IFRC President Tadateru Konoé has met with leaders from the German Red Cross and the German Government on the first day of his mission to the country.
Mr Konoé was welcomed to the German Red Cross’ Berlin HQ by its President, Dr. Rudolf Seiters, who gave an opening speech; Vice-President Dr. Volkmar Schön; Secretary General Christian Reuters and Vice-Secretary General Dr. Johannes Richert.
Addressing leaders, staff and volunteers, Mr Konoé said: “The German Red Cross is already a leader of our Federation for both its domestic and international services. I am very happy to see that this leadership is matched by a growing closeness under the tripartite cooperation between the German Government, German Red Cross and the IFRC. We are stronger when we work together for humanity.”
Mr Konoé reiterated the need for the IFRC to protect the people who give their time and expertise in the service of others. “The Federation has done a lot to define our accountability to communities and donors,” he said. “Why can’t we do the same for our volunteers, who are our most precious asset?
“It is time that volunteers get the respect, support and recognition they deserve. Insurance, psychosocial support, training, protective equipment and legal support are all essential for any person on the frontline, paid or unpaid, in a hospital or community.”
Following the warm reception by staff and an interactive discussion, Mr Konoé met with the German Red Cross governance and management team to discuss the importance of Movement cooperation and coordination, and of ensuring and safeguarding the integrity of all National Societies and the wider Movement. They also spoke of the need for the German Red Cross to build on its excellent domestic reputation by further profiling itself as part of the IFRC and the Movement to improve its partners’ understanding of the National Society’s role within a global network.
President Konoé then held meetings with three key Government leaders: Federal Minister of Health Mr. Hermann Gröhe; Dr. Emily Haber, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and Ministerialdirektor Mr Rüdiger König, Director for Humanitarian Assistance, Crisis Prevention and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding at the Federal Foreign Office.
Mr Konoé thanked the leaders for their strong support to the German Red Cross, and commended both the authorities and the National Society for their excellent cooperation at home, through the auxiliary relationship, and internationally.
In his conversation with Health Minister Gröhe, the IFRC President thanked the Ministry for its partnership with the German Red Cross, which is the leading domestic provider of health services. He also spoke of his appreciation for the Government’s support – through the German Red Cross – to the IFRC’s West Africa Ebola response.
Recalling the World Humanitarian Summit that was held in Istanbul in May, both leaders agreed on the pressing need for governments and international organizations to learn the lessons of the Ebola outbreak and boost the capacities of local health systems supported by volunteers to minimize the danger of a future health crisis. They also concurred on the need to invest in strengthening resilience and in humanitarian and development action.
Migration was high on the agenda during the meeting with Interior Ministry State Secretary Dr. Emily Haber. Germany has welcomed more than a million refugees and asylum-seekers since the beginning of the migration crisis in Europe, and the German Red Cross has been on the front line of the response, with more than 25,000 volunteers and staff involved. Some 30,000 people are being cared for at more than 300 Red Cross emergency accommodation centres, and the National Society is running programmes to encourage integration, inclusion and tolerance.
Mr Konoé thanked Dr. Haber for her Ministry’s partnership with the National Society, and shared her concerns about the current situation along the migratory routes. He noted that any solution to the crisis must tackle its root causes, and address the many reasons why people leave their countries of origin. The President also reiterated the IFRC’s call for all people on the move to be treated humanely, regardless of their legal status, as a commitment to our shared humanity.
The critical importance of disseminating timely, credible information to people on the move – for example through the IFRC’s community engagement and accountability work – was also discussed.
Promoting disaster risk reduction
In the meeting at the Federal Foreign Ministry, Ministerialdirektor Mr Rüdiger König spoke of his admiration for the German Red Cross, the IFRC and the Movement, and thanked the leadership of the National Society and IFRC for their cooperation and work to promote disaster risk reduction in Germany and around the world.
Mr König discussed the importance of reforming and strengthening the international humanitarian system in the wake of the World Humanitarian Summit. The Summit’s commitment to localization of aid – where local and national humanitarian actors such as Red Cross and Red Crescent societies take a leading role in preventing and responding to crisis – was praised, and he also stressed the importance of humanitarian principles and values.
As part of their tripartite cooperation, the IFRC, National Society and government leaders also agreed to promote the innovative forecast-based financing that will allow them to scale up preparedness when science indicates the risk is elevated.
A discussion took place on two key humanitarian challenges – preparedness, and protracted crises; on the need to keep a focus on Africa while also providing humanitarian support in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; and the need for sustainable, predictable funding that will allow humanitarian organizations to plan beyond the one-year budget cycle.
President Konoé’s mission will continue with visits to German Red Cross branches, a refugee support centre, and the Berlin water rescue service.