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
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
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.