Culture of Peace: Respect for Diversity

Published: 3 November 2006

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is taking the floor under this item because of the importance it attaches to a much stronger effort by governments, international organisations and civil society on this critical subject.

We are now past the midpoint of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. The atmosphere which greeted the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 52/15 in 2000 is by now probably a distant memory for many organisations and governments, but the need for concerted action has probably never been greater.

This is a message we receive unequivocally from our worldwide membership of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It is a message they give to us as we prepare for the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which will be held in late November 2007 in Geneva.

The IFRC’s member Societies are looking to us, as their representative in the international community, to bring information about what the major actors are doing, not just what they are saying, to promote tolerance and respect for diversity. These are essential actions if the world is truly to combat discrimination and prejudice.

They are essential actions in a world that witnesses a surge in community prejudice.

There are many examples of our work, and that of National Societies. To give a few examples, the British Red Cross has worked with the Bangladesh Red Crescent to bridge gaps and bring support to people living in vulnerability in the UK. Early outreach work has developed into other actions for first aid and community health assistance, and a programme of volunteer recruitment has provided much-needed resources capable of making a difference for the community.

Similar work, concentrating on volunteer recruitment, has also been reported by other Red Cross Societies, including those of Denmark, Germany and Sweden. In Iceland the government and the Icelandic Red Cross have joined forces in training Icelandic peace builders in preparation for their missions.

Madame President, I mention these actions not just for the record, but to emphasise our belief that action must take place with the full involvement of the communities themselves. This is essential in all countries, but of special importance in countries where migration has brought together people of different cultures, ethnicities, traditions and beliefs.

The issue of Migration and Integration has been a key subject in the work of some of our partner international organisations, and we pay tribute to IOM and UNHCR for the work they have done to broaden understanding of the problems and the need for solutions.

We know that the IFRC, as a network bringing together under one set of Fundamental Principles all the world’s cultures, has a role to play. In that context we underline the important role for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we see a range of opportunities in this field in the future linking our National Societies to National Human Rights Institutions.

We are working now with our bridging role – bridging between governments and intergovernmental organisations and civil society and NGOs at high levels, and between communities and local authorities where grassroots contact is the key.

We use our membership of the Big six, the six main international youth organisations, to emphasise the role of youth in finding and implementing solutions, and we emphasise worldwide the need for youth to work with the Fundamental Principles of the Movement to promote tolerance and respect for diversity as they prepare to lead the countries of the world in the future.

Our support for the Secretary-General’s initiative on the alliance of civilisations was manifested through the participation of our Deputy Secretary-General (Mr. Ibrahim Osman) in the Hearings organised by the High Level Group for the Alliance of Civilisations in July of this year in Geneva.

At the hearings, he recalled the Pledge delivered by the IFRC in 2003 at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The Pledge contains IFRC’s vow in two respects which are important to this debate. To
• develop public dialogue and advocacy, promoting tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for diversity at national and international level.
• develop partnerships and to promote dialogue and to support programmes in this area with governments, as well as international and national organisations working for the same goals specifically considering the importance that youth play in peer and non-formal education to promote international friendship and understanding.

We also spoke of the need to intensify community participation in such programmes, especially highlighting the importance of an enabling volunteer environment through which such programmes can flourish at the community level and a real impact can be made on the stigmatisation and exclusion which so many marginalised people face.

Madame President, Against this background, I give you our commitment to maintain a high profile for these issues. We will consult thoroughly and widely as we prepare for the 2007 International Conference in Geneva bringing together your governments and our National Society leaders.

We look forward to a strong and positive outcome from this debate, with commitments from all to make this world a better place to live.