Words and Swords
“You have words and… swords. We, on the other hand, only have our words.” This was a poignant point made by Francois Bellon, the Head of Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross to both the EU and NATO. J9 invited Monsieur Bellon to visit the command earlier this month, the first senior ICRC visit to EUCOM in nearly two decades.
Mr. Bellon and his colleague, Mr. Aleardo Ferretti, came to Stuttgart with a world-wide breadth of experience with the Red Cross. Between them they have been posted in Beijing, Moscow, Tblisi, Tel Aviv, Beirut and Washington, DC. They see the need for open communication with all parties; with strong superpower militaries like that of the US, but also with “the other side”; Taliban, Malian Toureg rebels, Al Shabab in Somalia etc. They are fiercely impartial, neutral, independent, never armed, and use this stance and their words to achieve their humanitarian objectives.
I liked the analogy that Mr. Bellon used during his presentation; "we are in the same river, but different boats." We tend to look at a crisis, in Syria for example, from our military perspective; the ICRC does so from their humanitarian perspective. Both boats have good intentions: defending the rights of the wounded and detainees, the protection of innocents, and the rights of a populace to select their own leadership. But it is essential that these two important boats be able to communicate with each other. Hence the invitation to the ICRC to visit, so that we can build bridges, know each other before a crisis, and better understand each other’s perspectives.
Mr Bellon indicated that the ICRC are also the protectors of the Geneva Conventions. They are in my mind, a bit like the Knights Templar guarding the Holy Grail in the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Youth;" for me, the ICRC is today’s Knights Templar, guarding the nearly 150 year-old Geneva Conventions and fundamental human rights. They of course do so… without the sword.
J9-Interagency Partnering Directorate