27th International Conference
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

A conference with a difference

Not only is 1999 the culmination of the millennium, it also has a special significance for the Movement, for it marks the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions signed on 12 August 1949.

The conference will be looking at what action can be taken to improve the protection of people caught up in conflict or natural disasters.

The 27th International Conference is therefore one of the highlights in a year of reflection, communication and action running under the banner of "The Power of Humanity" from World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day on 8 May 1999 to World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2000.

From words to action

Given the importance of the occasion, it was felt that the Conference itself should change to better suit the needs of the moment. The proceedings of the 27th International Conference have therefore been simplified with the aim of achieving greater visibility and a more focused outcome.

Thus, following the opening session, there will be one "plenary commission" over three days, with each day devoted to a different theme: protection of victims of armed conflict through respect of international humanitarian law; humanitarian action in times of conflict and other disasters; and improving the lives of vulnerable people. Under these broad headings, numerous specific issues will be addressed as they relate to one or more aspects of the Movement's work.

Two documents will be presented for adoption at the Conference. A Plan of Action covering the period 2000-2003 will define what actions and measures will be necessary to achieve a number of specific final goals. The Conference will also issue a Declaration summarizing its essential conclusions and reaffirming its commitment to the humanitarian agenda.

Participants will be invited to make pledges demonstrating their commitment to act on specific points raised in the Plan of Action. For instance, a National Society might pledge to start a new programme to combat HIV/AIDS or to recruit 2,000 new volunteers in the year 2000, while a State might pledge to review legislation on the protection of the emblem. The corporate sector and individuals will also be given the chance to make commitments. Pledges will be announced during the Conference and recorded in pledge documents, an honour book and an electronic register.

In the afternoons, workshops will provide a more informal atmosphere for debates to take place on given issues related to the Conference. Ideally, subjects will include those on which it may be difficult to reach a consensus, but which nonetheless merit in-depth discussion, such as the widespread availability of military-style weapons, women affected by armed conflict and the impact of climatic change on disasters.

Opening up to the public

For the first time, there are plans to involve the general public in the Conference proceedings. Following the formal opening ceremony on Sunday 31 October, there will be a public event at the Arena, the largest concert facility in Geneva. The show will be offered worldwide through global television broadcasts and seen by some 4,000 members of a fee-paying public and some 2,000 Conference delegates. All proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to the work of the Movement.

The show will celebrate "The Power of Humanity", which survives and triumphs in our contradictory world. The four elements - water, fire, air and earth, which are essential to life, but capable of destroying it - will provide the basis of and backdrop to the show. World famous artists from five continents will stage and interpret these symbols in music and movement.

The media will be invited to the closing ceremony, at which the Declaration will be read, the key points of the Plan of Action presented and the pledges summarized and scrolled through on a giant screen.

It is hoped that the new formula for the Conference will mean that more will be done to make tangible improvements to the situation of those suffering around the world and that many more people will be made aware of issues that concern not just the Movement but all of humanity.

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© 1999 | French (homepage) |

A formidable challenge

Putting ideas into practice

A conference with a difference

Even wars have limits

No good or bad victims

Weapons: the humanitarian perspective

Disasters have no limits

Fine tuning the response

The worldwide health crisis

A role to develop

Shared principles