Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Commission C : Health Care in Danger

Statement by AusAID Humanitarian Coordinator, Alan March, Australia

29 November 2011

As Delivered


Australia acknowledges the importance of maintaining health care for those in situations of conflict and, in particular keeping health care workers in these situations safe. It is an outrage that health care workers and their facilities are attacked and it is unacceptable that indifference or carelessness puts patients and workers at risk.

The adverse effects on delivery of health care are threefold:

  • Health care workers are killed, injured and /or prevented from performing their roles,

  • The timeliness, quality and scope of health care possible in a conflict situation is curtailed, and

  • Those seeking health care are deterred from doing so.

Whether these circumstances arise from ignorance, carelessness or deliberate targeting, it is contrary to humanitarian principles and humanitarian law. That injuries go untreated and lives are unnecessarily lost is, as I have already said, an outrage.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is to be commended for highlighting this issue and for the Health Care in Danger initiative.

Change can be achieved by a combination of:

  • Greater understanding of the issue and the risk of unintended consequences,

  • Exposure of abuses,

  • Political advocacy to bring pressure for change to bear,

  • Training and additional skills for those operating in these environments, and

  • Legal redress for extreme occurrences.


A first step might be a joint government and national society explanation of the issues to build knowledge of, and commitment for, change. While the specific conflict context will be very important for reaching successful change, a greater awareness of the general issue and its highly adverse implications is vital.

In closing, Australia welcomes the Health Care in Danger initiative and will work with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and the Australian Red Cross to seek the changes required. We welcome a dialogue with those who have been directly affected – United Nations, national governments and NGOs, to shape appropriate responses. Lastly, we commit ourselves to being a partners with you over the next 4 years.

Thank you.

Geneva 29 November 2011