Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Commission B : Furthering the Auxiliary Role – Partnership for stronger National Societies and Volunteering Development

Statement by: Australian Ambassador, Mr Peter Woollcott, Australia

29 November 2011

As delivered

Thank you Chair,

You have asked that we address issues that demonstrate how we are pursuing and enhancing partnership and reciprocal responsibilities for national societies and their auxiliary role to government. In commenting on Australia’s practice, I am pleased to reaffirm that Australia welcomes the auxiliary role of the Australian Red Cross and values enormously the humanitarian and red cross services provided to communities and individuals, both in Australia and globally. The partnership is all about saving lives and alleviating suffering.

The Australian Red Cross does this job exceptionally well.

Australia looks to foster and expand this relationship – consistent with national government priorities and national society capacities.

In Australia we have two formal agreements:

  • Firstly – a three-year partnership agreement between the Australian aid program and the Australian Red Cross for humanitarian programs in developing countries in Asia-Pacific and globally; and

  • Secondly, between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for a humanitarian observer role, access to people in immigration detention and ongoing consultation.

These documents spell-out responsibilities and provide clarity on the expectations and roles of the parties. We commend this approach to others.

The Australian Red Cross partnership with the Australian aid program commits $20m over three years for priority international humanitarian law and response activities. As well, Australian government support to the International Committee of the Red Cross for core funding and specific emergency appeals for operations in situations of armed conflict and violence, for the period 2008-2011, amounted to$140m.

The funding is important, but more than that, it reflects a real partnership. Our partnership comprises:

  • A shared understanding of Australia’s role and how it can support the national society;

  • Clear government awareness of the value of an impartial, neutral and principled Red Cross;

  • Twinning respective program experiences to inform and deepen our understanding of evolving humanitarian challenges; and

  • Respect for separate approaches and, where appropriate, joint efforts for shared objectives.

I would like to highlight briefly, just 3 examples of this partnership. These include the development of an International Humanitarian Law Handbook for Parliamentarians.

The specific role Red Cross in Australia plays with the immigration authorities addressing the needs of vulnerable migrants.

And thirdly, the Australian aid program also supports Australian Red Cross to work with sister National Societies in the Pacific region to develop country specific Handbooks to allow a better dialogue between governments and Red Cross on the crucial topic of international humanitarian law.


Volunteering is an important way of building community awareness of and community resilience to humanitarian challenges. It harnesses the skills, enthusiasm and importantly their local knowledge. We know from our own experience that clear understandings and arrangements are important in managing this diverse and vibrant force. Australian Red Cross is one of our key volunteer partners under our International Volunteers program.

Looking forward, Australia wants to work with the Australian national society and its sister societies to build shared understanding and approaches to humanitarian challenges. If our experiences are relevant to the goals of others, both the Australian government and the Australian Red Cross would be pleased to comment further on our approaches.

Thank you

Geneva 29 November 2011