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Commonwealth and Red Cross collaborate on human rights

2 December 2011
Geneva events focus on human rights, trade and small states

The Commonwealth is collaborating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help advance measures for the humanitarian protection of citizens during periods of conflict.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma was attending the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva. At a Commonwealth Side Event, he said Commonwealth leaders had given their support for renewed efforts on humanitarian protection during the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia.

“In a world where the threat and reality of armed conflict continue to beset us, the legal framework relating to the conduct of such engagement, and the human rights standards to be respected during military operations, rank as global challenges of a very high order.”

Mr Sharma noted that the ICRC and the Commonwealth were global organisations with the very highest ambitions for the good of humanity as a whole and would strive together to protect human rights. Areas of collaboration include assisting states with ratifying various weapons-related treaties and putting in place domestic laws to help them fulfil their obligations under such treaties.

He commended to Commonwealth countries model pledges adopted at the 3rd Commonwealth Red Cross and Red Crescent International Humanitarian Law Conference in Kuala Lumpur in June this year.

While in Geneva, Mr Sharma held meetings to reinforce co-operation between multilateral organisations and small states of the Commonwealth through the newly-opened Commonwealth Small States Office in the city. He focused on trade assistance, and held productive meetings with the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, with the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, and with Patricia Francis, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre.

Mr Sharma said his discussions focused on building resilience and sustainability, and ensuring that the voices of the small and vulnerable states are heard on the table during discussions on trade matters.

He also hosted a reception at the Commonwealth Small States Office for ambassadors of Commonwealth countries in Geneva and for representatives of regional organisations whose work at the multilateral hub is based at the office.