As outlined in our previous presentations to the Commission on this topic, the International Federation and the wider Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has, since its inception, continually acted on its strong basis and firm commitment to challenge discrimination in all its forms. The foundation of this commitment is the principle of impartiality, the second of our Movement's seven fundamental principles. This principle states that the Movement: "makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions".
The Federation's pledge for action at the Red Cross Red Crescent International Conference in December 2003 stated that "discrimination, violence and the lack of respect for diversity are key challenges facing our global community. Together they marginalise individuals and communities, deny their access to services and fuel mistrust, exclusion and abuse." [http://www.icrc.org/Applic/p128e.nsf/va_PBA/EA514D217C6FB39F41256DEC005F240E?openDocument§ion=PBP].
Abhorrence of all forms of discrimination is surely one of the most deeply shared convictions between the International Federation, members of this commission and others who act to uphold human rights. This commonality of endeavour was recently illustrated by the independent experts' comments on the implementation of the Durban declaration and programme of action . The independent experts stressed "the centrality of human dignity" in reducing discrimination, a concept which was also adopted by the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement through the main theme of "protecting human dignity" at the December 2003 International Conference.
In the joint declaration of this conference, States parties to the Geneva Conventions and components of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement vowed to protect human dignity through "a renewed partnership between States and components of the Movement … reaffirming and applying international humanitarian law…respect for humanitarian principles and values, to promoting tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for diversity among all peoples" [http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/5TYETB?OpenDocument].
The International Conference action followed an important debate in the Movement's Council of Delegates, which culminated in the adoption of a resolution on the promotion of respect for diversity, and the fight against discrimination and intolerance. [http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList257/453B2BAD46C3D212C1256E01003B9787]. The resolution contains, in an annex, ideas for mobilisation and action in this work under which National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and their partners - including of course Governments - will engage both proactively and reactively to challenge the endemic problems of discrimination so common in the world. The resolution also recognises that this situation is a blight which jeopardises the efforts of civil society and governments to build a sustainable and prosperous future for their countries.
For its part, the International Federation's efforts in protecting human dignity through reducing discrimination are currently focussed on the "Action to Reduce Discrimination - Global Approach & Local Action". This Action is a characteristic example of how the 181 member National Red Cross and Red Cross Red Crescent Societies combine their national character with a common global approach through the principles and values which bind them together as a Federation.
The local, national and regional initiatives which are linked to this action (many of which were noted at this Commission in 2002 & 2003) demonstrate the diversity of Federation programmes aimed at reducing discrimination. Activities undertaken by National Societies around the world include programmes aimed at reducing discrimination towards ethnic, racial and national minorities in countries as diverse as Croatia, Colombia, Sweden, India, Great Britain and Sierra Leone. They also include a number of assistance and awareness raising programmes to reduce discrimination towards refugees and those seeking asylum outside of their country of origin. There is also special priority for programs aimed at discrimination against persons living with diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. More information on these programmes and activities can be found on the Federation's website, where there is a special section devoted to anti-discrimination activities.
Regional activities within this global action led by the Federation's secretariat in the past year were centred around targeted training of key individuals from National Societies in key concepts and methods of reducing discrimination. Such trainings were held in Central and South Asia, Central and North Africa and in Europe.
In South Asia, this training led to leaders of National Societies from 6 countries (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal) integrating into their national plans ways of further implementing activities linking the Global action according to local needs and priorities. Strategies to move these plans forward into concrete action are being discussed in Nepal this very week. The issue of discrimination was also addressed at regional conferences and at an inter-agency think tank held in Geneva.
Other current initiatives led by the Federation's secretariat include similar training in Poland, also incorporating sessions on the links between human rights and the work of the Federation in this area. A key aim of this initiative is to develop methodologies appropriate to Europe, which can then be implemented across the region.
In Nicaragua and Guatemala, the International Federation is moving to the second phase of a three phase intervention aimed at reducing discrimination and promoting tolerance in the Americas. This will focus on learning about local needs, realities and priority areas of concern, before moving on the third phase of finding concrete and relevant ways of implementing the Federation pledge in this region.
Non-discrimination and human dignity are key common elements that bind together human rights law, international humanitarian law and the principles and values of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. The joint International Conference declaration stated that "The inherent dignity of every human being can best be promoted and safeguarded through a complementary application of, in particular, international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law".
It is within this same spirit that the Movement as a whole resolved that all components should relate their work in the area of discrimination to the Declaration and Agenda for Humanitarian Action adopted at the 2003 conference. This Agenda for Action includes specific areas where the Federation aims to incorporate the principle of non-discrimination into other core areas of its activity. The most significant of these areas are aiming to reduce the discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and applying a special emphasis on reducing the vulnerability of those disproportionately affected by disasters due to marginalization, social exclusion or discrimination.
The International Federation will make every effort in fulfilling its pledge made to the International Conference to develop the various facets of its work to promote tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for diversity. This will include many hundreds of events conducted by National Societies around the world on May 8th, World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2004. where the theme will be "Stop Discrimination". We also would look forward to developing new partnerships with States to protect human dignity by acting together to reduce discrimination and stigma, following the joint declaration and on the basis of the international legal framework.
Our principal message to members of the Commission on Human Rights is that Governments should actively stand by the commitment they made at the International Red Cross Red Crescent Conference, and work with their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to fight against discrimination, stigma and intolerance. We will return to this issue later in the session, for it relates to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals, and also represents an important opportunity for collaboration on this subject between National Societies and National Human Rights Institutions.