Parties to conflict must respect International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and ensure that in post-conflict situations sufficient attention is paid to rebuilding civil society and restoring human dignity, the International Federation President, Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro, said in London yesterday.
In his opening address to a conference attended by 54 Red Cross Red Crescent societies from Commonwealth member states, he emphasized the relevance of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the protection of human dignity.
"In today's context, respect for IHL is fundamental if we are to minimize the risks and impact of conflicts on civilians,” said Suaréz del Toro.
The three-day conference is jointly hosted by the British Red Cross and the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is looking for ways to work in partnership to enhance and improve respect for International Humanitarian Law. It is being attended by officials from both the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Suárez del Toro also warned that respect for IHL must be complemented by actions to address the causes and effects of conflicts, such as poverty, inequity, intolerance and discrimination, and to promote humanitarian values of tolerance, non-violence and peace.
“We need to work at creating a culture of respect, understanding and lasting peace. And in the event of a crisis or conflict, we must urge all parties to use dialogue and negotiation as a means to resolve conflicts, not violence,” said Suaréz del Toro.
At the same time, Suaréz del Toro called for more resources to build the capacity and resources of humanitarian actors like the Red Cross Red Crescent in order to care and assist civilian populations affected by conflicts.
He also urged parties to a conflict to respect their obligations to protect humanitarian workers, and to ensure that following conflicts, sufficient attention is given to rebuilding civil society and restoring human dignity.
“Minimizing the effects of conflicts on civilian populations must not be an afterthought: humanitarian needs must take precedence over all other considerations,” he stated.
The President of the International Federation also took the opportunity to present the concept of International Disaster Response Law, which will be discussed at the upcoming International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December which will also be attended by government representatives.
“Our response to emergencies and disasters can be improved and facilitated through the correct application of legal instruments for disaster response, just as International Humanitarian Law provides a means to protect and enhance humanitarian action in times of conflict”.
Suárez del Toro encouraged the participants to look for integrated, long-term solutions that address the underlying causes of conflicts, and include building effective partnerships and capacity of the Red Cross Red Crescent, governments, civil society, and vulnerable communities.
" Protecting human dignity requires long-term actions to address and respond to the underlying conditions that create intolerance, discrimination, hatred and violence. It also requires the capacity to respond quickly to humanitarian needs during and after conflicts and emergencies,” he said.