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Christina Magnuson
President of the Swedish Red Cross and member of the Standing Commission

 
The emblem issue is once again on hold, just when it seemed the necessary elements were finally in place to achieve the long-desired goal: better protection for humanitarian work, for the victims of conflict and violence and for those coming to their aid. Almost from its very beginnings, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has struggled with the notion of universality, whereby all the National Societies and the Geneva institutions could work together in accordance with the same principles to achieve common goals.

Yet, all these people of goodwill have not been able to serve under the same symbol - or emblem, as we call it. The emblem is crucial, as it provides protective cover vital to their work. And over the years, at varying intensities, proposals for new emblems have been put forward, the history and reasons for which are well documented.

When I was asked by the Standing Commission in 1996 to chair a working group to re-examine the emblem issue with the aim of overcoming the present impasse, we embarked on our work with the deep conviction that we needed not only to tackle the immediate problems, but also to find a long-term solution. The idea was to create an additional distinctive emblem which would serve any state or National Society unable to use one of the existing emblems because local perceptions made them unacceptable in certain contexts. Some National Societies would like to see a new emblem which would replace the cross, crescent and lion and sun and which would be embraced and accepted by all. We know that this is wishful thinking. But we are convinced that an additional emblem, with the proposed design and criteria for use, would be a step that, in the long run, would favour unity and universality.

After much careful work, long meetings and thoughtful discussions,I am hopeful that reason will overcome emotion and enable us to focus on our sincere aim to create more and better opportunities to protect and aid victims of war and violence. Recent events in the Middle East have resulted in tragic consequences: the death of a Palestine Red Crescent driver, the destruction of ambulances of the Palestine Red Crescent and of the Magen David Adom, and injuries to their staff. These developments underline further the need for us all to go forward in a common humanitarian spirit.

The planned Diplomatic Conference, which would have adopted a Third Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, whereby a new emblem would have been given international recognition and status alongside the three existing emblems, was postponed owing to the latest round of violence in the Middle East. The Standing Commission has unanimously expressed its support for the work done so far, including the preparation of a draft protocol. It is my hope that the continuing efforts of the Swiss government, as depositary of the Geneva Conventions, will lead to a resumption of the work and the early achievement of the desired outcome.

Christina Magnuson
President of the Swedish Red Cross and member of the Standing Commission



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