The Presidents of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Tadateru Konoé and Jakob Kellenberger, warmly welcomed almost 1,600 delegates from around the world to the 31st International Conference on Monday. In addressing the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and 194 State parties to the Geneva Conventions, both Presidents voiced encouragement to engage in dialogue and seek out consensus on today’s humanitarian challenges throughout the next four days of meetings, workshops and side events.
The context of the gathering this week was clearly outlined as Konoé and Kellenberger noted that in the last four years, over 60 countries have suffered armed conflicts, and the world has witnessed massive social unrest, an increase in natural disasters and situations of violence. Both men emphasized the challenges of responding to humanitarian needs in increasingly diverse and unexpected situations, coupled with numerous constraints in the operating environment such as security-related issues - the consequences often preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching those in need, leaving the fate of tens of thousands of civilians uncertain.
In the face of these challenges, Konoé outlined the importance of strengthening the capacity, external support and funding of the IFRC’s member National Societies, so they can “best carry out their humanitarian activities as auxiliary to the public authorities, and serve as strong partners to international humanitarian actors”. The President of the IFRC made a request to States in particular, to support their National Society in order to reach marginalized groups that are otherwise difficult to reach through official means. “This will contribute to the well-being of your nation,” he said. President Konoé also expressed hope that the International Conference will provide a platform for States and Movement actors to make progress in strengthening disaster laws, addressing inequitable access to health care – for women and children in particular – and migration. He made a call for everyone to work in a spirit of togetherness, learning from different cultures, expectations and experiences for continued evolution and growth.
Kellenberger focused on two specific issues related to the mandate of the ICRC, namely barriers to health care, and strengthening legal protection in armed conflicts. Illustrating the challenges that health care providers face in times of crisis, often compounded by violations of IHL, Kellenberger said: “This intolerable situation calls for action - for increased efforts by ourselves, by the other components of the Movement, and for effective measures by States who have the primary responsibility in ensuring health care for their populations.”
IFRC President Konoé committed to continue to engage with external humanitarian actors and remind them that the Red Cross Movements works in accordance with our Fundamental Principles, in order to ensure continued respect for the mandates and identities of each Movement component.