Make your own free website on

31 May 1996

Annual report 1995

Council of Delegates and the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent


Council of Delegates

Henry Dunant Medal

Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Policy and Planning Advisory Commission

Commission on the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Peace

Twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Election of the members of the Standing Commission


The year under review was marked by statutory meetings of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement --- the Council of Delegates and the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which met in Geneva from 1 to 7 December 1995. These meetings were particularly important because the International Conference had been unable to meet for nine years. Both gatherings, organized jointly by the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, were crowned with success, since they led to a strengthening of the unity of the Movement and provided an opportunity to intensify the dialogue with the States party to the Geneva Conventions concerning the application and implementation of international humanitarian law and other matters of common interest.

Council of Delegates

The Council of Delegates, which is made up of representatives of the Movement (i.e., the National Societies, the ICRC and the Federation), was held in Geneva on 1 and 2 December 1995, at the invitation of the ICRC and the Federation. Following a tradition which goes back to the origins of the Movement, the President of the ICRC chaired the Council's deliberations. Eight National Societies (Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), recognized by the ICRC since the previous Council of Delegates in 1993, took part in these meetings as full members for the first time.

In accordance with the Statutes of the Movement, the Council of Delegates met before the 26th International Conference in order to approve the latter's agenda and propose the persons to fill the posts of officers of the Conference. The Council adopted a resolution appealing to all participants in the Conference to ensure that its proceedings would be conducted from a strictly humanitarian perspective, in conformity with the Fundamental Principles, requesting all National Societies to convey that appeal to their respective governments and stressing the Movement's commitment to holding the Conference irrespective of any difficulties that might arise.

The Council's debates centred on the future of the Movement. The participants took note of the report and recommendations of the Policy and Planning Advisory Commission set up by the Council of Delegates at its meeting in Birmingham in 1993 to examine the functioning of the Movement and help it become better prepared for the challenges of the future. The Council approved a series of measures designed to strengthen the unity and cohesion of the Movement: in particular, it decided on a reorganization of its own work, to enable it to deal more effectively with substantive matters of interest to the entire Movement; it renewed the mandate of the Policy and Planning Advisory Commission for a further two years and called upon the Commission inter alia to study the possibility of a review of the Agreement of 20 October 1989 between the ICRC and the Federation, as well as the development of functional cooperation between the two institutions; finally, it took steps to strengthen the role of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and requested it to consult government experts on the question of the emblem. The Council also adopted a resolution specifically designed to enhance functional cooperation between the ICRC and the Federation.

The Commission on the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Peace submitted its final report and the Council endorsed its recommendations, inviting the Commission to continue to reflect and work on the Movement's contribution to peace.

Three of the resolutions adopted were devoted to conflict victims. The first relates to the protection of children and urges the Movement to promote the principle of non-recruitment and non-participation of children under the age of 18 in armed conflicts. The second resolution reiterates the principle that Red Cross and Red Crescent institutions do not use armed protection, except in very clearly defined and exceptional situations. Thirdly, the Council declared that a total ban on anti-personnel landmines was the only way to prevent indiscriminate use of such weapons, which had disastrous consequences for the civilian population and humanitarian action, and urged all the components of the Movement to make every effort to bring about such a ban.

Another resolution invites the ICRC and the Federation, in cooperation with the National Societies, to adapt the Movement's information policy in order to take full account of new technology in matters of communication and to present the activities of the Movement's components in a more concerted manner.

The Council of Delegates moreover invited the co-founding bodies of the Henry Dunant Institute to redefine the role and functions of the Institute before the end of 1996, in order to strengthen its contribution to the policies and strategies of the Movement.

Finally, the Commission for the Financing of the ICRC saw its mandate renewed for another two years.

Henry Dunant Medal

Six members of the Movement were awarded the Henry Dunant Medal, three of them posthumously, for their dedication to the ideals of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Their names are as follows:

Dr Hugo Ernesto Merino Grijalva, former President of the Ecuadorean Red Cross;

Ms Jacqueline Briot, of the French Red Cross;

Botho Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein, Chairman of the Standing Commission;

Tunku Tan Sri Mohammed, former Chairman of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (posthumous award);

Professor Hans Haug, former President of the Swiss Red Cross, former Vice-President of the Federation and honorary member of the ICRC (posthumous award):

Dr Esmildo Gutierrez Sanchez, former Secretary General of the Cuban Red Cross (posthumous award).

Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

The Standing Commission is made up of National Society members elected by the International Conference and representatives of the ICRC and the Federation. Its principal functions are to make arrangements for the International Conference and the Council of Delegates. The Standing Commission met four times in 1995, on 14 and 15 February, 1 and 2 May, 16 and 17 September and 24 November. Its work focused on preparations for the Council of Delegates and the 26th International Conference, which met, respectively, on 1 and 2 December and from 3 to 7 December in Geneva.

