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Anyone in Solferino in June couldn’t help being inspired. Five hundred youth from nearly 150 countries gathered in northern Italy to mark 150 years since the battle of Solferino, which sparked the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The dry fields of Solferino crackled with intelligence, energy, focus and humanitarian spirit.

These youth leaders — and the tens of millions of Red Cross Red Crescent youth volunteers they represent — need all the resources they can muster. Youth volunteers are often the first to respond to conflict, disaster or pandemics. And they are also often among those worst affected by crisis. The challenges facing them now and in the future are daunting. Conflict, poverty, migration, violence, climate change, sickness and discrimination have no easy solutions. Youth in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement need the support of the wider Movement. Again, it won’t always be easy…

Youth, almost by definition, challenge the status quo. The youth meeting culminated in the presentation of a Youth Declaration, agreed in Solferino, to the international community in Geneva including representatives of the United Nations, the Swiss government and the Movement. The declaration challenges everyone to engage youth more in leadership, to include vulnerable people in decision-making and to declare that any discrimination (including that based on gender and sexual orientation) is unacceptable.

Now it’s up to the Movement. If we accept the challenge, the result will be a more inclusive and responsive Movement. We will be living up to the promise of Henry Dunant’s dream. The youth meeting will remain a personal highlight for many of those who attended. But the real work started when they left. Let us all say “thank you in advance” to youth for their humanitarian actions now and in the future to tackle today’s ‘Solferinos’.

We at Red Cross Red Crescent magazine — which will relaunch in 2010 with a new look and a new editor — also thank our readers in advance for showing their humanitarian spirit. Simple gestures make a difference. Make yours.


Rosemarie North


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