Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak briefly to this meeting on the important subject of the proposed Third Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
My purpose today is to offer some points on the relevance of the proposed Protocol for National Societies in their day-to-day work.
The driving objective of the proposed Protocol is the establishment of an additional distinctive emblem to stand alongside and be of equal value to the red cross and the red crescent.
It would be available for use as a protective emblem on the same International Humanitarian Law basis as the other emblems established by the Geneva Conventions. The proposed Protocol also outlines the way the additional emblem can be used for indicative purposes by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The principal reason for the decision by the International Federation and the ICRC to support this objective was our realisation - in the mid 1990s - that the emblems now in use no longer convey the sense of neutrality that has been their gift to humanity since their inception.
It is a sad and unfortunate fact that each of these emblems is sometimes perceived as having connotations which so diminish its protective power as to make it ineffective as a protective force for our medical and other humanitarian units.
This is why a working group created by the Standing Commission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement decided in 1999, after several years of canvassing every option, that the best course to follow was the establishment of an additional emblem to stand alongside those established by the First Geneva Convention.
The working group saw the additional emblem as one which could be used either by countries as the preferred emblem, or by other countries and their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in special, short-term, circumstances.
This course of action has the additional benefit of establishing an emblem which clearly has no political, ethnic, cultural, religious, racial, regional or other connotation.
The working group did not see it as in any way a replacement for the emblems now used by National Societies. Accordingly, the draft Protocol makes it clear not only that there is no need for National Societies to change their emblems, but the names of the International Federation and the ICRC will not change either.
The proposed Protocol contains an important opportunity not available with respect to the existing emblems. This is its provisions regarding the incorporation of existing emblems within the new shape. In other words, it will be possible, once the Protocol has been adopted, for my National Society to choose to incorporate the red cross within the new shape should it wish to do so.
Like the other Geneva Convention emblems, the additional emblem would be used in each country in accordance with national law, and it will be important for each country to consider the correct basis for introducing opportunities for its use in that national law. The law would also need to cover the way the additional emblem could be used in the special circumstances I have already mentioned.
In Kenya, we have not yet considered what we might wish to do, and in any case our decision will have to be guided by national legislation. But one of the points we will take up with Kenya's lawmakers is the desirability of our having this incorporation opportunity should we wish to use it.
As I see it, the opportunity is one we might choose to adopt in some cases where the Kenyan Red Cross might be conducting activities outside Kenya.
Such activities can only be conducted with the consent of the host country National Society. This broad position (which dates from rules set within the Movement in 1921) is restated in the draft Protocol.
The draft Protocol, however, makes it easier for a host country to strengthen the identification of an assisting Society with the Movement, for it would be possible theoretically for a host country Society to request all those coming to work in its territory after a disaster to do so under the banner of the additional emblem or to incorporate the emblems they use within the new shape.
That would mean that red crescents and red crosses would all be seen as working together within the frame provided by the new shape. In this sense, the new emblem would be a significant contribution to unity in the eyes of the general public.
It would also be possible for National Societies to use the additional emblem as an indicative emblem without incorporating their own emblem in it. In a case where one of the existing emblems was identified, however wrongly, as being aligned to a belligerent in a conflict, this option would allow a National Society participating in an international operation to make temporary use of the additional emblem and avoid the problems this misidentification might cause.
The proposed Protocol also allows the use of combinations of permitted emblems, something which is not now possible. This will make it much easier for our East African brothers in Eritrea to enter our Movement.
They have said many times that the composition of their country makes it impossible for them to choose between the red cross and the red crescent, but the new situation will enable their National Society legally to use both together as a single emblem when working in Eritrea.
In the same way, the proposed Protocol overcomes the problems which have confronted the Israeli National Society. That Society will be entitled under international law to use its own emblem, the red shield of David, within Israel and to work outside their country in accordance with the wishes of the host country under the 1921 rules to which I have already referred.
The world today is one in which all National Societies are doing more and more work in support of each other. The emblem provisions in the Geneva Conventions that we work under today were devised in very different circumstances in 1949.
That was a time when work by a Society in the territory of another was a relatively unusual occurrence, and that is why it is so important to modernise the rules now.
The International Federation believes that it is of the highest importance to complete the work now in hand and adopt the proposed Third Protocol.
It is not only a matter of humanitarian law, it is a matter of operational necessity for very many National Societies, and we need it badly.