Standing up for human dignity is fundamental to the Red Cross Red Crescent

Published: 18 October 2010

Statement by Marwan Jilani, Permanent Observer of the IFRC to the United Nations, in the 65th session of the General Assembly, in New York

Mr. President,

Rooted in its vision and based on its Fundamental Principles, the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC) is seriously committed to promoting a global culture of respect for diversity, non-violence and social inclusion.

As stated in its constitution, the IFRC’s objective is “to inspire, encourage, facilitate and promote at all times all forms of humanitarian activities by National Societies, with a view to preventing and alleviating human suffering, and thereby contributing to the maintenance and promotion of human dignity and peace in the world”.

We promote social inclusion through all our activities and services. We promote behavioural skills to communicate, mediate and diffuse tensions in a peaceful manner. We actively counter social prejudice, and encourage tolerance and respect for the many different perspectives that enrich our diverse world. That includes advocacy on the adoption of non-violent approaches to bridging these differences and thus pre-empting violent conflict.

These commitments are embodied in a recently developed IFRC Global Strategy on Violence Prevention, Mitigation and Response. IFRC defines the culture of non-violence as one which “respects human beings, their well-being and dignity, it honours diversity, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, mutual understanding and dialogue, willingness to serve, cooperation and lasting peace. It is a culture where individuals, institutions and societies refrain from harming other individuals, groups, communities or themselves. There is a commitment to positive and constructive solutions to problems, tensions and the source of violence”.

IFRC is also developing a new gender strategy in line with its organisational priorities for 2010-2020. The strategy will contribute towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and counter gender based violence (GBV). Violence against women is a common feature of emergency situations and one which we often encounter. The IFRC is working to ensure that when we respond to emergencies, appropriate violence prevention, mitigation and response strategies are incorporated into our programming. For example, in post-earthquake Haiti women were particularly hard-hit. In response, the IFRC appointed a delegate specialized in gender based violence (GBV) and in the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) to integrate these concerns across our programs, and to create safe environments for our beneficiaries.

Furthermore, our Fundamental Principles and humanitarian values inspired the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Relief. The Code has been signed to date by over 400 humanitarian NGOs. The Code helps the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other humanitarian actors to bring together the different cultures worldwide under one set of standards for the conduct of humanitarian relief.

Mr. President,

Last year young volunteers from 150 countries gathered in Solferino, Italy to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Solferino. The youth of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement committed themselves to “inner change and the development of skills to promote harmony and positive attitudes within communities”; “live our seven Fundamental Principles as agents of behavioural change”; and “renounce violence, promote non-discrimination and respect for diversity, and a culture of peace in the world.”

In this context, the IFRC’s initiative “Youth as agents of behavioural change” (YABC) was launched to empower youth to play a lead role in transforming mindsets, attitudes and behaviour in their local communities. It starts from the premise that a prior commitment to inner change and being the living example of our Fundamental Principles and humanitarian values is the best way to reach this objective.

YABC uses innovative and artistic platforms and integrates peer education and non-cognitive learning to promote behavioural change. As such, it uses games, role plays, visualisation, drama, dance, art and movement for youth to make the journey "from the heart to the mind" and engage in social mobilisation.

Mr. President,

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been standing up for human dignity since our founding almost 150 years ago, when our founder mobilised volunteer assistance for the wounded on the battlefield in Solferino.

Today, the promotion of humanitarian values continues to be at the heart of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ mandate.

Thank You.