The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies sees the work of the Commission on Human Rights on economic, social and cultural rights as intertwined with the most basic international community objectives.
They are objectives set forth in the Declaration adopted by the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, and consolidated in the Millennium Development Goals.
As we have said, many times, the achievement of the Goals will depend in large part on the willingness of governments to reach out to the most vulnerable in their communities and to involve them in the design, implementation and monitoring of programs to achieve the Goals.
This is why the role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in virtually every country in the world, is so important. Their mandate to function as the auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field makes them an indispensable part of both the development equation and aspirations to achieve economic, social and cultural rights.
This is true in all countries. In 2004 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provided support and assistance to tens of millions of people in all parts of the world - not only in or for countries ravaged by poverty, disaster and disease but also in the developed world where vulnerability stands as an issue of major economic and social concern.
The International Federation's programs provided additional support to more than 43 million people around the world through appeals designed together with the National Societies.
But today we wish to show how our programming and activity supports the achievement of economic, social and cultural rights in even the most difficult of circumstances, and how that work sits alongside the international community's ambition to achieve the MDGs.
Our example today is Iraq. Our example also underlines our belief that if the objectives set through the MDGs are applied to assistance - even in the most difficult of circumstances - they can be a strong and persuasive influence as to the direction that assistance might most beneficially take.
The International Federation, working closely with the Iraq Red Crescent Society, is still engaged in the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance in Iraq. It is not clear when it will be possible for normal programming to resume, but programming is now aimed at the delivery of the greatest possible proportion of assistance which both meets emergency needs and contributes to the re-establishment of community-based activities.
Time does not permit much detail on this important point. Let me say, however, that our programming sits within clusters which directly or indirectly lend support to the achievement of at least 7 of the 8 Millennium Development Goals. To give some short examples:
• Our Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments are a basic disaster management tool which also address MDG 1 on the poverty reduction.
• Intensified dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the translation into Arabic of the International Federation's Gender Manual support the attainment of MDG 3 on the empowering of women.
• Community-based Health Interventions (CBHI) have been maintained throughout the country, with a direct impact on MDG 4, the reduction of child mortality.
• The International Federation has maintained a priority for the provision of kits and equipment to maternity hospitals, in line with MDG 5, maternal health.
• HIV/AIDS training is provided to staff and volunteers throughout the country, contributing both to economic, social and cultural rights and the achievement of MDG 6.
• CBHI are also a direct contributor to clean water and environmental sustainability, in line with MDG 7.
• MDG 8 Partnerships with external partners are very difficult to build and maintain in Iraq at present, but the Iraq Red Crescent Society has worked energetically to build partnerships with government partners such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
In the future, and with the inspiration of the agreement now being finalised between the International Federation and the Office of the High Commissioner, there could be space for important work against discrimination between the National Society and the country's human rights institutions.
It goes without saying, of course, that the achievement of any of these objectives will be significantly assisted by progress towards the achievement of MDG 2, universal primary education.
This snapshot of Iraq can be replicated into almost any country situation, anywhere in the world. The only differences are those imposed by local conditions, but the thrust remains the same:
• the work of the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to promote human dignity and mobilise the power of humanity from the community level upwards helps unlock the door to the achievement of development and the economic, social and cultural rights which this Commission has so high on its agenda.
The interdependence of economic, social and cultural rights with the Millennium Development Goals was noted by the UN Secretary General in his interesting and important reform report "In Larger Freedom".
We, like all others in the international community, are studying the report, but we were impressed by the attention given to economic, social and cultural rights in the National Strategies section of the document (paragraphs 36 - 38) and the clarity with which it speaks of transparency, accountability and good governance. And the importance of grass-roots pressure.
As the report states, these also fit within the framework of economic, social and cultural rights. They have been part of the Red Cross Red Crescent agenda for many years, and we will be glad to exchange experience with the relevant UN institutions on ways and means of driving implementation and achievement forward.
We will be inviting our National Society members to take this message of exchange forward in their discussions with their own governments, and trust that the work of the Commission on Human Rights will help to make this a practical, results-oriented dialogue.