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Australia pledges to strengthen humanitarian action

The Australian Government and Australian Red Cross will work together to strengthen international humanitarian law, protect vulnerable migrants, strengthen humanitarian agencies in the Pacific and promote social cohesion and non-violence.

Friday December 18, 2015

Vanuatu Red Cross
Red Cross and the Australian Government will work together to strengthen local humanitarian actors in the Pacific, so they can respond effectively to disasters in their own countries. Photo: IFRC

Pledges made by the Australian Government and Red Cross last week reflect a strong, mutual commitment to humanitarian action.  

Australia joined other States party to the Geneva Conventions at the International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in Geneva from 8-10 December.  

The conference saw Red Cross and Red Crescent societies make joint commitments with their governments to address local humanitarian issues, as well as resolutions adopted by consensus to address global challenges.  

Pledges made by the Australian Government and Australian Red Cross included: 

  • Improving understanding of Australian Red Cross' auxiliary role and its practical application in the humanitarian field
  • Strengthening the implementation and dissemination of international humanitarian law 
  • Ensuring humanitarian access to persons in immigration detention
  • Promoting non-violence and respect for cultural, linguistic and religious diversity
  • Strengthening local humanitarian action, with a focus on the Pacific
  • Working with all sectors of the Australian community to reduce risks in disasters
  • Finding ways to protect the dignity and safety of migrants in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Preventing and addressing human trafficking, slavery, forced marriage and forced labour  

Each pledge includes a four-year plan of action, jointly implemented by Australian Red Cross and the Australian Government.  

States and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies also voted on a number of resolutions to shape the humanitarian agenda in future years. These included preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence, and protecting humanitarian volunteers and health care workers.  

Despite strong support from the Australian delegation, a much-anticipated resolution to increase compliance with international humanitarian law failed to pass. Many Red Cross leaders described this as a missed opportunity, given that the world is now facing the largest number of simultaneous armed conflicts and humanitarian crises since World War Two.  

Nonetheless, Australia's pledges at the conference signal a firm commitment to strengthening humanitarian action.  

"The pledges made last week highlight the unique auxiliary relationship that exists between Red Cross and the public authorities," said Dr Phoebe Wynn-Pope of Australian Red Cross.  

"We are committed to working together to protect the safety and dignity of those affected by armed conflict and other emergencies - in our country, our region and beyond."  

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