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Q and A
Friday
Mike Whitlam

The Director General of the British Red Cross Society since January 1991, Mike worked closely with Princess Diana in her fight against landmines.
 
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"It was Diana's involvement in the anti-personnel landmines that made this appalling weapon of war a global issue and persuaded many countries to sign the Ottawa Convention. Her involvement made a real difference, not just to those people running the charities, but to those people who were helped by them."

With Diana gone, who is going to take her place? She really brought attention to the Red Cross. She just had that touch and personality to grab the attention all around the World.
Dana, 36
Dallas, United States

The Red Cross has made a deliberate point of not trying to find a replacement for Diana. She was, I agree, a very powerful communicator - and for many different causes - but I don't think we should try to find one single person to fill her shoes. Apart from being hard, I do not believe it would be a very helpful to the Red Cross in general and the landmines campaign in particular.

What we have tried to do therefore is tackle the landmines campaign in a different way by using a range of people to help keep up the momentum. Everyone, we feel, has something unique to offer and though many would say Diana was more unique than most - if such thing were possible - anyone who is willing to give us support makes a very valuable contribution.

Who chose David Ginola to take on Diana'a role in highlighting the landmine issue and why? He seems a bizarre and inadequate replacement to me.
Kieran Miles, 29
Washington, United States

David Ginola has not been taken on to continue where Diana left off but the press has in its own inimitable way chosen to highlight his involvement as if he had because they know it wiil sell newspapers.

The French Red Cross was looking for someone high profile to help them in their work and a contact in the British office suggested David because they knew him and because he is French. It just so happens that he also plays for the English football team Tottenham Hotspurs which meant he was also able to work with the British Red Cross on the landmines campaign. However, despite the interest of the press, David is just one of many celebrities who support us in our work.

Are you concerned that support for charities promoted by Diana will suffer now that she is no longer here? I am very cynical about the public's commitment to charitable causes and believe that true altruism no longer exists.
Rosemary Johns, 52
Newcastle, UK

Where the landmines campaign is concerned, Diana had done so much that we are in the fortunate position of not needing high-profile support so much now. We can go from strength to strength. However, we are of course always looking for people to help us in our efforts.

All charities have had to adjust without her and find other ways of raising awareness and it has definitely been more difficult for some - particularly at a time when it is becoming increasingly hard to riase money. Diana was an incredibly helpful patron. She recognised that she had something valuable to offer not only because she brought the interest of the press with her but also because she genuinely cared.

I do not believe that the public are so cynical in their support for charity. After 25 years working in this area, I am still optimistic that people will continue to support the charities they truly believe in - with or without the patronage of a strong character.

How do you feel about the commercialisation of Diana under the umbrella of continuing her charitable work? Do you believe that the ends justify the means when it comes to raising money for charity?
Mark Andrews, 48
Paris, France

This is a difficult question to answer because as fundraisers, we are entering a whole new territory and new ways of working. But, I do believe that the concept of the Diana Memorial Fund is a good one. It has prevented the possibility of the charities with which Diana was involved fighting among each other. It is also good for those people who want to remember Diana by donating to what she believed in.

Nonetheless, it has I feel made some questionable decisions - magarine tubs, scratchcards and so on. Where the Red Cross stands on this issue is that we decided we wanted to keep faith with Diana without offending her memory or her family. This is the yardstick we use since her death.

But this is a very new way of working and it can be very difficult. Recently Andrew Morton offered to donate part of the proceeds of his new book about Diana to the landmines campaign and we were faced with a dilemma. Charity law states that we accept donations but we felt that by taking this offer- which would have been a considerable amount of money - public perception of the Red Cross could be damaged. We could have - in the long run - lost more through the offence caused to both the charity's supporters and those close to Diana.

We have adopted a policy of ethical fundraisiing and the test is whether or not Diana's memory remains untarnished.

How much support to charity do the other Royals give? Is it effective? They seem to me to rather conspicuous by their absence - which would suggest no one really cares.
Madeleine Boucher, 57
Belfort, France

I have worked with Princess Anne, the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Alexandra and in each case, their contribution has been very positive indeed. When they arrive, they give everyone a boost - the fundraisers, staff, volunteers and all the people who had come to see them.

People queue up for hours to see them and although their so-called pulling power is debatable compared to Diana and the press attention she attracted, they make a considerable and valuable difference to charitable campaigns.

I do not doubt that Diana did a lot of good for charity. But why did it have to be accompanied by such fanfare and media circus - I thought true kindness not meant to blow its own trumpet in this way?
Sally Mason, 20
Poole, UK

Diana did many, many things which were humanitarian when the press was not around to see. She would come to the Red Cross office to attend our briefings so that she knew what we were doing. She visited centres for Bosnian refugees in the UK. I took her to Zimbabwe to visit Aids sufferers there and she would go out to visit the homeless in London at night. Even when the press was there she would push them away when they became too intrusive. She did all these things because she wanted to know how people were suffering and try to help them with her private support.

On those occasions when the press were involved, Diana had deliberately encouraged it because she felt the cause needed the media attention. For the trip to Angola, we made a point of making it easier for the media come along. The "media circus" served a good purpose and Diana used it when appropriate but she did just as much in her own quiet, personal way.