Elhadj As Sy | International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc The website of the international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Tue, 10 Dec 2019 21:11:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.12 Keynote address to Swiss & Liechtenstein STEP Federation – Alpine Conference https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/speech/keynote-address-swiss-liechtenstein-step-federation-alpine-conference/ Fri, 18 Jan 2019 13:08:28 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?post_type=speech&p=50866 The Secretary-General began by screening a short film – see below – on the work of the Canadian Red Cross within the IFRC Field Hospital in the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh – and specifically the testimony of one nurse: her call to donors, and her story about one miraculous birth. Ladies and gentlemen, […]

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The Secretary-General began by screening a short film – see below – on the work of the Canadian Red Cross within the IFRC Field Hospital in the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh – and specifically the testimony of one nurse: her call to donors, and her story about one miraculous birth.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this kind invitation.

I understand that last year your keynote speaker from CERN explained the small matter of the Higgs Bosun particle ...

.... and that two years ago your speaker from the University of Lausanne took you metaphorically and almost literally into outer space ....

And now I have dragged you into the mud of a refugee camp 7,500 kilometres away ...

I speak as we all embark on a new year: always with the hope that you saw and heard in the film ... and always in the knowledge that all of us – in our different ways – live in very difficult times.

So far – in the nearly-three weeks of this new year 2019 – we have seen ...

... severe winter storms in Europe
... earthquakes in Iran and (again ...) in Indonesia
... landslides and floods in the Philippines
... the wreckage of storm Pabuk in Thailand
... the games of political pass-the-parcel as migrants seek to disembark in Mediterranean ports
... the violence and political furore over migrants trying to cross from Mexico into the US
... the numbers of Ebola victims topping 600 in the Democratic Republic of Congo ....

And these are only the headlines. Much as we in the Red Cross Red Crescent may dread reading our morning news bulletins, even we can sometimes feel that they blur into one.

The STEP and the RCRC

This is our humanitarian world, and it may at first glance appear to be a very different world from this world of Interlaken and your STEP conference today and tomorrow.

But of course we are not from different worlds. All of our concerns are essentially the same.

I read that STEP members specialise in 'family inheritance and succession planning', and you might say that so too, after a fashion, do humanitarians ...

The STEP and the Red Cross overlap specifically in the person of your own Chairman, Andrew McCallum.

Humanitarianism is a business like any other. It is people like Andrew – who sits on the Audit and Risk Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – who ensure that it's a well-run business, which never spends money it doesn't have, and which spends it scrupulously on the people that need it.

And I think and hope that Andrew will testify that we do that rigorously, efficiently, impactfully.

What else links STEP and the IFRC?

You build resilience into financial wealth; we humanitarians build resilience into humanity at large, above all by making it resilient to the shocks and hazards – natural and man-made – which we know will surely come.

You work quite literally in the 'trust' industry; and we do so too, metaphorically.

If ever 'trust' is broken by humanitarians who operate under the one overarching principle of the one humanity which we all share, then it is very seriously broken ...

Last year you will have followed that the humanitarian industry at large faced breaches of trust over the issue of sexual exploitation, which is as horrific when we do it to ourselves as when we do it to those whom we are serving.

Our Red Cross and Red Crescent trust derives from being from the communities we represent.

We number some 12 million volunteers worldwide who give of their time and energy and compassion to serve their own communities. And sometimes (17 times in 2018, 37 times in 2017 ...) they give of their own lives.

Our volunteers speak their peoples' languages; they know their customs; they are there amongst them long before a crisis, and long after it. They are often the only people who have access to the most vulnerable people and the hardest to reach, in places which are often without schools, without hospitals, without government.

Your STEP conference this year looks at 'A coin with two sides'. On one side of the coin, you have to observe regulations; on the other side, you have to serve clients.

We humanitarians have the same two tasks. For us, the two-faced god Janus shows one face of unprecedented humanitarian need; and the other face of unprecedented funding shortfalls – and this, I should say, despite record levels of giving.

In a few minutes, I would like to say more about the changing dynamics of the aid world, and the need for new partnerships – including with people like you.

