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I once read: Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions. On the face of it, some would argue that in today's world finding new solutions has become so complex that we need to redefine the problems. Various attacks in the world and their consequences, combined with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have altered to some extent how wars are waged. Climate change is causing increased hardship as the frequency and severity of natural disasters intensifies. Diseases old and new are having an unprecedented impact on millions of people.

But I believe that these events are the latest manifestations of old problems that we have failed to find sustainable solutions for. Wars have always been fought, although the reasons and contexts may change. The tragedy today is that civilians are disproportionately the victims of armed conflict. Vulnerability to disasters is nothing new, but the rise in the number of people affected by them as a result of decades of inappropriate development policies and programmes is the latest trend. And the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS is another tragic symptom of the devastating effects rising poverty levels can have on the health and well-being of individuals worldwide. The way forward is by collectively putting our heads together to find the courage and creativity to come up with new solutions for age-old problems.

That is why the gathering of governments and Movement leadership at the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is so vital. This is one of the few near universal platforms, assembling representatives from the 190 States party to the Geneva Conventions, the 179 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC, the International Federation and a great number of observers, that is committed to finding the most sustainable solutions to alleviate suffering and protect human dignity.

The Conference also offers the opportunity to put the spotlight on Movement activities, strengthen our joint efforts to fight for what we believe in and deliver coordinated services and assistance based on the needs of vulnerable people.

On a more personal note, this particular Conference marks the end of my term as member and Chairperson of the Standing Commission. As I look back on the work of the Standing Commission, I believe our greatest achievements these past eight years include the Seville Agreement and, more recently, the first ever Strategy for the Movement. We have also found what we believe is a basis for solving the emblems issue through the draft 3rd protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

The Seville Agreement was an important step towards clarifying the role and responsibility of each component of the Movement. The Strategy for the Movement further spells out how the components can best work in the areas of protection, assistance and advocacy, following mutually agreed guidelines and complementing each other's efforts.

But working better together as a Movement might sometimes mean giving up some of our subjective interests for the good of the whole. It also means respecting the work and mandates, the knowledge and experience of the others, not least those of the National Societies who are closest to the realities on the ground, in their countries. It can sometimes also mean that we have to agree to disagree with our governments, even public opinion, in advocating for principles and action we believe in and which are firmly embedded in our Fundamental Principles.

To make a difference the challenges ahead for the humanitarian community, our Movement needs to be much bolder, more creative and more decisive. I certainly believe that this Conference can make a significant contribution towards achieving this.

HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands

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