The Red Cross and Red Crescent Emblem

Joint Working Group
on the

Closing Statement by the co-chair
Mrs. C. Magnuson
Geneva June 13-14, 2000

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I consider it a privilege to be able to summarize our work at the conclusion of the second meeting of the Joint Working Group on the Emblems, for it appears to me that we have made substantial progress.

Reviewing the debates during our formal sessions, and taking account of the views presented during countless informal meetings and consultations, I believe we can be proud of having advanced a seemingly intractable issue to the point that we are now close to seeing the task completed.

That task, of course, is formally the task set for us by the Standing Commission in accordance with Resolution 3 of the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. We were charged with assisting the Standing Commission in finding a comprehensive solution, as rapidly as possible, which is acceptable to all parties in terms of substance and procedure.

Ours was the first sustained effort on this subject by a Joint Working Group composed of States and Movement representatives. We held two sessions, on 13-14 April and 13-14 June 2000. We took our action after receiving reports of consultations conducted with government and National Society representatives in Geneva and capitals. We also received reports of consultations conducted in the capitals of the countries most directly affected by the proposal to create a new emblem.

We also worked in tandem with the Standing Commission. One consequence of this close relationship was the Standing Commissionís willingness to accept our assurance that an emerging consensus had been detected which supported the concept of a new protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions which would create a new emblem to stand alongside the existing emblems.

It was on the basis of this assurance, conveyed after our meeting in April, that the Standing Commission decided on 11 May to convene the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to consider amendments to the Movementís Statutes which would follow the adoption of a new emblem.

The fact that the Standing Commission accepted this assurance and convened the Conference demonstrates a remarkable degree of faith in our certainty that the issues could and would be resolved this year.

It was also gratifying to note that the Government of Switzerland, as depositary, has already taken steps to prepare for the Diplomatic Conference to be held to consider adopting a new additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions. As we heard on 13 June, the Government of Switzerland has made provisional arrangements for the hosting of a Diplomatic Conference on 25-26 October 2000, with preparatory work to take place informally and in a formal session on 5-6 September. All such meetings would be held in Geneva.

Our main task at this session was to consider a working paper prepared by the ICRC to assist our consideration of the issues involved in a new additional protocol. That paper was distributed on 14 April, and led to the submission of a number of written and oral suggestions by members of the Group. We also received suggestions from some other States and Societies, including some presented as a result of the consultations which were conducted on the issues.

We met, as in April, in an extremely constructive atmosphere and with a determination to meet the requirements of our mandate. It was particularly pleasing to note that all delegations accepted a consultative format for our meetings. This meant that there was no need for us to vote on propositions. All delegations were free to present their ideas on both the process and the substance, and the result is that we were able to clarify and potentially resolve some very complex questions.

The outcome, in short, is that we clarified many issues and presented others in a form which will make it much easier for the States Parties to the Geneva Conventions to accept their responsibility to negotiate and adopt a new additional protocol.

We have, for example, clearly identified the structure and main content of a new additional protocol. We have also considered important aspects of the way a protocol might enable international humanitarian law to keep pace with the changing international environment in this new millenium.

We have done so with a view to enabling the Movement to achieve true universality. At the same time, our work would extend the concept of a new neutral emblem to facilitate the provision of international humanitarian relief and the protection of armed forces medical units in a new era of international cooperation. These two achievements are, I believe, very significant contributions indeed.

There are, as would be expected, still some issues which will require further negotiation. These are, however, negotiations which can be most effectively conducted among States Parties in preparation for the convening of the Diplomatic Conference.

In my view, which I believe is widely shared in the Joint Working Group, this session of the Group will be its last in this phase of the development of the comprehensive solution we were asked to facilitate. I propose to recommend to the Standing Commission that the issue of the new additional protocol should now be placed in the hands of the Government of Switzerland as depositary. I would suggest that the Standing Commission should, however, seek to establish a close relationship with the Government of Switzerland as the matter proceeds.

The process ahead will be in the hands of the depositary, but my sense of our discussions is that several points should be communicated to the Government of Switzerland, to the International Committee of the Red Cross and to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to assist them in their work in the months ahead.

