The Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in his address to the High Level Segment of this Commission Session, spoke to emphasise that discrimination is not only abhorrent in itself, but also destructive to many of the most important objectives of communities, everywhere in the world.
This item is what might be termed a mainstream item for the Commission and the work of the United Nations on human rights. The reports brought under the item are of great value in analysing the directions of modern debate, but much of that value needs to be assessed by reference to the work of other organisations working in this field.
It is for this reason that the International Federation trusts that there will be an opportunity for it to share its relevant experience with the Special Rapporteur and others in the Office of the High Commissioner on these issues.
Last year, in this debate, my delegation described an important resolution adopted by the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement entitled "Promote respect for diversity and fight discrimination and intolerance". In many respects, the objectives of that resolution parallel those of comparable resolutions adopted in the United Nations system. But there are some important differences in the way the work has proceeded.
Our approach within the Red Cross and Red Crescent has aimed at creating a positive appreciation of the value of tolerance and non-discrimination. We start by valuing the richness and strength of diversity, and looking for ways to harness that strength for the benefit of communities and nations around them.
We will return to this debate within our own Red Cross and Red Crescent framework in November 2005 in Seoul, when the Council of Delegates of our Movement will have an opportunity to discuss a report now being prepared on the resolution adopted in 2003.
That report is not yet finalised, but it may be useful for the Commission to note that some valuable preparatory work has pointed to conclusions which may help the United Nations frame some of its own further work.
The International Federation has contributed to that preparatory work in Geneva as well as through actions in many other countries - utilising the resources of its worldwide network of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
As we noted in our statements in 2004, this action takes place within the framework of the International Federation's Pledge at the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2003. That Pledge, which has been welcomed in international community debates in many different regional, cultural and other settings, sets an active partnership agenda for work against discrimination and in favour of tolerance.
It also galvanises our worldwide network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and unites their purpose to meet the specific needs of the modern world.
To this end, the International Federation convened a meeting of experts in Geneva in November 2004. Discussion of trends and the actions of governments and others indicated a need for some refocusing of effort. It was clear that much more work needs to be done at the local and community level to address the issues.
This conclusion is not unlike some of those reached by the Special Rapporteur, and we particularly appreciate the fact that he was able profitably to extend his consultations to the International Olympic Committee - also a partner to the International Federation, and other similar bodies.
Our work indicates, however, a need for much more attention to be paid to community-based organisations with a mandate built around tolerance and work against discrimination.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with their adherence to the Fundamental Principles of their Movement, are committed to impartiality, a principle rooted in anti-discrimination.
Equally, as our Secretary-General said during the High Level debate, successful work for sustainable development, disaster preparedness, against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and many other humanitarian priorities depends on building a culture free from any form of discrimination.
We have made this point in many other fora and I will not repeat it now. It is important, though, to emphasise very clearly that work against discrimination is both an end in itself and also a means for the achievement of very many other humanitarian objectives.
Chair, The Special Rapporteur has made a strong presentation to the Commission on the issue of identity construction. We have, in our work, also considered identity issues, and other points within the generic term "heterophobia". We look forward to contributing the fruits of our work to this important debate later in the year.
We also trust that our developing relationship with the Office of the High Commissioner will make it possible to contribute our research and experience, and that of our National Societies, to the important work being done by the Special Rapporteur.