December 8, 2015
Today, there are millions of victims of conflict and natural disaster across the globe who urgently need assistance, and who are receiving that assistance from workers and volunteers who wear the Movement’s emblems. The United States has profound respect for every component of the Movement, and we are so grateful for the tireless work of its National Societies, volunteer staff, and the leadership that oversees their work. For people on the ground, they are often the difference between life and death.
The role of ICRC as an independent and impartial intermediary and humanitarian partner remains unparalleled. The organization’s capacity to address complex and unpredictable situations is routinely tested, even stretched, but always proven crucial.
The world has not become a better, safer, more equitable place since we last met. Four years ago, nobody envisaged the magnitude of the humanitarian tragedy in Syria. Four years ago, nobody predicted that the conflict in Iraq would stretch our conception of how we deliver humanitarian assistance as the needs continue to grow. The barbarism that the terrorist group ISIL so willingly imposes on the civilian population in these areas only makes it harder to respond to humanitarian needs with any true impact.
But conflict and strife are not unique to the Middle East. The suffering from the treachery in South Sudan, the plight of the Afghans to be free from the Taliban, and millions of people streaming to Europe in an effort to flee conflict all reinforce the fact that the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement remains more necessary and more relevant than ever before.
That’s why we’re all here today — to celebrate and explore the Power of Humanity: the Fundamental Principles in Action, the theme of this year’s conference and the guiding precept of our collective action. We celebrate these principles as the ideals that set us apart from those who seek to destroy and tear down all that is decent and good.
Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality — these are the tenets by which the Movement operates; they are the pillars of what it means to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.
But celebrating these principles isn’t enough. We need to reaffirm and renew our shared commitment to their universality and to fight for their implementation.
The United States of America reiterates its commitment to the principles of international humanitarian law. We look forward to negotiating a set of resolutions that prioritize the State-led nature of its development in every area. As we noted at the 31st Conference, because customary law derives not from aspirational pronouncements, but rather from State practice, it remains important that the development of international humanitarian law should continue to be led by States.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, the United States Government is pleased to participate in this 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. We value the work of the Conference and the partnership that is demonstrated by those States and National Societies that engage in it so robustly. There is no greater need for clarity and unity of purpose than right now, when we are truly living in the most trying of times.