The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is taking the floor under the item concerning international cooperation in combating organised crime because it is more and more apparent that humanitarian objectives are being jeopardised by the same activities as those of priority for the Commission.
This has led to increased attention on the part of the International Federation and its member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in recent years, particularly with respect to two distinct areas.
One, trafficking in human beings, is a well-established part of the international community agenda. The other, which relates to the abuse of humanitarian principles in the internet for fraudulent purposes, is one we wish to draw to the attention of the Commission and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The International Federation took an active part in the deliberations of the recent Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Bangkok.
Our purpose there was to provide delegations with a community-based reference to the issue of human trafficking.
Our statement was delivered by the Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian Red Cross, and it emphasised profoundly the importance of ensuring that the dignity of persons trafficked is respected.
Our position here is advanced somewhat because of the valuable information provided in the basic document for the item . This information collated from a considerable number of countries, indicates that many countries now see clearly the link between prevention and awareness-raising, particularly in source countries.
We believe that it is important that the Commission and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) take up this point with energy.
Much of the work so far on awareness-raising as part of the prevention agenda seems to be concentrated in a few countries, and even in those there is not a great deal of commentary on the work of civil society or alliances involving civil society and other actors.
Capacity-building in this area should be a priority for all governments and assistance programs, particularly in source and transit countries.
Equally, there needs to be more work in destination countries to increase awareness of trafficking and its consequences. This applies to all categories, but those of greatest concern to the IFRC in this context are women and children, especially in cases of sexual exploitation, and forced labour.
National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies are giving this issue increased priority, and would hope to be able to strengthen cooperation with UNODC in future.
To give one example, the Danish Red Cross is hosting a conference on human trafficking in Copenhagen on 9 June which will allow a large number of civil society organisations, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and international organisations to share experience and map out future cooperation possibilities.
This will include cooperation with law enforcement organisations and national police forces. The International Federation is strengthening its own links with Interpol and other organisations in recognition of the value of working together to ensure respect and support for the victims of trafficking, and to assist in awareness-raising as an essential part of prevention.
It is our hope that reachout by law enforcement agencies will bring all those at the community level who can help with this important task into effective partnerships.
This is the approach which led the International Federation, in Bangkok, to advertise a policy approach based on what we called the "Four Ps".
I won't repeat it all here, but they are described in our Bangkok statement (which is in the IFRC website ), but they are Prevention, Provision, Protection and Public Support. I think this speaks volumes, by itself.
In addition to these initiatives, and as part of our commitment to creating safer communities, the IFRC encourages all organizations to have comprehensive prevention frameworks to ensure protection for vulnerable populations.
To this end, the IFRC in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross is working to build comprehensive prevention strategies within our own organization to ensure vulnerable populations are protected from abuse of power, including sexual exploitation and abuse.
The other matter we wish to bring to the Commission's attention, and which may merit discussion at a future session, comes as a matter of substantial concern in the wake of the Tsunami which devastated so much of the Indian Ocean region on 26 December 2004. Immediately after the tsunami struck, the people of the world opened their hearts and wallets to send support and assistance to the victims.
The IFRC and National Societies received a good proportion of that support. But, very sadly, we also detected a surge in fraudulent fund-raising directed at the generosity of very many people.
It is impossible to know just how much money was diverted to fraudulent gain by this, but the IFRC came to learn of several websites which abused the name and emblem of the Red Cross and Red Crescent while seeking to defraud innocent people whose purpose was to help the victims.
The websites were structured cleverly, often with addresses in one country, telephone numbers in another, bank accounts in third or even fourth countries, and ownership and management in different countries.
In these circumstances it was often difficult to take action quickly to stop the fraud, but we are pleased to inform the Commission that whenever cases came to our attention we looked for ways of making representations to have the material removed.
This was generally done by the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies concerned, but sometimes it proved useful to supplement that action by representations from Geneva.
As far as we can tell, the material was removed, perhaps as a result of our representations But, it is also important to note that our investigation into legal options revealed that there is a poor understanding of the size and nature of this problem, even in governments, and there is little opportunity to undertake an effective and timely intervention within current legal frameworks. .
This is an issue we intend to take further in our discussions with UNODC and other agencies, but we considered it was one we should note in this Commission because of the potential for such actions to involve transnational organised crime.
In the case of the abuse of the red cross and the red crescent, issues of criminal law enforcement do arise as all States party to the First Geneva Convention of 1949 have accepted an obligation under Article 53 of the Convention to prohibit the unauthorised use of the emblems or their designations.
We recognise that both the issues raised today link to the Conventions and Protocols adopted under the auspices of this Commission.
We have not sought to make direct links, for we would generally prefer to retain generic descriptions of vulnerability, and the generic application of instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child when promoting the concerns of the victims.
In the case of internet fraud, we are not in a position to state that this necessarily involves structured organised crime, but our point is that it is activity that is structured transnationally, and may therefore merit the attention of the Commission.