The Red Cross and Red Crescent Emblem
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Emblem Issues

Letter to Presidents and Secretaries General
of all National Societies
July 19, 2000

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are writing in furtherance of the Convocation notice of 12 May 2000 addressed to all Members of the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent by the Presidents of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. We also refer to the decisions of the Governing Board of the Federation of 4 May which have already been circulated to you.

We can now confirm that significant progress has been made towards the finalization of the draft protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions which will be considered by the governments of States Party to the Conventions before the International Conference is convened in November. The most recent stage in this process was a consultative meeting held with a representative group of Ambassadors in Geneva on 13 July.

The Joint Working Group set up by the Standing Commission this year has completed its work in June, and a draft text for a Third Additional Protocol has been drawn up by the ICRC in consultation with the International Federation. The text is now being sent by the Government of Switzerland (as depositary for the Geneva Conventions) to the governments of all States Parties to the Conventions, and discussions on the issue are under way with government representatives in Geneva. The Swiss government is making provisional arrangements for the States Parties to the Geneva Conventions to be invited to a Diplomatic Conference on 25-26 October in Geneva, in order to examine and adopt this Protocol.

The Swiss government is also convening a preparatory consultative meeting on the Diplomatic Conference on 5-6 September in Geneva, to which all States party to the Geneva Conventions will be invited. The ICRC as well as the International Federation have been invited to participate in this meeting. In addition, the Swiss government has requested the International Federation to co-ordinate the participation of the National Societies that wish to observe this meeting. We therefore suggest the interested National Societies to take contact with the Federation Secretariat, Messrs. S. Davey or C. Lamb (fax numbers below).

As was the case for last year's International Conference, the ICRC and the International Federation will host a preparatory meeting on the 28th International Conference, open to all Members of the 28th International Conference, in the afternoon of 6 September 2000 in the same location as the above mentioned preparatory consultative meeting on the Diplomatic Conference and as soon as possible after its closure.

Please note that travel assistance will only be made available for attendance at the statutory meetings (General Assembly, Council of delegates and 28th International Conference) on 13-14 November 2000 (funding for one person per National Society delegation in accordance with the Federation's regulations for travel assistance).

We should perhaps mention here that the meeting of the legal advisers of National Societies which the ICRC has convened for 4 September 2000 in Geneva may provide a good opportunity for the representative of your Society to the legal advisers meeting, to either represent your Society or join your delegation to both preparatory meetings on the Diplomatic Conference and the 28th International Conference (5-6 September 2000).

A copy of the draft text which is being sent to governments has been mailed or faxed to you. It will, of course, be important to take it into account when you consider the position of your Society with respect to the amendments which have been proposed to the Statutes of the Movement. These amendments will be debated, as you know, at the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent on 14 November 2000 in Geneva. The draft text will also facilitate your consultations with your government on the Third Additional Protocol.

The Joint Working Group held its last session in Geneva on 13-14 June, and considered a working paper presented to it by the ICRC. A number of constructive suggestions and proposals were made before and during the meeting, and taken into account when the attached draft Protocol was prepared. It is also important that the meeting took place in an atmosphere of consensus about the process being adopted, and there was broad agreement about the structure of the Protocol proposed.

The main features of discussion in the Joint Working Group which are reflected in the draft text to the greatest possible extent, are:

  • general agreement that there needs to be a new additional distinctive emblem which can be used by those countries which have difficulty in using either of the existing emblems;
  • agreement that the creation of this emblem will not affect the ability of countries to continue to use the existing emblems if they wish to do so;
  • acceptance of the idea that the new emblem should be able to incorporate, for the indicative purposes described in the Geneva Conventions, other emblems which have been in effective use for a number of years by countries and which are the subject of reservations to the Geneva Conventions notified to the depositary government;
  • agreement that the new additional distinctive emblem should be available for use by the National Societies of other countries if they find that their own emblem is not well accepted in situations where they are working to provide humanitarian relief or assistance.
  • support for the concept of the new emblem being available for use by medical units with international forces, especially in circumstances where its use might reduce confusion or enhance protection;
  • recognition of the need for flexibility in the use of emblems in the modern world.

There was also general agreement that the issue needed to be resolved as soon as possible, and that the timetable for the conferences to be held later in 2000 was appropriate.

The depth of the consensus which has so far been achieved can be seen in the chairman's summary delivered at the close of the Joint Working Group's Session on June 14.

The main issues still to be resolved include the design and name of the new emblem. The Joint Working Group discussed the designs which have been brought forward from the consultations which have taken place over recent years. The Swiss Defence Forces have agreed to conduct visibility tests on all the designs proposed to the Joint Working Group. These will check that the proposals meet criteria for visibility at various ranges and in different conditions, both in human eye terms and electronically. These tests will be conducted in time for a formal proposal to be distributed before long.

We are also conscious of the need for full information to be provided to National Societies as the issues evolve, especially during the government-to-government negotiations which will precede the adoption of the proposed Third Additional Protocol. We will provide updates on progress and will try to contact as many Societies as possible either in-country or at meetings where our representatives are present. In the meantime, we are briefing our delegations around the world to provide information to you and answer any questions you might have. In addition, should you wish to contact us direct, please feel free to do so. The contact persons are Stephen Davey and Christopher Lamb (IFRC - fax (+41 22) 7330395), and Zidane Meriboute and Thierry Grobet (ICRC, fax (+41 22) 7332057).

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Davey
Under Secretary General
Communication and Policy Coordination
International Federation
François Bugnion
International Law and Communication

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