The composition of the Standing Commission was renewed by the 26th International Conference (see page 297).

Policy and Planning Advisory Commission

The Policy and Planning Advisory Commission, which comprises 12 members appointed ad personam (six from National Societies, three from the ICRC and three from the Federation), met four times in the course of the year, on 18 and 19 January, from 4 to 6 April, from 20 to 22 June and on 12 and 13 September. It has a two-year mandate, and half of its budget is financed by the National Societies, while the other half is covered in equal parts by the ICRC and the Federation. The Commission has an independent secretariat at the Henry Dunant Institute in Geneva.

The Advisory Commission's final report was submitted to the Council of Delegates and covered the tasks explicitly assigned to it by Resolution 1 of the 1993 Council of Delegates in Birmingham, namely to study the functions of the Standing Commission, to identify the procedures for establishing the Council of Delegates as the supreme deliberative body for internal matters of the Movement and to improve functional cooperation between the Movement's components. The report also referred to some questions of principle concerning the Movement as a whole, such as issues relating to the emblem, external factors affecting the Movement and guidelines for a future strategy for action.

The Council of Delegates endorsed this report and decided in its Resolution 3 to re-establish for a further two years an independent Advisory Commission, with members appointed ad personam by joint decision of the Presidents of the ICRC and the Federation and the Chairman of the Standing Commission, in consultation with the Chairman of the outgoing Commission.

Commission on the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Peace

The Commission on the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Peace, whose mandate had just come to an end, submitted its final report to the Council of Delegates.

The Commission, set up in 1977, was composed of representatives of the ICRC, the Federation, the Henry Dunant Institute and 16 National Societies (Australia, Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Hungary, Malaysia, Nigeria, Paraguay, the Republic of Korea, Sudan, Sweden and Tunisia).

The Commission held its last meeting on 20 October 1995 in Geneva, in order to finalize and clarify the general and specific recommendations set out in its report.

Bearing in mind the termination of its mandate and also the fact that work on the prevention of conflicts had to continue, the Commission emphasized the importance of pursuing the Movement's activities for peace. Among the issues it identified was that of the transfer of weapons and its consequences in humanitarian terms. The Commission expressed the hope that the Movement's role and attitude in that regard would be studied and clarified.

The Commission also made proposals on various other subjects. Its recommendations included:

- Further study of the Movement's contribution to respect for the rights of the child, with special emphasis on the need to pursue efforts being made for street children and exploited children (forced labour, child prostitution); and an analysis of what the Movement in general and the National Societies in particular were doing in that area and of what practical steps could be taken.

- Implementation of the conclusions of the study carried out by the Henry Dunant Institute on the role of National Societies in preventing tension and conflicts involving minorities.

- Support for the work done by the Federation on the question of health and AIDS in connection with respect for human rights.

Finally, the Commission pointed out that the Movement was also working for peace through its activities and its spirit of tolerance, which were conducive to preventing disregard for human rights and tension arising from differences of culture or ethnic background.

The Council of Delegates entrusted the Standing Commission with the task of pursuing the study and work on the prevention of conflicts and the Movement's contribution to peace.

Twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

The 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent met in Geneva from 3 to 7 December, under the chairmanship of Ms Astrid Heiberg, President of the Norwegian Red Cross. It brought together some 1,200 delegates representing 143 States party to the Geneva Conventions, 166 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In addition, the representatives of 68 international, regional and non-governmental organizations and of several emerging National Societies attended the proceedings as observers.

Emphasis was placed on humanitarian action in today's troubled world, with the proliferation of armed conflicts causing untold suffering among the civilian population, the erosion of respect for international humanitarian law and all the challenges facing humanitarian organizations on the eve of the twenty-first century. The Conference strongly condemned the abuses being committed in various parts of the world and made specific recommendations, urging States to take adequate steps to put an end to such abuses. These recommendations appear in five resolutions, which are summarized below.

The convening of the 26th Conference was particularly important because this major gathering had not been held for nine years: an earlier attempt to hold the International Conference in Budapest in 1991 had failed since the Conference had been adjourned sine die less than two days before the inaugural ceremony, because governments had not succeeded in reaching agreement as to the form that Palestinian participation in the proceedings should take. [1]

Being anxious to avoid the stumbling blocks previously encountered, the ICRC and the Federation, which were joint organizers of the Conference, set up a Support Group to help with the diplomatic preparations. This Group, composed of the heads of the permanent missions of 24 States, held eight meetings, and some smaller groups created to solve specific problems convened frequently. The ICRC and the Federation also received effective support from a commissioner made available by the Swiss Confederation, Ambassador Jean-Daniel Biéler.

The most sensitive issue was that of the representation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, several States having declared that they would oppose any participation by a delegation of the Yugoslav government. In the end, this government decided not to attend the Conference, although the Yugoslav Red Cross did participate in the debates.

