Conde de Barcelona International Prize

Published: 26 November 2004

Your Majesties,

I am privileged to be back here in Barcelona to receive this second Conde de Barcelona International Prize which has been generously awarded by the Conde de Barcelona Foundation to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. As those who spoke before me pointed out, it is obviously an honour for us to receive it from the hands of your Majesty.

Apart from gratitude for the award of this prize, I would also like to highlight the congruence of objectives with the Foundation which, like us - the Red Cross and Red Crescent - seeks to encourage dialogue among individuals, groups and societies through activities to promote knowledge, and more specifically, science, culture and social communication.

Naturally, we are proud that the Foundation considers us worthy of this prize which seeks to highlight contributions to the development of human values, promotion of dialogue and communication between different communities and cultures.

Allow me, Your Majesty, to reiterate my gratitude to the Royal Household for the constant support it has always given us, both in national and international initiatives. As you know, the story of the Red Cross begins on the battlefield, assisting victims of war, work to which it remains committed through the special function of the ICRC, present here.

Gradually, however, its activity has been broadened in an endeavour to combat any other situation responsible for human suffering.

Today, the commitment of the Red Cross and Red Crescent covers humanitarian assistance in situations of vulnerability anywhere, to anyone, in any circumstances. This work is today wholly identified with the extension and scrupulous respect for human rights.

Through the International Federation, of which I am honoured to be President and which brings together 181 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, our priority today is to enhance our efficiency in this humanitarian work, both by strengthening our internal structure and human and material resources, and by preparing people at risk of becoming victims of vulnerability by building their capacity to confront those risks.

I should say that today's humanitarian challenges are very complex and require ever more detailed analysis. The combination of poverty and disease with situations of armed violence and natural, or sometimes induced, disasters, requires a collective response by our International Movement.

I would like to emphasize that the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent demands perfect synchronization with our colleagues in the ICRC, as well as ever closer coordination with other humanitarian organizations. We can all agree that the scale of humanitarian challenges requires a collective and ever more resolute and participatory response.

I believe that today is also an opportune moment to remind the international community as a whole of the reality of the breach or violation of basic human rights in vast regions of the world, not forgetting those groups suffering from exclusion in the most well-off societies.

The United Nations has again invited us to jointly participate in achieving some of the objectives which were set years ago. These objectives are ideals towards which the Red Cross and Red Crescent has been striving for many years: eliminating poverty, promoting health and fighting disease, as well as sustainability of the environment and promoting cooperation for development.

Your Majesty, as I have said many times, it is hard to speak of the ideals and objectives of the Red Cross and Red Crescent without mentioning volunteering. I may be so bold as to say that the Red Cross and Red Crescent has been a pioneer in considering volunteer decision-making and action as a force for changing situations of inequality. Today, fortunately, I think we can all agree that volunteering is a crucial factor in combating inequality and discrimination.

At the last International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent it was made a priority to stress the humanitarian work of the whole Movement in combating discrimination and promoting respect for diversity. Discrimination is the greatest threat to human dignity. Discrimination is the cause of the most perverse effects of disasters and diseases, undermining progress in the development of the most disadvantaged societies.

Likewise, we live in a reality marked by discriminatory policies and practices which exclude may people from the chance to access information and decision-making to protect their lives and provide them with the minimum conditions for a life with dignity.

Restoring the rights of those who have been deprived of them touches on our own dignity.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my gratitude to the Conde de Barcelona Foundation and to Your Majesties. I am sure that together, with support of the kind we have received today, we can keep on turning our ideals into reality.