The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is honoured to be able to take part in this debate, particularly as the theme of "Reconciliation and Partnership" is so closely interwoven with the main directions of the work of the International Federation and its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in virtually every country in the world.
The building of effective partnerships for the protection of human dignity is an essential part of the work of all Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their national environment, and of the International Federation at this national level.
This is one of the main reasons why the International Federation attaches high priority to its relationship with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and why one of the keystones of our work is to promote the capacity of national parliaments and National Societies to work together towards common objectives.
The objective I will highlight today is one which takes account of the community base of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the community representation which is the function of all parliamentarians. It is from this dual community purpose that we work together to promote reconciliation and from it the building of prosperous and harmonious communities and nations.
This was noted in our address at the 105th IPU Assembly in Havana, where we spoke of the links seen by the world at the time of the award of the first Nobel Prize for Peace, to Henri Dunant and Frederic Passy. These two men, one the inspiration for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the other one of the founders of the IPU, together set a tone for the work of our organisations and their work for peace and harmony among peoples and nations.
To mark that occasion, the IPU Council adopted a resolution which opened the issue of volunteerism as one for active consideration by Parliaments in conjunction with the organisations most concerned with volunteerism in their countries. Including, of course, their nation's Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It is a matter of special pride to me that this resolution was sponsored by Mexico, a country which has a traditional high regard for the importance of volunteers as well as the Red Cross.
The 106th Assembly, in Ouagadougou, took this point to concrete action through the adoption of its resolution on urgent action to combat HIV/AIDS and other pandemics. The resolution recognised the contribution made by Red Cross Red Crescent and other volunteers to the struggle against AIDS, and importantly called on parliamentarians to step up their efforts to build effective AIDS policies and programs in their countries.
Very importantly, given the theme of this Assembly, the Ouagadougou resolution displayed the IPU's alarm about the connection between HIV/AIDS and other pandemics and economic and political instability. This is now a well-established connection, and has been marked by special debates in the United Nations Security Council as well as in a large number of other international meetings.
It is our hope that the connection will be seen as equally important at this Assembly session, and that the Assembly will reiterate its wish to see volunteers in the community integrated into work for harmony and reconciliation in their nations.
The International Federation, working closely with the IPU Secretariat and our partners in United Nations Volunteers, has striven to give a special impetus to the maintenance of an enabling environment in every country which will encourage volunteerism to flourish.
One of the most important activities in which we have been involved together had its origins in the Council resolution adopted in Havana in 2001. That resolution urged Parliaments and their members to hold consultations with a view to identifying policies which might be adopted to encourage volunteerism and to establish a legislative framework contributing to an enabling volunteer environment. It is a matter of special pride to me and to the International Federation that this cooperation has led to the identification of a number of issues relevant to an enabling volunteer environment.
Those issues have been the subject of a detailed study which has been supported by parliamentarians from a wide range of countries, as well as their counterparts in National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and some people from government agencies as well as other organisations. It is still at an early stage, but consultations on its scope and character are being conducted in the wings of this Assembly session. It is our hope - shared by our partners from UN Volunteers and the IPU Secretariat - that it will be possible to launch the study and its conclusions at the next IPU Session.
The study represents a major step forward in the follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers in 2001, and represents the clear benefit of cooperation between our organisations, with their shared commitment to reconciliation and partnership. Once it is complete, the International Federation Secretariat will bring it to the attention of all National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with a request that they contact the relevant focal point in their national parliaments and take the issues identified forward at the national level in the way best suited to the country's circumstances and needs.
We see this as a step towards another significant objective. It is our hope, as we have said in Havana and at all IPU Assembly sessions since, that parliaments will become more closely involved with the promotion of the humanitarian objectives of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. As part of this, we anticipate that parliaments will find ways of responding to the priorities of their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies by providing opportunities for the positions of the Societies to be taken into account when legislation is being considered.
This will be of value in many senses, for it will enable parliaments to have access to the informed opinions of the most respected humanitarian groups at the community level when they take their decisions. It will also enable parliamentarians much more accurately to judge the impact of legislative planning on humanitarian goals. Further, through support from the International Federation Secretariat National Societies will be in a position to inform their parliamentary colleagues of the way similar issues are being handled elsewhere.
The work done on these issues through the partnership of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretariat, United Nations Volunteers and the International Federation Secretariat has been inspired by your resolution adopted in 2001, and we believe the exercise has made a very positive contribution to the goals established at international and national levels during the International Year of Volunteers.
The International Federation's delegation will be taking part in the work of committees and in other deliberations during this Session, and looks forward to contributing its views and those of the member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on issues of humanitarian concern. One issue of importance to us, and of great relevance to the theme of this Session, concerns the promotion of tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for cultural diversity.
There is insufficient time to go into detail on the subject in this statement, but we will address it in other discussions, and make available to delegations the text of an important resolution adopted on the issues by the Council of Delegates - the supreme body - of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in December 2003.