Speech by Princess Margriet

The Hague, 6 April 2006

At the conference From Peace to Justice.

As you know, our country is always governed by a coalition. The Hague Academic Coalition, under whose auspices we are meeting here today, is also a coalition, but of a very different kind: not a political body, but a consortium of six academic institutions. They have earned a reputation, individually and as a group, in the disciplines of international law, international relations and international cooperation. It is fitting - and of course by no means a coincidence - that they are all based in this equally international city. A warm welcome to all participants who join us to further explore the cause of peace and justice.

I was delighted to accept the Hague Academic Coalition's invitation to say a few words of welcome today at this annual conference. Not only is the theme, From Peace to Justice, important in itself. I also feel a personal affinity with it, since I serve, and have served for many years, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, an organisation, whose mission is so closely related to today's theme. Allow me therefore to make my observations from a Red Cross perspective.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a unique network of National Societies (NS) present in almost every country, is the only network which gains its strength through its combination of local, national and international action. It is a global Movement, yet it works locally and thát is where it makes an impact, at grassroots level.

In particular as Chair of the Standing Commission of the International Red Cross, I witnessed the role the Movement plays in the world community's laborious attempts to defend peace and justice, especially in countries where violence and injustice have taken root.

I am not talking only about the assistance and protection the Red Cross provides, but also about the fundamental principles on which it operates: humanity, impartiality (or non-discrimination), neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. Acting upon these principles contributes in itself to bringing countries and people closer together and advancing the cause of peace.

World-wide more than 100 million volunteers and 125.000 professional staff are responsible for immediate response in conflict and disaster situations, for community mobilisation, social work and health services. The Red Cross and Red Crescent can build bridges where racial, religious, ethnic, political and social tensions may divide people.

The Red Cross carries weight in many areas and arenas. Thanks to its observer status at the United Nations it can put its concerns on the international community's agenda. It also plays an important role in promoting and developing humanitarian law, both nationally and internationally. Since the early 1990s, humanitarian law has gained visibility as the international community has created instruments for its implementation. It is no more the paper tiger some cynically may have called it some years ago.

Institutions have now been put in place, like the special tribunals and the International Criminal Court whose decisions are further developing and implementing international humanitarian law.

In doing so these institutions contribute to the fundamental values enshrined in it. The fact that all this is occurring in The Hague can only reinforce our feeling that the conference we are opening today belongs here.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On your way to this World Forum Convention Centre you may have noticed the major construction work that is going on here. We might see a certain symbolism in that. We still need some equally major construction work if we are to bring worldwide peace and justice closer to completion.

I wish you every success in taking us a step further.

Humanity will benefit from it.

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