Opening of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent in Geneva – Simonetta Sommaruga calls for greater compliance with international humanitarian law

Press Release, FDJP, 08.12.2015

Berne. At the opening of the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga called for greater compliance with international humanitarian law. This conference in Geneva will be attended by about 4,500 persons from 8 to 10 December.

President Sommaruga shakes hand with Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC
enlarge_picture President Sommaruga shakes hand with Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC (Photo: Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

Speaking on the first day of the conference, Ms Sommaruga reminded the audience of the importance of reasserting the fundamental humanitarian principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. Although the Movement can look back on half a century of promoting these basic humanitarian principles, today they are more relevant than ever. We need to keep on developing innovative approaches in order to better protect civilian populations.

“Law must not fall silent in times of war”. Ms Sommaruga recalled that it was this conviction that led to the creation of the movement more than 150 years ago. In its work on the frontline of the world’s conflicts, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement does not distinguish between good and evil, between justified and proscribed wars, or between victims and perpetrators. It merely tries to limit the catastrophic consequences of war. The 32nd Conference provides an opportunity for us to join in taking action to achieve greater protection for all those who are not, or are no longer, involved in hostilities, Ms Sommaruga declared.

Switzerland is actively involved in the 32nd Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. It promotes better observance of international humanitarian law and the strengthening of the global humanitarian system prior to and in the aftermath of crises.

The event will focus on three main themes: preventing and combating violence, ensuring protection and access to humanitarian aid, and disaster risk reduction. The issue of migration will also be a key issue at the conference.

With over 17 million volunteers and a presence throughout the world, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is playing a vital role in managing the current refugee crisis.

Acting on a resolution at the 31st International Conference, Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have conducted a consultation process in order to identify ways of strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law. The 32nd conference is now expected to take appropriate action on the options that were submitted in the concluding report on the consultation process. In particular, states are recommended to conduct a regular dialogue on the implementation of international humanitarian law and to strengthen cooperation in this field.

The Conference, which has been held in Geneva since 1986, is very important for Switzerland. As the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions and the seat of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC, Switzerland has very close links with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The country therefore has a strong tradition of promoting the International Conference as a global humanitarian event, and supports it financially.

Every four years the Conference brings together 189 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, their International Federation, the ICRC and the 196 signatories of the Geneva Conventions. It is the highest body of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and one of the most important humanitarian conferences. The decisions taken at the conference – in the form of resolutions – influence the global humanitarian debate and policy approaches, and can encourage developments in international law.

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