The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with 52 members working as auxiliaries to the public authorities of their countries in the humanitarian field, has a profound interest in the issues before this Conference.
We are associated, at the national level, with all Ministries of Health and many other Ministries working on issues relevant to children. It is, to us, particularly important to see synergies developed by Ministers of Health and of the Environment, for these two sectors can make a real difference for children if they work together effectively.
In our view the starting point is the issue raised in paragraph 18a of the draft Declaration - the need for children to be involved in decisions and activities related to the health and the environment in which they live. As the draft notes, these rights are laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which all European countries are committed.
We, as an international organisation as well as through our52 European National Societies, are ready to work with you to help. We believe that the concept of the involvement of children in developing guidelines on risk communication is a sound one, and in line with International Federation policies based on risk reduction. For example, having regard to aspects of the environment in which children live in Europe today:
- Risk communication is the key to developing effective policies and strategies for confronting the greatest threat posed to children - that of HIV/AIDS and its transmission through drug abuse. This is especially relevant to the needs of vulnerable children whose impoverished family circumstances see them condemned to the evils of trafficking, prostitution, crime and degradation.
- Communication to and from children is the most effective way of ensuring that adults will observe road traffic rules and address the terrible losses all our countries suffer on the roads every year. This is a central program for European Red Cross Societies, which this year launched the Good Practice Guide for Kids on Road Safety and First Aid.
Health issues with an environmental dimension are of special concern to the International Federation and its European National Societies:
- Paragraph 7b, on climatic extremes directly relates to a chapter in the 2004 edition of the World Disasters Report. This report, the flagship publication of the International Federation, has the theme of community resilience, and it will contain a European chapter on extreme weather conditions. It will be published later this year, and we will ensure that it is brought to the attention of the participants at this conference.
- Paragraph 11a relates to an issue which the International Federation has often had to address in the context of slow-onset or forgotten disasters. It is, for example, crucially relevant to our work in and around Chernobyl and Semipalatinsk, and is a subject which we have raised many times, including at the European Parliament.
We have addressed these issues consistently in a wide range of UN and other agencies, and in a number of different ways in the context of the WHO. We undertake to work with you to fulfil those parts of this Declaration which match our mandate.
Our next conference of European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will be held in Moscow in 2006, and we will work with you and your Secretariat to ensure that our programmes are mutually reinforcing and complementary.