Across the table
On 29 and 30 April, the Red Cross Societies of Japan and
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea met and discussed
humanitarian issues of joint concern.
Japanese officials asked for assistance in shedding some
light on 11 missing Japanese nationals suspected of having
been abducted and taken to North Korea. At a previous meeting,
the North Koreans agreed that if a missing Japanese were found,
Pyongyang Red Cross officials would notify the Japanese Red
Cross. The two sides also agreed to continue discussions related
to the progress of investigations into the missing Japanese
nationals at future Red Cross meetings.
The North Koreans raised various issues of concern, including
Koreans who disappeared before and during the Second World
War, atomic bomb victims in DPR Korea, and food assistance,
To mark World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March 2002, organized
by the World Health Organization (WHO), the ICRC made a statement
about the disease, which affects many detainees in the Caucasus,
in particular in the prisons of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
In 1995, in cooperation with the ministries of justice and
health in these three countries of the former Soviet Union,
the ICRC set up a programme, known as DOTS (Directly Observed
Treatment, Short-course strategy), to combat tuberculosis
(TB) in places of detention. This programme includes in particular:
the creation of a hospital for detainees suffering from TB
staffed by specially trained medical personnel; the establishment
of a top-notch laboratory specializing in diagnosis; and a
health education programme targeting high-risk groups, primarily
detainees and their warders. As a result, in Georgia, the
rate of multi-drug resistance has fallen from 21.8 per cent
in 1998 to 8.6 per cent today, while the rate of cure is currently
75 per cent.
For more details, consult the ICRC's web site (www.icrc.org)
and the interview with Philippe Creach, head of the programme
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the
Children-UK released a report earlier this year, alleging
that humanitarian workers from international and local NGOs
as well as UN agencies in the west African countries of Guinea,
Liberia and Sierra Leone were abusing girls under 18. While
the allegations remain unverified, the report focused on the
use of humanitarian aid and services intended to help refugees
as a means of sexual exploitation.
The Federation immediately followed up on the allegations
made in the report. Contact was made with National Societies
in all three countries to ensure that they were aware of the
report and taking the allegations seriously. A review of Federation
activities in Guinea and Sierra Leone was also conducted.
The review indicated that there is no systematic involvement
of Red Cross personnel in these abuses. The possibility does
exist that individuals may have engaged in inappropriate behaviour
with refugees but everything is being done to put procedures
in place that will allow such individuals to be identified
and dismissed, and at the same time, to eliminate all possible
exploitation of the aid delivery process.
According to the Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP),
an inter-agency project, hosted by the Federation, the extent
of the abuses described in the report may be unusual. Their
nature is not. It explains that current efforts towards humanitarian
accountablity need to go further. "The UNHCR/SC-UK report
reminds us all that the efforts under way have not been enough,"
says Agnes Callamard, co-director of HAP. "Comprehensive
protection and prevention requires a rethink of deep-seated
organizational and humanitarian assumptions, including core
values. In sum, accountability must become the governing principle
and practice of humanitarian work."
Reaching into the shadows
The 6th European Regional Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference
ended in Berlin on 18 April, with the adoption of a regional
strategy on migration and health aiming to reach millions
of people deprived of care and social justice.
The plight of migrants and people infected with HIV/AIDS and
tuberculosis were prioritized at the meeting which brought
50 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to Berlin in April
2002. Some 350 participants produced the "Berlin Charter"
as well as two plans of action to help those who face abuse
and vulnerability in what the Red Cross and Red Crescent defined
as "the shadowlands" of Europe.
On the closing day, Didier Cherpitel, secretary general of
the Federation, said: "Stigma and discrimination force
people into the shadows. The sex trade takes place and drugs
are injected in the shadows. We must reach into the shadows
to help those who are marginalized and sick, and to stop the
terrible exploitation of hundreds of thousands of people every
The Berlin Charter approved by the conference contains policy
on a range of migration and health issues which will be implemented
by two plans of action. The plans include measures to ensure
people's basic right to health and access to basic needs such
as food, shelter, clothing, water and medical help, and to
strengthen and develop partnerships inside and outside the
"Will you still need me when I'm 64?"
"In Africa, it is said that when an old man dies, a
library vanishes," explained Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general,
during an opening speech at the first World Assembly on Ageing
in 20 years.The assembly took place in April with hundreds
of delegates from the UN, NGOs and governments discussing
issues related to older people.
The UN secretary-general, who celebrated his 64th birthday
during the assembly, warned that if the issue of ageing was
not well managed, it would create enormous social and economic
problems for governments, humanitarian organizations and NGOs.
Quoting a line from a Beatles song, "Will you still need
me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?", Annan said
new ways of "using the experiences, creativity and knowledge
of older people" had to be found.
Since the last assembly in 1982, there has been a seismic
change in demographic patterns that are having a huge impact
on both economies and the lives of older people across the
world. With developed countries experiencing declining population
growth and developing countries facing challenges such as
the impact of HIV/AIDS on older people, a new plan of action
to deal with all the problems was developed.
Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro Rivero, Federation president,
in a speech to the NGO forum, said: "We must include
older people in solutions for improving their quality of life,
since we will achieve more if we find solutions for older
people, by older people."
The president praised the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
throughout the world in helping older people. "I could
talk for a long time about our Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies caring for older people in their communities, in
every corner of the world," he said. But, he added, although
the Red Cross and Red Crescent worked to improve the quality
of life of all vulnerable groups of society, ageing populations
across the world increasingly represented challenges for the
Movement and society as a whole.
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