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.