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The events of 11 September marked a major turning point in our world order and in human relations. The long-term consequences are difficult to predict. We cannot help but wonder where these events will lead. When will it end? How will it end? In the midst of uncertainty and threat, we should not forget that wars are destructive, cause human suffering and devastate the environment.

At a time when we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Nobel peace prize, first awarded to our founder, Henry Dunant, the current crisis represents one of the greatest challenges ever faced by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Certain commentators are quick to declare this crisis a clash of civilizations. There is a temptation to oversimplify the root causes and to propagate misleading theories. In this climate of turmoil and confrontation, the cohesion of the Movement must be safeguarded. We must respond with a united front, with particular emphasis on respect for the Fundamental Principles. Only impartial action by every Movement staff member and volunteer can ensure the unity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
On the operational front, victims must be assisted swiftly wherever they are. While security concerns are a determining factor in how and when humanitarian action is conducted, the Movement is responding with cautious speed.

In the interest of the most vulnerable people, the Red Cross and Red Crescent must interface with a wide range of actors including warring parties, governments, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations. But it must do so without compromising its neutrality and independence.

An objective set by the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999 was for "National Societies and states [to] cooperate and take the necessary steps to promote tolerance, non-violence in the community and respect for cultural diversity." Sticking to this goal with determination will send out a signal of hope.

Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor

Atoussa Khosousi Parsey
Federation guest editor

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