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International Red Cross Conference Reaffirms Geneva Conventions

Some 1,500 representatives attending the 30th International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference have unanimously adopted a resolution that reaffirms the Geneva Conventions guaranteeing certain basic rights and protections for people caught in armed conflict. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA the week-long conference also agreed to tackle the humanitarian consequences resulting from disasters such as climate change and emergent diseases.

The 194 States represented at the conference are all parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. In the past few years, the so-called war on terrorism has prompted differing interpretations of this body of international humanitarian law.

Philip Spoerri is Director of International Humanitarian Law at the International Committee of the Red Cross. He says the conference has succeeded in reaffirming the basic, most important tenets of the Geneva Conventions.

He says the resolution confirms, among other points, the continued relevance and applicability of the Conventions, including fundamental guarantees of protection for people, irrespective of their status, in both international and civil conflicts.

"Fundamental guarantees are guarantees like the prohibition of torture, inhuman degrading treatment, the interdiction of this type of treatment," he said. "But, it also goes into the rights for procedural guarantees... That was really the very positive result, for us, that we could come up with a consensus on a very substantial reaffirmation document."

Delegates to the conference also agreed to step up action on disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures.

The Secretary-General of the International Federation of the Red Cross, Markku Niskala notes it is the most vulnerable people who suffer most from the consequences of more frequent and more severe disasters resulting from environmental degradation and climate change.

He says last year, there was a record 481 natural disasters. That was 25 percent more than the previous year.

"From our experience, we can say that the investment in disaster preparedness and adaptation to the climate change has not been sufficient so far," he said. "And, we want to underline that it is very benefiting to everybody if we invest into this climate change."

The Conference also agreed to assist people made vulnerable by migration, and human trafficking and exploitation whether or not they have been recognized as legal refugees.

The 1,500 delegates also adopted a resolution to help governments cut through the legal red tape that often blocks aid agencies from getting essential relief to victims of natural disasters.