28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Statement by H.E. Mr. Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson, Permanent Secretary of State
During the First Plenary Meeting, Agenda Item 6;
General debate on contemporary humanitarian challenges and protecting human dignity
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to congratulate you on your election as the Chairperson of the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and wish you every success in your task ahead.
The 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent takes place at a time when the whole international Community faces serious humanitarian challenges.
The threats that face us are real and our response has to be firm but this can never be at the expense of the rules and principles of international humanitarian law, in particular the letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
Terrorism represents today one of the most serious threats to international peace and is a negation of both humanitarian principles and human dignity.
What is more, the indiscriminate killing and maiming of civilians is compounded by attacks on those trying to alleviate their suffering. We are gravely concerned by the lack of security of humanitarian personnel and welcome the UN Security Council's recent resolution (1502(2003)) on this subject.
The Government of Iceland welcomes the fact that the International Criminal Court is now operational and reiterates its full support for the Court. The establishment of the Court represent a major breakthrough for the protection of human dignity.
We welcome the efforts by the ICRC to conduct the study on Customary International Humanitarian Law. We hope this endeavor will result in improvement of knowledge and implementation of this subject, and prove useful to the work of courts and international organisations.
We also welcome the study on "Women and War" by the ICRC and would like to express our support for the ICRC's work for enhanced protection of women during conflicts and the full appreciation of their role in conflict resolution.
Through its work internationally, as well as at the national level, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement enjoys the support and respect of the Icelandic people. The relationship between the Government of Iceland and the Icelandic Red Cross is and has always been very good.
The Government of Iceland is particularly pleased to have the IFRC participate actively as an observer in the Arctic Council, currently chaired by Iceland. One of the main objectives of the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Council is to enhance co-operation to improve the living conditions of the people in the Arctic. This emphasis could become the foundation for increased co-operation between the Council and the IFRC in the region.
At the 27 International Conference the Government of Iceland pledged jointly with the Governments and the National Red Cross Societies of the Nordic Countries to strengthen the protection of child victims of armed conflict. The Government of Iceland remains firmly committed to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols, including the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
At the same Conference, the Icelandic Government and Red Cross jointly pledged to publish the full text of the Geneva Conventions in Icelandic. This work has been completed and will soon be published.
At this Conference, the Government of Iceland and the Icelandic Red Cross have made a common pledge for the years 2004 ? 2007 to continue cooperation for the effective implementation, dissemination and effective application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in several steps, including the establishment of a humanitarian law committee.
Turning to HIV/AIDS, the challenges posed by the epidemic remain as difficult as ever. The Government of Iceland commends the strengthening of the Red Cross Movement's engagement in this field. The Government and the Icelandic Red Cross have made a joint pledge to increase their cooperation and consultation concerning their humanitarian activities both at home and abroad.
We stand ready to support programmes implemented by Red Cross Societies in Southern Africa that aim at prevention, care and treatment of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS as well as working against stigma and discrimination.
Furthermore the Government of Iceland and the Icelandic Red Cross have pledged to assess the provision of health services to vulnerable sectors of Icelandic society.
On behalf of the Government of Iceland I would like to pay tribute to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for their untiring, devoted work and noble mission.