Address to the Governing Board of the International Federation

From: “Address to the Governing Board of the International Federation” Geneva 28/09/2011
Dr Massimo Barra

Mr President of the International Federation,
Mr President of the ICRC,
Mr Secretary General,
Members of the Board,
Dear friends and colleagues,

I want to thank the Federation and you, Mr President, for giving me the floor again to address and update this distinguished Board on the work of the Standing Commission. It is not difficult for you to conclude that I will talk about the coming Council of Delegates and the 31st International Conference.
The Standing Commission met only last week and decided on the agendas for both these important meetings. It also approved for dispatch the formal working documents – all the reports and the draft resolutions – which will be sent to you on 12 October.
Before going into specifics, let me express my appreciation and thanks to the National Societies that have helped the Standing Commission prepare for this Conference by their active feedback and comments on the background document and the agenda for the Conference and the Council and on elements for all the draft resolutions, which now for the first time were shared already in July and August – that means, 3-4 months before the meetings. This is a true novelty and a result of requests from National Society leaders to be involved at an early stage in the preparation of the outcomes of the statutory meetings.
We have also listened to your wishes to have shorter meetings. The Council this year is only one day, Saturday the 26th of November. Sunday will be your day-off although we have prepared interesting possibilities for you.
In spite of a one-day meeting, we still have important items on the agenda: our Movement’s position on nuclear weapons, our cooperation with other, external humanitarian organisations, guidance for National Societies in armed conflict and other situations of violence and the evaluation of the Strategy for the Movement with some recommendations for the incoming, new Standing Commission on some final work to be done on this 10-year Strategy.
From this list alone you can see that the issues are significant when shaping our future work. Time does not permit me to go into detail. However, I urge you to carefully study the documents, including the draft resolutions that you will get in October so that we can count on true participation when it comes to the final outcomes.

Mr Chairman,
We are living in a turbulent world with major changes taking place. Not only do we face grim financial constraints that may seriously impact our resources in the coming years; we also see a wave of changes sweeping through especially the Arab world. I hope that the present clouds on the horizon will not turn into major storms at the Council or the Conference.
The Standing Commission has actively followed the implementation of the MoU between the MDA in Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent. We met again with the Monitor last week. We have some concerns regarding progress achieved and our ability to see the MoU fully implemented. These concerns may also be voiced by the members of the Council and reach the Conference floor. We must now use every possible avenue to encourage the finding of acceptable solutions to the last remaining obstacles to full implementation, not least because of the enormous humanitarian needs the two Societies face in their immediate environment.
I want to remind you that the Nairobi Council in a resolution on the MoU – and I quote – “requests National Societies to favourably respond to any request for help and support that the monitor may ask of them in the fulfilment of his task up to the next Council”.
In this regard I want to thank the National Societies of France, Indonesia, Turkey and the USA, which at the request of the Standing Commission made a most useful mission to the two Societies and certainly helped move the open issues forward. But we need more, also from your governments, to go the final mile.
Before moving on to the Conference, let me remind you that we will have three commissions after closing the Council to help us prepare for the Conference. There we can explore key issues from a Movement perspective and how best to ensure that we achieve the set objectives. We will also remind ourselves of how the Conference will work this year and how to have strong National Society input in the most important body of the Conference – the drafting committee.

The International Conference has a very special history and role in promoting International Humanitarian Law. One of the important objectives in November is to reaffirm the continuing relevance of existing humanitarian law and to urge respect for it but also to discuss how we can develop IHL and close some gaps as revealed in an extensive ICRC study.
The ICRC has also prepared an extensive and thorough report on current challenges facing IHL in on-going conflicts and internal strife. I can certainly predict great interest in and very serious and intensive debate in both the thematic plenary meeting and in one of the 5 commissions, which will deal with access issues under IHL.
Another major area is health. We have heard many positive remarks welcoming it back to the Conference. We have Health care in danger – which really can be understood as the theme implies: health care is in danger and particularly in situations of conflict and other situations of violence. Further, it is not only the health facilities and services that face danger; also victims face restricted access due to violence.
The Conference will also debate equitable access to health, with a particular focus on mother and child health care. This is an area I know many of you are involved in and care about and it will be important for our government partners to hear about your experiences and concerns.
The third bloc is about disaster laws. Our Movement’s strength lies in it reaching deep into communities, which is especially important in disaster risk reduction. We can offer that dimension as a real added advantage when we cooperate with especially UN in this area.
IDRL counts as one of the big successes we achieved at the 2007 Conference. We have made progress but still need to reconfirm commitments from governments when it comes to national legal frameworks.
Recent experiences in Haiti and Pakistan revealed serious regulatory barriers to provision of shelter in these types of mega-disasters. This is essentially a national responsibility and may greatly vary from country to country but we want to draw attention to the serious humanitarian impact such barriers present and hope to achieve some progress towards finding practical tools to resolve the challenges.
The fourth major bloc of issues is perhaps ‘closest to home’ – how can we strengthen local humanitarian action and have a better enabling environment for the work we do? The most important actors in our Movement are the volunteers, to help us in our auxiliary role – another success story from 2007. This year, as you know, is the 10th anniversary of the Year of Volunteers and Volunteering – the core of our Movement, the essence of all action. (Segue alla pagina successiva>>)