I shall note them briefly:

  • I am delighted to learn that the Government of Switzerland and the two organisations believe that there would be significant value for the process if the countries represented in the Joint Working Group could remain intimately connected to the negotiation process. It is my understanding that a group, to be known as the Friends of the Third Protocol, will be convened in July and invited to assist the drafting processes ahead. The Group of Friends will include the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva of those countries represented on our Group by State or National Society representatives. The Group of Friends will also include certain other Permanent Representatives to ensure equitable geographic representation.
  • We have been informed by the Government of Switzerland that the Swiss Defence Forces have agreed to conduct tests on the suggestions that have been received concerning the design of the new emblem. This will ensure that the new additional protocol will adopt an emblem design which meets modern standards of visibility in armed conflict situations.
  • The Government of Switzerland, as depositary, will convene a Preparatory Committee on the draft Protocol on 5 and 6 September in Geneva. This will enable all States Parties to the Geneva Conventions to comprehend the issues and put forward their own suggestions in good time before the Diplomatic Conference itself convenes on 25 October.
  • Active consultations will continue with all States Parties and National Societies. With the publication of a draft text, these consultations will now be able to include both the text itself and the proposed amendments to the Statutes of the Movement. As we have heard, these consultations will take advantage of all available regional and international meetings which bring together government and National Society officials whose work is relevant to the proposed Third Additional Protocol.
  • The ICRC and the International Federation will provide active support to dissemination programs which will bring the draft protocol text to the attention of States Parties and National Societies. This will include the provision of full information through the Movementís Website.

The draft text itself will be prepared by the ICRC in consultation with the International Federation on the basis of the debates which have taken place in our Joint Working Group. It will take account of the suggestions, formal and informal, presented during our deliberations and will be framed with the objective of offering to States Parties a text which, if adopted, would secure the goal of Movement universality.

This means that it will need to steer a delicate path. I trust all delegations will recognise that it will not be easy obtain a result which will satisfy the needs of all delegations, and in particular those which are directly affected.

The draft text will not be able to be accompanied immediately by a definitive proposal for the new emblem itself. This must, as will be obvious, await the outcome of the visibility tests to be conducted by the Swiss Defence forces. I can, however, note at this stage that there is agreement on the concept of a new neutral emblem into which High Contracting Parties would be able to insert, if they wish, a recognised emblem for the indicative purposes foreseen in Article 44 of the First Geneva Convention. This is not an issue which needs to be governed by the visibility tests.

We have also noted the comments made by several delegations on the need for the new emblem to carry a name which will attract respect. It is my expectation that the debates at this session, and the informal consultations which have taken place, will make it possible for the ICRC and the International Federation to offer suggestions on these topics to the Group of Friends of the Protocol at one of its meetings, but well before the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee in September.

It is also clear that members of the Joint Working Group agree that the new emblem to be created by the Third Additional Protocol needs to be able to stand alongside the emblems already in use as a consequence of Article 38 of the First Geneva Convention. It will not impact on the ability of States which use existing emblems to continue to do so. Nor will it create an emblem which could be perceived as having a lesser status Ė our intention is that the new emblem would stand with the others as an equal. It would have exactly the same protective power as the other distinctive emblems.

This aspect of the debate brought forward clearly the need for a more effective information program to enable States Parties, National Societies and other interested groups to appreciate accurately the meaning of these distinctions. The ICRC and the International Federation will ensure that the distinctions are clearly expressed and well understood, for it now seems that the task of negotiating a new Protocol will be much harder if negotiators do not share a common understanding of the requirements of Articles 38 and 44. Indeed, the absence of this understanding has contributed to some of the difficulties we and others before us have had in achieving a satisfactory result in the past.

When presenting this summary to the Standing Commission I shall inform it that the ICRC and the International Federation will have started their work on the redraft of the text immediately after the conclusion of our sessions. It is their hope that the new text will be provided to the Government of Switzerland before the end of June. They do, however, wish to reflect on some of the proposals made. In some cases they will need to check the practice and needs of others not present at our meeting, in particular the United Nations. They will also, as you have heard, be taking up suggestions made in our session which will ensure conformity of some provisions with articles in other treaties.

With this, distinguished colleagues, I believe we have successfully concluded our work and placed this project on a footing which should see States Parties well positioned to adopt the new Protocol in October. This should make it possible for the 28th International Conference to adopt consequential amendments to the Movement Statutes in November, and for the International Federation General Assembly to consider applications for membership of the Federation at that time. Only when this happens will we be able to declare that we have fully discharged the mandate given by the 27th International Conference and produced an outcome that is acceptable to all parties in terms of substance and procedure.

Mrs. Christina Magnuson
Standing Commission Joint Working Group on the Emblem

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