Announcements

The Singapore Red Cross is recruiting volunteer doctors and nurses for our upcoming overseas medical missions to Fiji and Nepal. Apart from conducting medical screenings and tending to immediate medical needs, you will also need to run educational workshops to help limit preventable diseases and health issues.

If you are a registered healthcare professional keen on overseas missions and have the flexibility to be ready for deployment within 48 hours of notice, you might just be who we need! The overseas medical missions will be conducted from 2017 to 2019 to attend to the needs of 800 to 1,000 beneficiaries (adults and children) and prisoners in Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara and Dhading.

Projects

1) Mobile Medical Clinic: Provide medical screening and tend to immediate medical needs as well as to instruct them in basic hygiene to limit preventable diseases and health issues.

2) Mobile Dental Clinic: Provide dental checks and tend to immediate basic dental needs such as tooth extraction, fillings and scaling.

Register your interest now at http://bit.ly/SRCmedicalmissions.

Mr Ong Keng Yong, RSIS
Ms Isabelle Barras, Regional Representative, ICRC
Ladies and Gentlemen

First, let me welcome all of you to Singapore.

I am very glad and honoured to be here this morning at the opening of the Regional IHL Conference jointly organised by ICRC and the RSIS. For more than 150 years, IHL or the laws of war, have sought to regulate the conduct of armed conflict - to protect the elderly, women, children, casualties and prisoners, in times of war. In the midst of violence and brutality of war, IHL has tried to bring some form of civility amongst men at war. Perhaps a candle, dim as it may be, to guide us through the darkness of war to helps us to preserve a sense of shared humanity.

Sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully, the Red Cross Movement, and the ICRC in particular, has been a primary advocate, guardian and promoter of IHL. Guided and empowered by IHL, the Movement has sought to protect the lives and dignity of the victims of wars and conflict, and endeavored to provide these victims access to care and assistance. In line with the Red Cross Movement’s mission of protecting the vulnerable, regardless of language, religion, nationality and warring factions. Twice in history, the world has acknowledged this role played by the ICRC, with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize, for its work in the midst of the two world wars.

After more than 150 years at this task, one would have thought that we would have seen and confronted every challenging situation that a war or conflict can throw up. Yet over the last decade or two, the increasing complexity of armed conflicts continually throws up new and complex challenges to IHL.

These challenges include respect of IHL, or lack thereof, by belligerent parties to conflict, many seeing themselves as beyond the reach of IHL. There are increasing violations of IHL by both State and non-state parties, and the growing number of non-state parties, including terrorist groups with scant concern for maintaining civility or IHL, in fact taking pride in the lack of civility of their acts. These challenges to the application and respect of IHL include areas ranging from the classification of armed conflicts or the combatants, to the use of new technologies, like cyber warfare. In the midst of these complexities, there still is a need to understand and respond and to ensure that IHL continues to perform its protective function in situations of armed conflict.

Hence the importance and relevance of Conferences like these that bring together proponents of IHL, from different environments and different organisations. We all believe in IHL and and that its applications are not static. The fundamental spirit and foundation of IHL has been to be pragmatic and practical - trying to humanise war. It is constantly and continuously seeking to respond to new challenges posed by the evolution of conflicts and war. I guess that is why we are gathered here - to consider the new challenges and how we need to adjust to ensure that IHL remains relevant. All of you will contribute to this process in the next few days, by your discussions and discourse - agreements and disagreements.

I am glad that this conference is taking place in Singapore this year. We are fortunate that Singapore is not engaged in any form of violent conflict. The last time we were in an open war situation, was more than 70 years ago. War may therefore appears distant and abstract for many of us, and the relevance of IHL even more so. Most of us, may not be able to fully relate to the plight and suffering of the victims of war. Like many other areas, there is a danger we become complacent and negligent. Several generations have grown up in a relatively peaceful environment. We may not comprehend the bloodshed, pain and anguish of losing one’s limbs, home and loved ones, and having to worry about their basic needs.

Yet we are and have been reminded that peace should not be taken for granted. Incidents such as the recent arrest of a radicalised Singaporeans and discovery of terrorist cells targeting Singapore, warn us on the need to be vigilant and against being complacent. The increasingly globalised and interconnected world also means that none of us are really spared from the effects of conflicts and acts of terrorism.

It is therefore imperative that we are all conscious and well informed about the developments around the world and the regulations governing appropriate human behaviour for the humane global community. Even as we enjoy peace, we want to inculcate in our people, the importance of respecting human life and dignity, regardless of race, language, religion, background, beliefs and opinions. This is what the body of IHL dictates; and that is why the Singapore Red Cross has also been actively promoting the understanding of IHL within the local community.

Conferences like this, bring alive many of the issues related to operation of IHL in a complex and often violent global environment. IHL cannot answer all the problems relating to violence and conflict around the world, but it can help us be more humane and not lose our humanity.

I wish you all a fruitful and interesting time in your deliberations ahead.

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