The principle of humanity sits at the heart of all humanitarian work and is the goal of everything we do. This principle requires the Red Cross/Red Crescent to protect life and health, ensure respect for the human being and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found.

Looked at in its largest sense, the task can seem overwhelming in the face of ever increasing needs, the protracted nature of conflicts, growing numbers of disasters and the millions who live with entrenched vulnerabilities.

But when I feel daunted by the challenge, I draw comfort from the daily efforts of volunteers and staff across the world who are striving to maintain and restore the dignity of those they work with, so integral to upholding our principle of Humanity.

Dignity isn’t easy to define, but we know it when we see it.

I recall the story recounted to me by a delegate about a recently released prisoner who was attending the Red Cross Tuberculosis clinic. He was very frail but knew that completing the strict treatment was imperative to cure the condition. The nurse was perplexed that the patient travelled a long distance each day to reach the Red Cross treatment clinic when there were other clinics he could have attended much closer to home.

When the Red Cross nurse enquired kindly why he chose to travel so far to the Red Cross clinic he replied immediately “Because the people here look me in the eye and use my name”.  A simple human gesture can mean so much.

Our Red Cross Red Crescent vision, our policies and our programming must place our Humanity at the centre of our deliberations and that is what we will be doing at these statutory meetings.  Our vision is to be seen as “a champion of humanity, a universal beacon of hope in a divided world, united in the strength of its principles and visionary in its approach”.

The strength of our approach surely lies in the simple human gestures that come with compassion, kindness and understanding in our everyday work.

Tadateru Konoé is the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.