Federation President calls for international assistance for Iraqi people

News and Press Release
Originally published
The international community should lend its full support to humanitarian agencies, such as national Red Crescent Societies, that are called upon to assist those affected by any conflict in Iraq, the president of the International Federation, Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro told the United Nations Human Rights Commission today.
In his speech to the annual session, he said millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world were "immeasurably saddened that it proved impossible to find a peaceful resolution to the underlying dispute and we are deeply concerned about the safety, health and well-being of the civilian population of Iraq."

Suárez del Toro said the Federation had faith in the ability of the Iraqi Red Crescent to continue serving the people of Iraq at this difficult time and would, through cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, do its utmost to support them.

The Federation president also expressed concern about the impact a conflict could have on people in neighbouring countries. With the support of the Federation, their national Red Crescent Societies have increased their preparedness and readiness to provide assistance to those affected by a conflict.

With support from the Federation, national Red Crescent Societies are prepared to assist, on their territory, 55,000 people in Iraq, 100,000 in Iran, 25,000 in Jordan, 25,000 people in Syria and 80,000 in Turkey. This capacity could be boosted with the deployment of up to 30 Emergency Response Units providing vital assistance in the form of health services, water and sanitation.

"These efforts and those of many other agencies require the full support of the international community in the immediate present as well as for the longer term," Suárez del Toro said.

He said the principles and requirements of post-conflict reconstruction needed to be considered even at this early stage in order "to ensure early and specific commitment by the international community to support the people of Iraq in assuring their individual rights and dignity."

Another important issue addressed in Suárez del Toro's speech was enhanced cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. An arrangement whereby national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies would work more closely with accredited national human rights commissioners - in the fight against discrimination and for tolerance - was first mooted by Suárez del Toro at last year's UN Human Rights Commission.

Before his speech to this year's session, he held talks with the new High Commissioner, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who responded favourably to the proposal. The two agreed that the details of the arrangement should be completed with a view to a joint letter being issued in the coming months. This would allow activities to be well under way by the time of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December.

In his statement to the commission, Suárez del Toro invited the Commission on Human Rights to "explore in conjunction with the Federation the opportunities to join forces and work together on behalf of the observance of human dignity."

He said he hoped significant progress could be reported on this issue at the UN Economic and Social Council in July.