By Sophie Teyssier

The American Red Cross launched the North American Humanitarian Response Summit Project (the “NAHRS Project”) in September 2017 to improve the effectiveness of cross-border response to a potential catastrophic disaster in North America. The Summit will take place in Washington D.C. in March 2018, and the American Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross and Mexican Red Cross have engaged in a series of preparatory meetings with their respective governments to increase efficiencies, better align operational procedures in cross-border disaster response, and improve relevant policy and diplomatic relations.

“How is the government going to answer to a catastrophic event? We are going to need our friends across the border, we are going to need our friends from around the world. Do we have the systems in place, do our laws align with that kind of requirement?” remarked Mr. Andrew Slaten, Deputy Director, International Affairs Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the initial convening meeting that took place at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington D.C. in September 2017, and which gathered the NAHRS stakeholders, including the three North American Red Cross National Societies, government officials involved in disaster management of the respective target countries, the ICRC, the IFRC, partner NGOs and academia.

“Cross-border cooperation requires laws, rules and guidelines that serve the purpose of what they are intended for. We need rules and procedures that make us more efficient”, remarked Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General and CEO of the IFRC.

An inception phase carried in early 2017 allowed to frame the project and carry out the Multinational Legal and Policy Preparedness Scan, which includes an analysis of the political, legal and diplomatic environment within and across the three countries to better understand what informs the development of North American cross-border disaster response law and policy, a legal mapping and analysis – with reference to the IDRL Guidelines as legal preparedness benchmarking tool – of the current relevant legal and policy frameworks for domestic facilitation of cross-border disaster assistance and intergovernmental agreements and arrangements, and opportunities for further growth in legal and policy preparedness area amongst the three National Societies and their respective governments.

In addition to the preparatory meeting that took place in Washington in September 2017, meetings took place in Mexico in December 2017 and in Tucson, Texas in January 2018. A subsequent Preparatory Meeting will also take place in Ottawa in February 2018. Consolidated findings and recommendations will be presented at the Summit in Washington in March 2018.