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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Red Cross/Red Crescent Seeks a Third Symbol - 2003-12-15

Broadcast: December 15, 2003

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The sign of the red cross and red crescent is meant to offer neutrality and protection to victims of war. It is also supposed to protect the humanitarian workers who come to their aid. These emblems of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement date back more than one-hundred years.

The first Geneva Convention in Switzerland in eighteen-sixty-four approved a red cross on a white background. In eighteen-seventy-six, the Ottoman Empire used the emblem of a red crescent during its war with Russia. That emblem became recognized in the nineteen-twenty-nine Geneva Convention. So was the emblem of the red lion and sun of Persia. Today, only the red cross and red crescent are in use.

Rules to define how the emblems can be used are in the nineteen-forty-nine Geneva Convention. Medical workers, hospitals and aid stations, and emergency vehicles are permitted to use an emblem for protection.

But the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement says its emblem is under increasing attack by extremists and armed groups. Officials say some people link it to Christianity or national causes.

The movement has proposed to create a third emblem. More than one-thousand-five-hundred representatives approved a resolution on this issue at a conference in Geneva earlier this month.

Officials say they hope the action will speed the admission of more groups as full members of the movement. These currently use national emblems. Israel’s Magen David [DAH-veed] Adom is the most debated case. The emergency medical service uses a red, six-pointed Star of David.

Officials say the third emblem, whatever it is, must have the ability to be used in unlimited ways around the world. The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross says it must be free of any religious or national connections.

The efforts have been delayed by the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian violence in two-thousand. Calls for a third emblem have increased since the bombing of the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad in October. Twelve people were killed.

To add a new emblem, Switzerland would need to call a conference of all one-hundred-eighty-eight nations that have signed the Geneva Convention.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.