27th International Conference
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

A formidable challenge (cont.)

Ailing society

The disabled, the mentally handicapped, orphans, illegal migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, battered women, single mothers, the elderly... The list of people that depend on some kind of community or social service is long indeed. The problem of elderly people living alone who just need human contact is now a problem not only in the highly commercialized world but also in more traditional societies such as those in Asia and the Middle East. People are living longer, but this brings with it a new set of needs. With shrinking health and welfare budgets everywhere, these are the people who are hit the hardest and in some countries fall outside the safety net altogether.

The millions of children growing up on the streets are perhaps the most glaring symptom of society's ills. Regarded as . and treated - little better than vermin, deprived of their childhood and education, they are prey to all manner of physical and sexual abuse, and drug dependency and HIV/AIDS are rife among them.

Rising to the challenge

For the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent the scenario described above makes for a daunting agenda. But all is not doom and gloom. Humans are capable of acts of terrible cruelty and wanton destruction, but they also have a great capacity for kindness and compassion. Humanitarianism is the counterbalance to man's inhumanity to man, and there are tools for meeting some of the challenges involved, on condition there is a strong enough commitment to use them.

With both an international structure and a local grassroots presence through its National Societies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is ideally placed to take the lead in this area. By analysing and monitoring the factors that contribute to conflicts and disasters, it can look for ways to help prevent such crises and find better and more effective ways of responding to them.

The Conference is one way in which it will seek to do this.

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A formidable challenge

Putting ideas into practice

A conference with a difference

Even wars have limits

No good or bad victims

Weapons: the humanitarian perspective

Disasters have no limits

Fine tuning the response

The worldwide health crisis

A role to develop

Shared principles