Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New Red Cross emblem again in trouble

The push to add a third recognized symbol to the Red Cross movement (currently the a red cross and red crescent are allowed; a red diamond is proposed) has hit a predictable snag.

Arab and Muslim nations threaten to derail a conference that was to approve the symbol. Israel was to be the main beneficiary of the non-denominational symbol, but other nations, such as India, with its Hindu population, would have likely adopted the symbol as well.
Syria has warned of a "confrontation" with the Red Cross movement over attempts to introduce a third humanitarian emblem at a two-day conference in Geneva. [...]

The 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which started on Tuesday, is due to decide on a resolution that would amend the movement's statutes to include the new "red crystal" emblem and recognise the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Final approval of the red crystal would also clear the way for Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) to join the Red Cross movement after almost 60 years in isolation.

MDA has always refused to use either of the two globally recognised symbols – the red cross and the red crescent – opting instead for a red Star of David. If the resolution is adopted, Israel's red star could be placed within the crystal.

The new emblem was approved by a majority of the 192 signatory states to the Geneva Conventions at a stormy diplomatic conference hosted by Switzerland in December. Twenty-seven mainly Muslim countries, including Syria, voted against and ten abstained.

The crystal must now be approved by the full movement, which includes all the signatory states, the 183 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the international bodies of the Red Cross.

Conference organisers are hoping that this time the red crystal will be adopted by consensus, but this is looking increasingly unlikely.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Bashar Ja'afari, told swissinfo that an amendment had been tabled calling for the Syrian Red Crescent to be allowed humanitarian access to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Ja'afari added that foreign ministers of the 57 states that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had signed a statement in Azerbaijan on Monday supporting Syria's position.

"We are urging the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] as well as the standing commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to take into account the amendment," said Ja'afari. "If there is no consensus on this, that means they have chosen to have a confrontation."

If a vote is called, a two-thirds majority of those present would be required for the resolution to be adopted. [...]

The Swiss-run ICRC said on Monday that it hoped the emblem issue was not about to become a political football.

"The last thing we want is for humanitarian interests to be subordinated to political considerations," ICRC spokesman Ian Piper told swissinfo. "This is not about politics; this is about humanitarian action and we hope these imperatives will prevail over political considerations."

Piper said the ICRC still hoped the resolution would be adopted by consensus but said everyone was prepared for a vote if necessary."We won't know until the meeting opens. The critical thing will be the Swiss government report and we will [have to] see how people feel about it," he added.

I hope that it comes to a vote. Such grandstanding by Syria et al., needs to be slapped down.