Red Cross and for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to be invited to speak here today at this gathering of this outstanding personalities.

Your contribution to our planet is unparalleled, and I am sure that if Alfred Nobel were here today he would be immensely proud of the way his legacy has been used. He would be proud to associate with the persons who keep his memory alive.

Alfred Nobel would look at this gathering and recall his own testament. He wanted the Peace Prize to be awarded to an individual who had worked to reduce or eliminate standing armies or directly promote peace conferences. He also wanted the prize to recognise work done which best enhanced what he called “the brotherhood of peoples”.

These ambitions were linked by the award of the first Peace Prize to two persons, the founder of our Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Henry Dunant and the French pacifist Frederic Passy, now best remembered for his role in the foundation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Taken together, they stand as the strongest of reminders of the advocacy task which the Prize so effectively emphasises.

The Prize is always awarded in response to work done, but its greatest value for humanity is the way it stands for that task. People the world over respect the Prize for its inspiration to them – to hundreds of millions of people – to work for peace and the brotherhood to which Nobel dedicated his prize.
We take this very seriously in the Red Cross and Red Crescent. I am not speaking today as a representative of either the International Committee of the Red Cross or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as Prize winners. I prefer to be seen as one of almost 100 million people who today volunteer their services and talents in the name of the Fundamental Principles of our Movement.

I have myself been a volunteer to the Red Cross since the age of 8. I am personally deeply proud that I have been able to make this contribution, but prouder still of the fact that our Red Cross is so strong that my humble efforts can be linked to those of countless others to make a difference to the world.
To serve Alfred Nobel’s objective of brotherhood. Forty years before the award of the first Peace Prize, our founder Henry Dunant volunteered himself at the battlefield of Solferino, in northern Italy, to salvage the lives and dignity of many thousands of soldiers from both sides in a tragic situation.
He was able, through the strength of his advocacy and his personality, to galvanise the support of the local population in the nearby town of Castiglione.

His “A Memory of Solferino”, written at the time in 1859, describes his experience amid the destruction of the battlefield. In it, he calls for the establishment of an organisation dedicated to the relief of the wounded.

But, most appropriately for us here today is the last paragraph of the “Memory”. It shows an extraordinary sense of where the world was heading, and what would need to be addressed in the future. It is so profound that I quote it in full: “If the new and frightful weapons of destruction which are now at the disposal of the nations, seem destined to abridge the duration of future wars, it appears likely, on the other hand, that future battles will only become more and more murderous. Moreover, in this age when surprise plays so important a part, is it not possible that wars may arise, from one quarter or another, in the most sudden and unexpected fashion? And do not these considerations alone constitute more than adequate reason for taking precautions against surprise?” (Segue alla pagina successiva >>)