The Chairman of the Standing Commission, Botho Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein (German Red Cross), opened the International Conference, appealing to all governments to support the work of the Movement and its efforts to make humanitarian action more effective. The President of the ICRC, Cornelio Sommaruga, stressed the need to contain the current surge of violence and to make every effort to prevent and alleviate the suffering of victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters. The President of the Federation, Mario Villarroel Lander, said that the Conference afforded a unique opportunity to enhance respect for human dignity and to give new impetus to the Movement's Fundamental Principles. On behalf of the host country, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Kaspar Villiger, urged governments to mobilize all their resources to improve the plight of victims the world over and to increase their support for humanitarian organizations. Finally, the President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Olivier Vodoz, thanked the delegates for their commitment, their courage and their determination to promote respect for the humanitarian principles.

At the first plenary meeting, the Presidents of the ICRC and the Federation referred to the humanitarian challenges that were emerging on the eve of the twenty-first century in connection with armed conflicts and their victims, disaster situations and the poverty engendered by disparities in economic development.

The President of the Federation said that the Movement could play a leading role in reflecting on topical humanitarian issues and that the suffering of the victims could be alleviated by sustained development and the promotion of voluntary service. He stressed the need to strengthen the dialogue between the Movement and governments. Referring to the Code of Conduct for organizations taking part in disaster relief operations, he advanced the idea of a similar code to deal with the humanitarian consequences of sanctions and peace-making operations.

The President of the ICRC emphasized that the world was weighed down by the victims of too many tragedies. It was in the name of the victims, particularly those of war, that he was addressing the Conference. Solidarity with those victims was what gave the Movement its strength, which was expressed through the complementary activities of its components --- the National Societies, their Federation and the ICRC. The Movement was more than ever in need of the commitment of governments. The Conference played a particularly important role as the main forum for humanitarian dialogue. Amidst all the fire and passion aroused by the dreadful events in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan and Sierra Leone, not to mention the human tragedies that had ensued from the break-up of the former USSR, it was essential to rebuild the system of values that lay at the heart of the Red Cross and Red Crescent ideal: the rights of victims, the right to receive assistance, and respect for humanitarian endeavour. To ensure that humanitarian action was universally recognized and respected, the President of the ICRC proposed a new contract of humanity, whereby States and the entire international community would undertake to give their unreserved support to efforts aimed at applying humanitarian law. This would imply, among other things:

- speeding up the process of ratification of the existing instruments of humanitarian law;

- intensifying efforts to disseminate the law;

- reaffirming that the rules governing the conduct of hostilities in international conflicts must also be observed in internal conflicts;

- doing everything possible to punish those who committed grave breaches of humanitarian law, in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions;

- preserving an independent space for humanitarian action in armed conflicts.

The International Conference then split up into two Commissions to deal with the various items on its agenda:

- Commission I focused on war victims and respect for international humanitarian law, and was chaired by Ambassador Hisashi Owada (Japan).

- Commission II concentrated on humanitarian values and response to crises, and was chaired by Ousmane Diagne, President of the Senegalese Red Cross Society.

The Conference also set up a Drafting Committee, under the chairmanship of Ambassador Philippe Kirsch of Canada, with the task of finalizing the draft resolutions prepared by the ICRC and the Federation after widespread consultations.

Commission I had to examine the follow-up to the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims, held in Geneva in 1993. It also had on its agenda the issue of respect for and application of humanitarian law, particularly with regard to the protection of the civilian population in time of war and the use of certain weapons. It submitted three resolutions to the plenary meeting of the Conference.

Commission II focused on matters relating to principles and response in international humanitarian assistance and protection (including the question of guarantees for access to the victims) and on the steps to be taken to enhance the capacity of National Societies to come to the aid of the most vulnerable groups. The Commission submitted two resolutions to the plenary meeting.

Over 200 delegates representing governments, National Societies or observers took the floor during the meetings of the Conference's two plenary Commissions.

The resolutions adopted were devoted to the following topics:

Resolution 1

The 26th International Conference endorsed the Final Declaration of the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims (Geneva, 30 August --- 1 September 1993), which confirms the need to reinforce implementation of and respect for international humanitarian law, and also the Recommendations drawn up by the Intergovernmental Group of Experts for the Protection of War Victims, which met in Geneva in January 1995. The Conference thus took a stand on a number of particularly serious humanitarian issues and condemned violations of humanitarian law being committed in various parts of the world. The resolution urges States to enhance the application and dissemination of humanitarian law and invites the Swiss authorities to organize a meeting of the States party to the Geneva Conventions every two years, in order to examine general problems of implementation of humanitarian law and to seek practical means of promoting its application.

