by Jean-François Berger
The move to create an additional emblem for the Movement has
encountered a delay, but its chief proponents remain optimistic.
The Diplomatic Conference on the Protocol additional to the
Geneva Conventions relating to the emblems, due to be held
on 25 and 26 October 2000 in Geneva, did not take place as
planned. The 28th International Conference of the Red Cross
and Red Crescent, which was to have followed shortly after,
was also postponed. The reason for the postponements was that
"the necessary conditions for achieving a consensus on the
question of the emblems are, in light of the recent developments
in the Middle East, not met for the time being", to quote
the press release issued by the Swiss Federal Department of
The decision was inevitable, given the sudden resurgence
of tensions in Israel and in the occupied and the autonomous
territories. Even so, the main organizers of the conference
have not abandoned hope. Despite the postponement of the two
meetings, they emphasize the progress made in the consultations
on the creation of an additional emblem for the Movement,
free of any national or religious connotation, that could
be recognised alongside the red cross and red crescent emblems
and be put at the disposal of those states and National Societies
which cannot decide to use the existing emblems. How realistic
this is, the future will tell.
While the Swiss government's decision to put off the Diplomatic
Conference is understandable, the ICRC president, Jakob Kellenberger,
says that "the strong determination I had from the moment
of taking office remains unchanged - to contribute to the
creation, as quickly as possible, of the conditions for full
membership of the Movement of the societies which have problems
with existing emblems." Didier Cherpitel, secretary general
of the Federation, is similarly resolute. He believes, "the
work done, and represented in the draft protocol, is a clear
expression of the wish of the world community to achieve true
universality for our Movement as soon as possible". To support
this dynamic, the "draft Protocol relating to the adoption
of an additional distinctive emblem" (Additional Protocol
III) was sent on 12 October by the Swiss government to all
the States party to the Geneva Conventions. The text is also
considered by the Movement's Standing Commission as a sound
basis for the work of the Diplomatic Conference when it meets
to negotiate the protocol. Meanwhile, Switzerland is continuing
its discussions with all the States concerned on the use and
shape of the additional emblem.
The story so far
The current attempts to solve emblem problems date back to
the mid-1990s, when a Movement expert working group was set
up. The culmination of its work was the resolution adopted
by the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and
Red Crescent, which met in Geneva in 1999. This resolution
called for a "comprehensive solution, as rapidly as possible,
which is acceptable to all parties in terms of substance and
The Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
had the task of taking action on the resolution. It decided,
in January 2000, that the best way forward was a joint working
group of states and the Red Cross Red Crescent. This recognized
that governments now had to become directly involved.
The joint working group met for the first time in Geneva in
April 2000 and was composed of 16 states and 8 represent-atives
of the Movement. It was jointly chaired by the Senegalese
ambassador to Geneva, Madame Absa Claude Diallo and by Mrs.
Christina Magnuson, member of the Standing Commission. The
group concluded that an additional emblem was needed to solve
protection problems in situations where the red cross or red
crescent was not well accepted, and for use by those National
Societies which could not use the existing emblems, thus enabling
them to join the Red Cross Red Crescent family.
The creation of an additional emblem required two essential
things: agreement by governments to add another emblem to
those specified in the Geneva Conventions, and agreement by
both governments and National Societies to amend the statutes
of the Movement.
The joint working group considered a third protocol should
be added to the Geneva Conventions. This required a Diplomatic
Conference of the 189 states party to the Geneva Conventions,
which was called by the Swiss government for25 and 26 October
2000. Meanwhile, the Standing Commission called the special
28th International Conference for 14 November in order to
amend the statutes. A draft protocol was drawn up to define
the shape and use of the additional emblem, and after extensive
consultation, was sent by the Swiss authorities in July 2000
to all 189 governments for their comments. Optimism was running
high by 5 September when a preparatory meeting of states was
held in Geneva to consider the reactions to the draft protocol.
October, however, brought problems. The Middle East peace
process ran into serious difficulties when violent confrontation
erupted between Israelis and Palestinians. On 12 October,
the Swiss government decided it could not go ahead with the
Diplomatic Conference because there was no real prospect of
reaching a consensus. It was postponed to early 2001, as was
the 28th International Conference.
The process, however, went on. The revised draft of the protocol
was sent out to all states, with the ICRC and Federation pointing
to the enormous advance that it represented, particularly
agreement on the principle of an additional emblem, and the
commitment to a universal Movement. Following a meeting of
the Standing Commission on 25 and 26 October, it was also
sent to all National Societies with a message about the humanitarian
principles embodied in the proposal.
Ian Piper is a consultant for the ICRC's campaign and marketing
The proposed design for an additional
emblem has been sent to states and National Societies along
with the draft Protocol III.
Interview with Ambassador Kupfer
order to gain greater insight into these latest developments,
Red Cross, Red Crescent interviewed Swiss Ambassador Thomas
Kupfer, commissioner of the Diplomatic Conference relating to
Why was the conference postponed?
As depositary of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland has been
holding in-depth consultations on the issue of the emblems,
with the aim of finding a lasting solution based on the widest
possible consensus among the States parties. We have had to
concede that the conditions favouring the adoption of Additional
Protocol III had not been achieved in October 2000 following
the sharp deterioration of the political situation in the
Middle East - and this view is shared by many states and the
Movement. We are therefore pursuing our discussions with the
States parties on the basis of what has already been accomplished,
that is, on the draft protocol sent to the States parties
in October. The issue of the Diplomatic Conference remains
on the agenda, and states now have more time at their disposal
to review the proposed new protocol than initially foreseen.
What are the future prospects?
We are in a transitional phase. We need to keep a close eye
on developments on the international scene so as to be ready
to act when circumstances permit. We haven't forgotten that
our goal is humanitarian: to ensure better protection in the
field and to help the Movement to achieve universality.
Do you already have a date in mind?
Not yet. The discussions under way and still to come should
enable us to fix a date.
Is the draft of Additional Protocol III finalized or are
there still some problems to resolve before the conference
We have come a long way: numerous legal issues have been clarified
during our consultations held to date in close cooperation
with the ICRC and the Federation, which are responsible for
drafting the text for the Diplomatic Conference.
That being said, what shape the emblem will finally take is
still an open question, which will be decided on the basis
of the proposal sent to states in October.
In tangible terms, what will be the implications for National
Societies if an additional emblem is adopted?
For almost all National Societies, the adoption of this emblem
will change nothing in their day-to-day functioning, other
than that they will have to make the additional emblem known
to their members. However, for the National Societies currently
denied admission to the Movement, the adoption of Additional
Protocol III will open the door. Moreover, the proposal also
provides a long-term solution to future potential problems.
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