The Red Cross and Red Crescent Emblem

Emblem Issues

Background and Progress

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been working for some years towards a solution to the problems faced by countries which cannot use either of the emblems established by the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

A Working Group was established in 1996 by the Standing Commission of the Movement to examine the issues and recommend a solution. The Working Group was chaired by Mrs Christina Magnuson (Member of the Standing Commission and President of the Swedish Red Cross). It included a wide range of governmental and National Society experts in international humanitarian law.

In 1998 the Working Group narrowed down the options under consideration and a document was prepared with a view to obtaining governmental consideration of the need for rapid action. The document proposes the adoption of a Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions which would establish a new emblem to stand alongside the existing Convention emblems. The new emblem's design would accommodate indicative signs, including those used in the countries which are not at present able to make use of the existing emblems.

The 1998 document formed the basis for consideration of the matter by the Movement's Council of Delegates in 1998 and 1999, and by the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999. The consequence of those discussions was the adoption of a resolution by the Council of Delegates which asked the Standing Commission to form a Joint Working Group of government and Movement representatives with the task of recommending "a comprehensive solution, as rapidly as possible, which is acceptable to all parties in terms of substance and procedure". The Council's resolution was accepted by the International Conference and the Joint Working Group was formed with 24 members, 16 governments and 8 from the Movement.

Progress during 2000

The Joint Working Group held two meetings, on 13-14 April and 13-14 June 2000. Also a continuing program of separate consultations were held with governments, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies and a large number of influential persons. These have included consultations at international and regional meetings which bring relevant people together. In addition, there have been special meetings with the governments and Societies most directly affected, in their countries. This recognized the need to ensure that members of the Group would be able to work with a full understanding of the debates which had taken place over previous years, and of the importance of working towards consensus.

The Joint Working Group's co-Chairs were Mrs Magnuson and the Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations in Geneva, HE Mme Absa Claude Diallo. Under their leadership, the members of Group quickly found common ground. They accepted the Third Additional Protocol approach which had been put forward by the ICRC with the support of the Federation.

This work, and the separate consultations convinced the Standing Commission that it was appropriate to move to the formal stages of negotiation and adoption of a Third Additional Protocol, and to recommend consequential amendments to the Statutes of the Movement.

A Diplomatic Conference for States Party to the Geneva Convention was planned for October 2000, but Switzerland, the convening country for the diplomatic conference felt obliged to change the schedule for the conference. The situation is the Middle East made it unlikely that a consensus could be found for the protocol project at that time.The priority for both the Movement and the Swiss authorities is to make sure the conditions are right for the states party to the Geneva Conventions to adopt the draft 3rd protocol creating an additional emblem.

The clear commitment of the Movement's leadership to find a solution as quickly as possible remains as strong as ever. The progress in discussions with governments made during 2000 encouraged the conviction that a solution to emblem problems could be found. With the Swiss government's firm commitment to continue active consultations with the states party to the Geneva Conventions, there is confidence that the draft protocol will be adopted when the climate is right.

The issues involved might seem complex and technical, but they are of relevance to all members of the Movement and to Society members in most countries. In recognition of this, every effort is being made to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information to help people understand the purposes of the Protocol and its potential impact on their humanitarian work.

An informal Question and Answer paper has been developed to answer the main questions. It will be continuously updated and will be used by all governments and National Societies, as well as by concerned members of the public, to further their understanding of the issue.

The Movement as a whole sees the resolution of the problems as a matter of overwhelming importance. Any further delay in the process would put an unacceptable strain on the requirement that the Movement be truly universal. The absence of universality is not a problem for just one country: it affects several directly, some of them vulnerable to the very issues for which the Geneva Convention humanitarian network has been created. It is also important to give a signal, at the start of this new millennium, that the world's central humanitarian movement is able be truly universal.

The Movement also attributes great importance to the ability of the proposed new emblem to overcome perceptions which sometimes adversely affect the protective value of the existing emblems. The arrangements envisaged for the future include the capacity to make use of emblems in the ways which are most suitable in the context in which protection and safety for humanitarian workers is required.

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