The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) highlighted the urgent need for pandemic preparedness, and especially the way it needs to be reinforced at the local level, at the 18th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 23-26 January 2018.

“Viruses can travel anywhere worldwide, and very fast.  Diseases know no borders. None of us are safe until all of us are safe”, IFRC Secretary-General Elhadj As Sy told the Forum. Looking back over Ebola, Zika, plague and other recent outbreaks, he stressed the need to build local capacity in monitoring, training, and emergency response, much of which is carried out by local actors such as Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers.

The WEF 2018 theme of ‘Creating a shared future in a fractured world’ led to debate around the many manifestations of this fracture.  “Our world may be more connected than ever before”, said Mr Sy, “yet it is more fractured and divided”.

Mr Sy also spoke about migration, stressing how media can paint a more holistic and compassionate picture on the causes of migration and the rights and the dignity of migrants, rather than focusing exclusively on the challenges of receiving migrants into their various countries of transit and destination.

The IFRC also underlined the way that businesses should continue to partner with governments and humanitarian organizations to build local resilience to withstand shocks and disasters.  Mr Sy highlighted progress made in partnerships with global companies, to achieve this worldwide.  He also pointed to the increasingly important role of insurance in disaster preparedness and response – and the role of reinsurance companies like Swiss Re and Zurich Re – as one of several ways to protect lives and livelihoods in the face of recurrent shocks and hazards.

IFRC Under Secretary General for Partnerships, Jemilah Mahmood, made the case for IFRC and other humanitarian organizations to explore innovative ways of financing ever-growing humanitarian needs, with special focus on the potential of Islamic finance.  She also spoke on the primacy of the role of education – both in humanitarian settings, and about humanitarian values.

Meetings were held with a number of the IFRC’s operational partners during the week, and they all called on the Federation to continue to take leadership roles in meeting global humanitarian challenges.

“None of us can meet these global humanitarian challenges alone,” said Mr Sy.  “Partnership is everything.  That is why we were so pleased to be part of what turned out to be a magical coalition of 15 UN and other humanitarian agencies which came together to host the ‘Sustainable Impact Hub’. A tangible expression of SDG 17 on multi-stakeholder partnerships, the hub was a safe and shared humanitarian space within the World Economic Forum, in which to debate the theme of ‘Partnering for impact: leaving no one behind’.”

“It was a week in which we reaffirmed our collective humanity, and took concrete steps to advance our collective efforts to serve a world of aching humanitarian need.”