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by Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor
Jean Milligan
Federation editor
The main innovation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 was to afford effective protection to civilian populations in times of war, given the terrible atrocities they had endured during World War II. Fifty years on, it is heartening to note that this key instrument of international humanitarian law has been adopted by almost every state on earth and that, in the last few years, other laws to protect civilians at risk have also seen the light of day.
What is worrying, however, is that armed violence is increasingly directed towards civilians, for the most part deliberately. Even if the application of the Geneva Conventions has made it possible to save countless lives, the long list of war crimes committed since 1949 is hardly reassuring, even for the confirmed optimist. This raises the inevitable question: how do you make up for this deficiency in humanity?

The response remains open. It is the source of constant deliberation and debate within the Movement. It has figured prominently in the drive to promote the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, in the course of which an unprecedented consultation was carried out among the victims and protagonists of war in many parts of the world, some early echoes of which are featured in our cover story.
The issue is also an important item on the agenda of the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to be held in Geneva from 31 October to 6 November 1999. With this in mind, Red Cross, Red Crescent magazine is pleased to offer a special supplement entitled The Power of Humanity, which presents some of the main difficulties and dilemmas facing humanitarian action today and some of the solutions the conference will be proposing.


Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor
Jean Milligan
Federation editor
In the face of such immense challenges, it is worth re-emphasizing the fundamental values that underpin the Geneva Conventions and all humanitarian action - compassion for those who suffer, respect for human dignity and solidarity. Moreover, we should persevere in the crucial quest to find ways in which to make these values better known, while ensuring that states assume their responsibilities, as well as all those who play a part in the tragedies unfolding now and in the future.


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