Aust Foreign Min puts focus on Indo-Pacific at International Red Cross | Pacific Beat

Aust Foreign Min puts focus on Indo-Pacific at International Red Cross

Aust Foreign Min puts focus on Indo-Pacific at International Red Cross

Updated 11 November 2013, 17:57 AEST

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says an international meeting of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Sydney this week will focus attention on the Indo-Pacific region.

She told delegates from more than 180 countries that the newly-elected Abbot government will be focussing its attention on areas that produce the greatest economic, social and humanitarian outcomes.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speakers: Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister, Australia,

Bekele Galeta, Secretary-General, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Peter Woolcott, australia's Ambassador to the United Nations and to the conference on Disarmament, Geneva.

GARRETT: With the scale of the disaster in the Philippines becoming clearer there is no better time to be focussing on humanitarian assistance in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Speaking at a Forum on the Changing Face of Humanitarian Action Foreign Minister Julie Bishop highlighted the needs of Australia's small and developing neighbours.

BISHOP: Out region confronts a range of issues from poverty and disease and natural disasters to endemic violence and conflict.

GARRETT: Ms Bishop said like all newly-elected governments, the Abbott government, comes with fresh ideas.

Australia will continue to be a principled and generous aid donor Ms Bishop said, with the closer alignment of aid, trade and foreign policy enabling more coherent work.

Ms Bishop did not mention the new government's cuts to aid but said that as Australia faces its own economic challenges it is important it maximise the effectiveness of its aid dollars.

BISHOP: This means focussing our investments on areas that will produce the greatest economic, social and humanitarian outcomes. It is a tragic truth that humanitarian crises cost lives, reverse economic and social progress and cost billions in recovery efforts. As I speak a disaster relief effort is underway in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Haiyan. the loss of life and damage to homes and property is devestating.

GARRETT: Beyond natural disasters, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, Bekele Galeta, highlighted the changing environments in which organistions must deliver humanitarian aid.

Mr Galeta said in many places people have lost confidence in their governments and are demanding transparency, opportunity and justice for all.

The occupy movement, the arab spring, and conflict in Syria and elsewhere are examples of this phenomenon, he said.

Mr Galeta says new thinking is needed.

GALETA: I believe that it is time for radical change in how we work and live together and how we address our world's vulnerabilities and its aspirations. Can the Red Cross and Red Crescent and civil society help reduce the risk of another humanitarian catastrophe, like Syria, ever happening again? I believe that we can contribute.

GARRETT: The new types of conflict are leading to more attacks targetting aid workers.

Foreign Minister Bishop says the independent non-combatant status of the Red Cross and Red crescent must be respected.

BISHOP: Ensurings that parties to conflict allow access for humanitarian assistance and refrain from attacks on protected medical personnel, vehicles and facilities is utterly vital.

GARRETT: Conficts are being fuelled by international trade in weapons, something the new international Arms Trade Treaty has been set up to regulate.

BISHOP: The unregulated spread of small arms is a disease at the heart of society.

GARRETT: Ms Bishop highlighted the destructive impact of small arms in conflicts in Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Bougainville.

Since April, 114 states have signed the Arms Trade Treaty and 8 have ratified it.

Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations Peter Woolcott, called for accelerated efforts to secure the 50 ratificatioins needed to bring the treaty into force.

WOOLCOTT: I am hoping that the spirit of co-operation on the Arms Trade Treaty will continue. i hope to see the Arms Trade Treaty enter into force by the end of 2014 yet I remain mindful that the treaty is only, and ultimatley only, a framework. We have to keep working and building to ensure that it really does reduce human suffering as we all hope it will. And that will only come through implementation and all of you can play a very important part in that.

GARRETT: With representatives of more than 180 countries attending the International Red Cross and Red Cresecent's meetings, in Sydney, this week, it is likely that Mr Woolcott's plea fell on fertile ground.

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