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 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
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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