Resolution 2

In this resolution, the International Conference, alarmed by the upsurge in serious violations of humanitarian law in current conflicts, strongly condemned acts committed in breach of the law, particularly the systematic and massive killing of civilians. It went on to express its concern at the increasing difficulties encountered by humanitarian organizations in performing their tasks and at the proliferation of weapons, especially those which might have indiscriminate effects or cause unnecessary suffering.

The resolution reminds States of their obligation to repress violations of humanitarian law. Acts of sexual violence, particularly rape, committed during armed conflicts are strongly condemned as war crimes and, under certain circumstances, as crimes against humanity. The resolution calls for the establishment and strengthening of mechanisms (such as the ad hoc tribunals recently set up for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda) to investigate such acts, and to bring to justice and punish all those responsible.

Resolution 2 also contains several sections relating to specific issues:

- With regard to women: the resolution expresses outrage at practices of sexual violence in armed conflicts, in particular the use of rape as an instrument of terror. It urges that strong measures be taken to provide women with the protection and assistance to which they are entitled under humanitarian law.

- Protection of children in armed conflict: Resolution 2 recommends in particular that parties to conflict refrain from arming children under the age of 18 years and do everything in their power to prevent them from taking part in hostilities.

- Family reunification: the plight of dispersed families is emphasized as a serious humanitarian issue, and parties to conflict must facilitate the reuniting of family members, the tracing of those missing in armed conflicts and the work of the competent organizations.

- Civilian population affected by famine: any deliberate attempt to starve the civilian population in armed conflicts constitutes a violation of humanitarian law and is strongly condemned in the resolution. Warring parties have the obligation to accept impartial humanitarian relief operations and to maintain conditions in which the civilian population is able to provide for its own needs.

- Civilian population deprived of water: parties in conflict are called upon to take all feasible precautions to avoid damaging water supply systems used by civilians and to ensure the protection of personnel responsible for maintaining and repairing those systems.

- Anti-personnel landmines and other weapons: the resolution expresses the deep concern and indignation of the Conference at the use of anti-personnel mines, which kill or maim hundreds of people (mostly civilians) every week. It urges States to step up their efforts to adopt strong and effective measures for the regulation or prohibition of these weapons and also requests them to consider further measures to ban the use of other weapons which may be excessively injurious, such as blinding laser weapons. It further urges States to declare themselves bound by the new Protocol on blinding laser weapons.

Resolution 3

This deals with international humanitarian law applicable to armed conflicts at sea. It welcomes the completion of the San Remo Manual on the subject and encourages States to take that text into account when drafting manuals and other instructions for their naval forces.

Resolution 4

This resolution relates to principles and action in international humanitarian assistance and protection. It calls upon States to recognize the need for the Movement to maintain a clear separation between its humanitarian work and action of a political, military or economic nature taken by governments, intergovernmental bodies and other agencies in situations of armed conflict and other crises.

Resolution 4 also deals with the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, whose numbers have increased dramatically over the past decade, and calls upon States to respect and ensure respect for humanitarian law by prohibiting the forced displacement of civilians and to ensure unimpeded access to these victims for humanitarian organizations (ICRC, Federation, UNHCR, etc.), so that they can provide them with assistance in accordance with their respective mandates.

States and National Societies are also invited to encourage non-governmental organizations to abide by the principles and spirit of the Code of Conduct for organizations taking part in disaster relief operations and to declare themselves bound by this Code by signing the register opened for this purpose at the Federation. States are moreover requested to take note of the guidelines on the role of National Societies in response to technological disasters.

Resolution 5

This resolution encourages the components of the Movement to continue their support for the development of National Societies, so that the latter are better prepared to react promptly in the event of natural or man-made disaster and provide protection and assistance to the most vulnerable. It also appeals to governments to increase support for their National Societies and in general to make more productive use of the potential of humanitarian organizations.

(In its January-February 1996 issue, the International Review of the Red Cross published a summary of the deliberations of the Council of Delegates and the 26th International Conference, together with the complete texts of the resolutions adopted at those meetings.)

Election of the members of the Standing Commission

The 26th International Conference elected the following five people as members of the Standing Commission:

- HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands (The Netherlands Red Cross);

- Mrs Christina Magnuson (Swedish Red Cross);

- Dr Guillermo Rueda Montaña (Colombian Red Cross):

- Mr Tadateru Konoe (Japanese Red Cross Society);

- Dr Byron R. Hove (Zimbabwe Red Cross Society).

The Standing Commission appointed Princess Margriet to the position of Chairwoman and Dr Hove to that of Vice-Chairman.

One of the Commission's tasks is to prepare the provisional agenda and programme of the International Conference. Moreover, the 26th International Conference requested the Standing Commission to set the place and date of the next International Conference, which should be held in 1999.

Note :

1. See the ICRC's 1991 Annual Report, p. 135.

Table of contents