Nepal 1967: President Konoé, then a junior Red Cross worker, talks with a buffalo herder.

In 1967, as a Red Cross junior worker, President Konoé drove a Toyota ambulance from Kolkata to Kathmandu so that it could be donated to the Nepal Red Cross Society. Almost fifty years later in January 2015, he returned to Nepal for meetings with the National Society and the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, which was formed as a republic in 2008 following the abolishment of the monarchy.

During his three day visit, President Konoé met with Dr Ram Baran Yadav, the first elected head of state, to discuss formalising the legal status of the National Society. The Nepal Red Cross Society, currently registered by the government as one of many nongovernmental organizations, will be better able to exercise its auxiliary role to government when it is correctly designated under Nepalese law. President Konoé also underscored that government must respect the National Society’s adherence to the Movement’s Fundamental Principles. This year, the Movement celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Fundamental Principles. Dr Yadav indicated that he would do his utmost to champion passing the Red Cross Law, making a legal provision to ease the National Society’s ability to operate and manage services despite current political challenges facing Nepal as a whole.

President Yadav, formerly the Nepal Minister of Health and familiar with the National Society’s work in health-related activities, emphasized the importance of a well-functioning blood transfusion service in the country, which includes the full chain of services from blood collection, component preparation and distribution. He urged the IFRC to assist the Nepal Red Cross Society in obtaining a new building for the Central Blood Transfusion Centre to ensure that it functions in times of crises. Noting the expert prediction that a major earthquake will strike the Kathmandu Valley – home to an estimated population of 2.5 million people – President Konoé stressed the need to scale up investment in disaster and climate risk management. He noted the success of previous community preparedness and risk management work, as demonstrated during the last year’s massive floods and severe landslides. Preventive measures and plans already in place resulted in lower loss of life and property.

President Konoé, whose meetings with the head of state were accompanied by the head of the Nepal Red Cross Society, then had the opportunity to visit the National Society, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in September 2013. In its fifty years of existence, the society has developed a nationwide network in all 75 districts of the country, comprising almost 1,500 sub-chapters and 6,000 junior and youth circles with a strong base of volunteers. Its services reach 1.9 million people each year. Building upon this legacy, President Konoé discussed important future areas of collaboration with the IFRC, including strengthening physical, financial and personnel infrastructure and paving a way forward to implementing the Society’s earthquake contingency plan of action.

As a long-time friend who has observed the development of the National Society for almost five decades, the President held cordial and constructive meetings with the Society’s governance and management leaders and with the President and the Secretary General respectively. He also visited the Nepal Red Cross Society’s earthquake preparedness programme in Lalitpur District and the central blood transfusion centre in Kathmandu.

President Konoé’s role is to carry out effective humanitarian diplomacy and to strengthen the role of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies globally. Returning to the country of Nepal and the city of Kathmandu, where he was so warmly welcomed as a junior Red Cross worker years ago reflects strongly both the principal of Humanity and the understanding that the IFRC mission is to share our collective wisdom and experience to strengthen the Movement as a whole.