Switzerland convenes conference on Red Cross emblem debate

Switzerland has convened a conference of all signatories to the Geneva Convention to settle the debate about a third emblem for the Red Cross movement. The meeting is to be held on October 25 and 26 in Geneva.

This content was published on September 21, 2000 - 16:52

Diplomatic sources said on Thursday the invitations had been issued, despite the failure to make much progress during two days of consultations on the issue earlier this month.

At the end of that meeting, Switzerland had declared its intention to call a conference by the end of October, but warned that a great deal of work still lay ahead before an agreement could be found.

The debate centres on whether to adopt another emblem besides the red cross and red crescent, and what the third symbol should be. Resolution of the problem would pave the way for the admission of Israel into the movement.

The Swiss ambassador, Nicolas Michel, who chaired the consultations at the start of September, said no country had refused outright to accept a third symbol.

But he said there had been a "strong message" from the Arab world that more time was needed and that it wanted the Diplomatic Conference delayed.

Switzerland, the depository country of the Geneva Conventions, has now shown it wants to press ahead and secure a resolution.

"Switzerland is taking a risk: that the conference is a failure," an unnamed diplomat told the Swiss news agency. "The government has shown political courage."

A two-thirds majority is needed to adopt a new emblem, but Switzerland is aiming to achieve as broad a consensus as possible.

The main disagreement is on the proposed symbol - a double chevron in the form of a diamond, inside which national societies would be able to place their own symbol.

Israel's humanitarian organisation, the Red Star of David, or Magen David Adom, has for over half a century been denied full membership because its emblem is not allowed under the Geneva Conventions.

The Red Cross movement has frequently voiced concern that allowing the symbol would lead to a proliferation of emblems, which could weaken the protective value of the cross and the crescent in the world's trouble spots.

If a third emblem is approved by the diplomatic conference of the 189 nations that are parties to the Geneva Conventions, it would then have to passed by a meeting in November of the 176 national societies that belong to the federation.

swissinfo with agencies

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