If the Red Cross Movement speaks with one voice the world listens, tweeted Robert Tickner, Chief Executive Officer of Australian Red Cross this past Sunday. Just two hours later, the movement’s highest governing body meeting in Sydney, Australia, adopted a four-year action plan towards the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
The resolution was adopted unanimously by the Council of Delegates, which includes all parts of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement – the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and all 189 national societies. It reiterated deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and committed national societies to engage “with governments to […] urge them to take concrete steps leading to the negotiation of a legally binding international agreement to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons …”.
“The resolution, and more specifically the plan of action that is attached to it, will help guide National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their efforts to raise awareness about the humanitarian consequences and legal concerns about nuclear weapons. It encourages National Societies to raise awareness of the Movement’s views and position on nuclear weapons and to engage with governments to advance their prohibition and elimination”, says Louis Maresca, member of the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The resolution was sponsored by ICRC, the Federation and 40 national societies. The floor was opened by a moving statement from Fiji Red Cross on behalf of all the societies of the Pacific region, many of whom have bitter direct experience of the lasting ravages caused by nuclear test explosions. Supportive interventions were heard from national societies from each continent.
“This provides a great opportunity for ICAN’s partner organisations in civil society to congratulate and thank national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and explore opportunities to work with them to help implement the resolution”, says Tilman Ruff, Co-Chair of ICAN and co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
The resolution outlines activities for every part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent movement to take in support of its implementation; at national, regional and international levels. National societies are urged to publish the resolution; communicate and engage governments and parliamentarians; and raise awareness of the resolution at all levels within each national society including with governance, staff, volunteers and youth members. National societies are urged to communicate to the public; host public events; and pursue opportunities to engage with specialised audiences including academic, health, humanitarian, environmental, legal and scientific communities. The action plan urges discussion of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in national publications, engaging with national disaster planning agencies to examine the consequences of nuclear weapons detonations and response capacity, and encouraging involvement of disaster planning officials in the development of national positions on nuclear weapons.
The lead role of representing the movement in multilateral forums on this issue is taken by the ICRC, which will also provide reports on results achieved, next steps and opportunities for action by national societies. The Federation which links all national societies has already established a network for all parts of the movement to share resources, information and experiences; and each national society is asked to appoint a focal point to facilitate implementation of the resolution and share information and experiences with other national societies.
The resolution affirms the position set out in 2011 that nuclear weapons must never be used again. It reaffirms the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement’s call urging all governments to take concrete steps leading to the negotiation of a legally binding international agreement to prohibit the use of an completely eliminate nuclear weapons, and to conclude such negotiations as a matter of urgency.