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Red Cross and Red Crescent draw up action plan

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 20 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1324
  1. Tessa Richards
  1. BMJ

    The Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have made a commitment to a detailed action plan for 2000-3 to improve the care and protection of victims of armed conflict and of the world's most vulnerable people.

    At their 27th international conference last month the two societies set key areas for action, including better protection of victims of conflict through greater respect of international humanitarian law and measures to improve the effectiveness of disaster relief. The plan underlines the need to be much better prepared for disasters and ensure greater coordination and cooperation between the political, military, and humanitarian sectors.

    Getting agreement on a specific action plan from such a huge humanitarian gathering, comprising representatives from 176 different national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, was described by Stephen Davey, undersecretary of the International Federation of the Red Cross, as a major new achievement for the movement.

    He also flagged up a third major commitment in the plan to improve what the Red Cross does at community level: “We need to do more to promote primary health care and preventive measures among deprived and vulnerable populations. First aid training also needs to be extended, not least to promote public awareness of road safety issues. Road accidents have increased alarmingly recently, and by 2020 it is estimated that globally they will be the third biggest killer.”

    Despite the increased media coverage and considerable international response to recent major disasters such as the Kosovo crisis, in the past decade the number of members and volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has dropped by about half, from 220 million to 105 million.

    “This has had an appreciable effect on our ability to deliver sustained services and support in the field in many countries, especially Africa,” said Mr Davey. “This trend is being seen by other voluntary organisations too, who are also finding it difficult to recruit long term members.

    “It seems to have been fuelled by a mixture of social and political factors, which have resulted in people having less of a sense of civic duty or obligation towards others. As a result we need to be much more imaginative about recruiting volunteers. We know that people are still prepared to offer help but usually only for specific one-off activities, especially where they coincide with their own particular interests or concerns.”

    Details of the action plan adopted at the conference and the current humanitarian crises for which the International Red Cross has established aid programmes and mounted appeals can be found through the website for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (

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