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Making a Difference
It may not be widely known but the Standing Commission has been leading the effort to ensure that the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will have a concrete impact on the lives of the most vulnerable.
HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, chairman of the Standing Commission and vice-president of the Netherlands Red Cross, discusses the role and aspirations of the commission for the conference.
Can you explain what the Standing Commission is and its role in the preparations of the 27th International Conference?
The Standing Commission is 'trustee' of the conference between two conferences and responsible for its preparation. The Commission has the duty to encourage and further the implementation of the resolutions of the conference. Additionally, the commission is responsible for preparing the Council of Delegates. That is our statutory role. It is composed of nine members: two representatives from the ICRC and two from the Federation, the other five are individually elected.

There is much discussion about this conference being different from previous ones. Can you explain in what way?
At the last session of the Council of Delegates, the Standing Commission was asked to involve National Societies more closely in the preparation of the statutory meetings of the Movement. To achieve this, commission members attended as many Federation regional meetings as possible. Our aim was to promote a dialogue between the National Societies and the Standing Commission. We subsequently led a process of consultation among all components of the Movement asking participants of the 26th International Conference to evaluate it and make recommendations for the next one. Out of this extensive period of reflection, some very original ideas emerged. These ideas have crystallized into the Plan of Action, the Declaration and the Pledges.

The plan of action is different from the broad resolutions adapted by previous conferences. We consider it more a document defining the main direction and goals of the Movement. The declaration is the pledge of the whole conference to victims of war and disasters. The pledges are the individual commitments by National Societies and governments. In general this conference is different because it looks to identify concrete actions to be taken by the Movement to solve real problems among the most vulnerable.

Another difference is the show which will open the conference. Traditionally, the Movement policy has been to do good and not to speak about it. We decided that this year with the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, the conference, the millennium events, it was an opportunity to go more public. Our goal is to convey the power of humanity message to the general public. We wanted to remind everyone that the Movement is about people. People helping people.

The Standing Commission set as its objective to make this conference different. But we are not doing things differently just to be different. We are doing things differently because we want to make a difference.
How will the Standing Commission follow up the conference initiatives such as the plan of action and pledges?
This is the next priority of the commission. It is up to the new Standing Commission to find a suitable way to do this. The evaluation done after the 26th International Conference was very worthwhile. National Societies know that, following their responses to the evaluation, action was taken. It may not have been their individual idea or critique that was used, but things have changed and hopefully they will feel it has been for the best. I believe the dialogue between the National Societies and the commission will strengthen. Clearly there will have to be a direct participation of National Societies in any follow-up to the conference.

What do you hope will be achieved during the conference?
I would like people to listen to each other and genuine discussion on humanitarian concern to take place. Mainly, I hope that through all the debates and discussions whether formal or informal we ultimately improve our assistance to victims of war and disasters.

The 27th International Conference took place as this edition of the magazine was going to press. The first issue of next year will feature a summary of the decisions and events from the conference.

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