November 18, 2013
States must ensure that deadly weapons are not used in violation of International Humanitarian Law
The proliferation of small arms, a growing international weapons trade, new remote-controlled weapons systems and the advent of cyber-war all pose serious humanitarian risks. In response, the Council of Delegates yesterday adopted a wide-reaching resolution urging governments to ensure that all weapons being sold and developed are not used in a manner that violates International Humanitarian Law.
The resolution calls upon states to uphold the norms prohibiting chemical and biological weapons. It also presses states to ratify and implement the Arms Trade Treaty (adopted by the United Nations in April 2013), which makes humanitarian law an important criteria on which governments would decide whether to allow weapons transfers.
“For the first time, states have agreed to regulate the transfer of weapons,” noted a delegate from the Norwegian Red Cross. “It will make an important humanitarian difference if and when it is faithfully implemented.”
Principles fundamental for all now more than ever
The Fundamental Principles are as relevant and valued today as they were nearly 50 years ago, according to a recent scoping exercise. This finding was announced at yesterday’s workshop on the Fundamental Principles in the lead-up to the 2015 International Conference.
Dr Amal Emam of Egyptian Red Crescent Society recounted their experience, where volunteers had received technical training as well as training on the Fundamental Principles and skills to use them. “So when it came to the field we were the only ones who gave our service, saved lives, without thinking about which party we belonged to,” she said.
The workshop called on National Societies to support the initiative and overcome modern-day challenges to living them in the face of complex emergencies.
Safer access for our humanitarian mandate
Since 1994 the Movement has lost too many Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers on the front line, according to the Red Cross Society of China. “National Societies need to be prepared,” said Fatima Gaillani, President of Afghan Red Crescent Society and Chairperson for yesterday’s workshop on safer access. A valuable opportunity for Red Cross Red Crescent representatives from a few of the most challenging contexts – including Honduras, Colombia, Somalia and Georgia – the workshop drew wide consensus on what is needed as a Movement to improve the safety and protection of staff and volunteers. Delegates discussed key opportunities and challenges, such as the need to continue negotiating with all parties to a conflict, promotion of the Fundamental Principles and emblems, public communication and education in civil society. This workshop coincides with the launch of new guidelines for National Societies on safer access which can be viewed on the ICRC Safer Access site.
Promoting inclusion of disabled people in our Movement
Lucy Murillo became paraplegic after a plane accident three years ago. A volunteer with Colombian Red Cross before and after her accident, she is now a leader and advocate. Her message is simple: we need to see people with disabilities as more than beneficiaries; they are invaluable volunteers and leaders. Her words were seconded by Australian disability advocate Mark Bagshaw, who challenged the Movement to “raise the bar of its expectations of the capacity of people with disabilities." Today the Movement passed a resolution promoting disability inclusion, ensuring that we will support people with disabilities to live the lives they choose. A Movement-wide strategy on disability will be developed for adoption at the next Council of Delegates in 2015.
Working together in the Movement: issues and ways forward
After a lively debate, the plenary session on Movement coordination and cooperation ended with a common resolve: we must do better. The resolution identifies a number of areas where the Movement should improve. It calls for strengthening leadership and coordination roles, scaling up operational preparedness and response, better harmonizing of communications and exploring new Movement-wide resource mobilization opportunities. The Philippine Red Cross delegation acknowledged the successful coordination taking place in their country, while reiterating a widely-cited desire among delegates: “we need to be one voice as a Movement.” The resolution passed with two amendments, accompanied by a consensus that the words of reform must be quickly put into practice.
Henry Dunant Awards
Four members of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement have received the prestigious Henry Dunant Medal, the Movement’s highest award, which recognizes outstanding humanitarian commitment.
“By awarding each one of these the Henry Dunant Medal we honour four outstanding individuals and humanitarians,” says Greg Vickery, Chair of the Standing Commission which nominates the awardees. “It is also the ideals we share and the goals we all strive to reach: to bring relief to those in pain, to reduce vulnerabilities, and to build strong National Societies.”
The recipients are: