by Francesco Rocca – IFRC President
It is easy to say that time flies, but that was exactly my first thought when I saw that 6 November 2018 had arrived. One year ago, the International Federation General Assembly elected me as its President.
I will never forget that moment – the joy, the hugs, the congratulations, the responsibility that I immediately felt, the long path behind me and the new one ahead and the faces of many colleagues and friends from all around the world who supported me.
I always feel lucky when I visit National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; it is for me a great opportunity to listen to inspiring stories and to meet women and men who are embodying our Principles and fulfilling the vision of our founder, Henry Dunant.
One year ago, they were all with me on that podium in Turkey. Every day, I feel the responsibility of representing the voice of the voiceless and of our volunteers. In every context, at every conference, at every event, I always do my utmost to represent them and to bring their experience, vision and hope with me.
This is why my speech before the election was built on the word “we”; I strongly believe in the “we” approach.
I am able to position the IFRC and advocate for the most vulnerable thanks to this “we”. We are the last mile of humanitarian aid, we are the local actors par excellence, we are tackling a host of complex issues, we are stronger together.
Over the course of the year, we have done a lot at every level; from local to global, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have reached people in need in very difficult scenarios, responded quickly to major natural disasters and positioned themselves as the sign of hope, protection and humanity for everyone in need.
On the governance side, I have striven to live up to the great example of our volunteers. All the Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders who are members of our Governing Board are working hard together to address key topics, such as integrity, transparency, accountability and inclusion. And we are also working to bring the Board closer to its members. I am proud to be working closely with the current Governing Board members in an inclusive way that ensures that regional and sub-regional National Society groups feel represented, and my colleagues and I will be delighted to submit the results of the work accomplished together so far to the next IFRC General Assembly.
I went out into the field as much as possible to spread IFRC solidarity and to highlight humanitarian needs. I represented the International Federation at the highest level possible, speaking out about key topics, such as migration, protracted crises, the importance of local actors, health, the role of youth, gender balance policies and the humanitarian consequences of climate change.
One year ago, just after the election, a journalist asked me why I had decided to take this position at such a difficult time. One year on, I can only say that the situation is getting even worse, but I am still positive by nature and I do believe we have a lot to do for the vulnerable and in tackling complex topics. For example, the humanitarian consequences of climate change are a crucial issue: how can we be better prepared to deal with new extreme weather events? How can we adapt our operations? How can we prepare ourselves and our communities to respond better, reduce risks and save lives?
I always recall Dunant’s vision: having strong National Societies means having stronger local communities ready to respond to any emergency that may occur.
I found the strength to keep up our work when I saw our Syrian volunteers, a few days ago, reaching the Rukban camp on the border with Jordan to assist the most vulnerable. I am inspired by our women and men who are helping migrants in the caravan from Central America, supporting their local communities affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia or even risking their lives in Yemen or Palestine. I am inspired by the crucial work done by our volunteers in DRC to stop Ebola. I am inspired by the activities of our volunteers in the Pacific Islands who have to deal with very complex scenarios. I am inspired by our volunteers who are present wherever migrants are arriving in Italy, putting humanity before political issues. I am inspired by our youth engaging in the debate on change, being present in our daily activities at the global level and providing us with new ideas and new approaches.
I am inspired when I recall the explanation of our acronym, IFRC, given by one of our communication colleagues to a university class: IFRC obviously means “International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies”, but it also stands for Independent, Fast, Relevant, Coordinated.
Independent because we are neutral and not driven by governments or external partners.
Fast because we need to respond quickly, serve our membership, go the last mile through our volunteers, alleviate suffering and save lives.
Relevant because we must show our added value, respond to National Society needs and be relevant at the global level to give voice to the voiceless.
Coordinated because we must avoid duplication, be effective in the field and be sure that every single donation directly reaches the people we serve.
It will not be easy, but I am sure we can achieve our goals together. The world needs a stronger Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and we will work in this direction.