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In the post-Cold War era, the landscape in which humanitarian action takes place has changed dramatically. Humanitarian agencies and civilians are inevitably affected by the political agendas of the international community and belligerents who ignore the rues of war. Natural disasters today inflict greater damage in large part because of environmental degradation, climate change and massive migration — an issue highlighted in this edition of Red Cross, Red Crescent. One to two billion people are without clean water or sanitation. Two million children were killed in conflicts over the past decade. Every twenty minutes, someone steps on a landmine.

This is the world of today’s humanitarians. The ICRC, International Federation and National Societies are challenged by these trends. Each institution has struggled to adapt operational and ethical responses to the new realities. Stated too have developed new approaches to political and humanitarian action. The 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, from 31 October to 6 November, will encourage a dialogue between governments and the Movement. The aim is to develop common strategies to respond to the dilemmas of humanitarian action today.

The International Conference can make a difference in turning ideas into practice. In the past, governments committed themselves to acting on the humanitarian issues in countries where sanctions were being applied. A ban on blinding laser weapons was another achievement. During the last conference, the Tripartite process was established as a means of involving governments in programmes to strengthen National Societies’ capacities. Yet for a conference to succeed, it depends upon the planning done long before the opening speeches. It is this preliminary work which will determine whether the investment of time, resources and energy has been well spent.

In the months ahead, National Societies will be asked to work together in the preparations for the conference. The Movement must be united in its efforts to renew support for its humanitarian agenda. This will not happen if we have not done our homework. The 27th International Conference provides an opportunity which cannot be missed.

Jean-Luc Blondel
Head, Division for Policy and Cooperation within the Movement

Stephen Davey
Under-Secretary General, communications and Policy Coordination
International Federation

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