once read: Most people are more comfortable with old problems
than with new solutions. On the face of it, some would argue
that in today's world finding new solutions has become so
complex that we need to redefine the problems. Various attacks
in the world and their consequences, combined with the conflicts
in Afghanistan and Iraq have altered to some extent how wars
are waged. Climate change is causing increased hardship as
the frequency and severity of natural disasters intensifies.
Diseases old and new are having an unprecedented impact on
millions of people.
But I believe that these events are the latest manifestations
of old problems that we have failed to find sustainable solutions
for. Wars have always been fought, although the reasons and
contexts may change. The tragedy today is that civilians are
disproportionately the victims of armed conflict. Vulnerability
to disasters is nothing new, but the rise in the number of
people affected by them as a result of decades of inappropriate
development policies and programmes is the latest trend. And
the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS is another tragic
symptom of the devastating effects rising poverty levels can
have on the health and well-being of individuals worldwide.
The way forward is by collectively putting our heads together
to find the courage and creativity to come up with new solutions
for age-old problems.
That is why the gathering of governments and Movement leadership
at the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and
Red Crescent Movement is so vital. This is one of the few
near universal platforms, assembling representatives from
the 190 States party to the Geneva Conventions, the 179 National
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC, the International
Federation and a great number of observers, that is committed
to finding the most sustainable solutions to alleviate suffering
and protect human dignity.
The Conference also offers the opportunity to put the spotlight
on Movement activities, strengthen our joint efforts to fight
for what we believe in and deliver coordinated services and
assistance based on the needs of vulnerable people.
On a more personal note, this particular Conference marks
the end of my term as member and Chairperson of the Standing
Commission. As I look back on the work of the Standing Commission,
I believe our greatest achievements these past eight years
include the Seville Agreement and, more recently, the first
ever Strategy for the Movement. We have also found what we
believe is a basis for solving the emblems issue through the
draft 3rd protocol to the Geneva Conventions.
The Seville Agreement was an important step towards clarifying
the role and responsibility of each component of the Movement.
The Strategy for the Movement further spells out how the components
can best work in the areas of protection, assistance and advocacy,
following mutually agreed guidelines and complementing each
But working better together as a Movement might sometimes
mean giving up some of our subjective interests for the good
of the whole. It also means respecting the work and mandates,
the knowledge and experience of the others, not least those
of the National Societies who are closest to the realities
on the ground, in their countries. It can sometimes also mean
that we have to agree to disagree with our governments, even
public opinion, in advocating for principles and action we
believe in and which are firmly embedded in our Fundamental
To make a difference the challenges ahead for the humanitarian
community, our Movement needs to be much bolder, more creative
and more decisive. I certainly believe that this Conference
can make a significant contribution towards achieving this.