And afterwards, perhaps in the few minutes we have for questions and answers, I may be able to glance at some of the more specific of your agenda topics of the next two days.

For instance, how do we humanitarians approach your conference topics of 'data use and blockchain'; how do we reach 'the oldest and the youngest' in our societies; and how do we view the concept of 'mobility' when it applies to the millions of people worldwide who are on the move, having been forcibly displaced from their homes.

But first, I simply want to tell you what we do ... before I address the question of how you might be part of it.

The Red Cross Red Crescent worldwide

'What we do' is not only done in the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the world.

This is the STEP conference for the Switzerland and Liechtenstein region, and the Red Cross is of course alive and well right here in these two countries.

You may well know that it was established by a Swiss banker, Henri Dunant, after he had witnessed the 40,000 bodies slain on the battlefield of Solferino in June 1859. Switzerland is one of the biggest, most regular and – so importantly – most flexible of all our donors.

Geneva is also home to our sister organisation the International Committee of the Red Cross. Crudely, the difference between the IFRC and the ICRC is that the ICRC operates in conflict situations and the IFRC in general doesn't; and the ICRC operates directly, while the IFRC in general operates through its National Societies.

And let's not forget Liechtenstein – a tiny principality with its own Red Cross Society since 1945, and a core of dedicated staff.

So Switzerland and Liechtenstein are our nearest neighbours in a global network of 190 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies

And further afield, we of course encompass countries like Iran, China, and Japan – where volunteers number over one million in each.

So we are truly global, and truly local.

The state of the world

Dear friends, we live in a fractured world. This time last year, I spoke to the World Economic Forum on the subject of trying to heal that fractured world.

So it's a good time to ask whether we live in a better world now than we did 100 years ago, when the League of Red Cross Societies was founded in 1919.

In just the last 25 years, we have seen tidal changes in receding global poverty, and in improvements in almost every health and education indicator. The progress is massive.

We have not experienced a global conflict since 1945 ... and yet UNHCR tells us that there are now more displaced people than at any stage since then, with almost 70 million people worldwide driven from home: two-thirds of them in their own countries, and one-third of them outside.

Meanwhile the World Meteorological Organisation tells us that there are now 400 extreme weather events every year, five times as many 50 years ago.

We live in a world in which the man-made conflicts are not the same as they were in Solferino.

Our battlefields now are less tangible and less specific, but no less real and no less devastating. They play out in new conflicts over ideology, over natural resources, over trade, over viruses both physical and technological. All too often they unfold in the heart of communities all over the world: in schools and hospitals, even in places of worship.

And the man-made conflicts of old that still plague us are more complex and protracted: they have raged for eight years now in Syria, for 22 in the DRC, for 32 in Somalia ...

In a world that has never been more connected, perhaps we have never been less connected. It is increasingly a world of walls and barriers.

These are some of the reasons why we live in a world of unprecedented humanitarian need. The UN's global humanitarian appeal for 2019 is for just short of $22 billion, targeting 94 million of the world's 132 million people who are deemed to be in need of humanitarian assistance. This is five times more money than it was a decade ago, for more than three times as many people. Humanitarian assistance costs are predicted to rise to $50 billion a year in just 10 years from now.

The Red Cross Red Crescent and its three Ds

So in the face of something approaching "apocalypse now" and "apocalypse to come", let me briefly say where our Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarian energies are channelled, before I explore how the whole humanitarian industry is being turned on its head with new dynamics, new targets, and new ways of working and funding. "New ways" ... which can include you.

For ease of recall, we deal primarily with three diabolical Ds: Disaster, Disease and Displacement.

First, Disaster.

Disaster strikes everywhere, and the best response to it is preparedness:
... from raising the physical height of latrines in flood-prone Bangladesh
... to adapting farmers' crops to suit weather patterns in East Africa
... to releasing funds in advance of disasters worldwide, based on meteorological forecasting.

Research has shown us that a dollar spent in disaster preparedness saves us up to 15 dollars in disaster response.

You will know that last year, disaster struck Indonesia three times, from August to December, at a cost of 3,000 lives, and some three-quarters of a million displaced.

The IFRC is working closely with the brave and magnificent volunteers of the Indonesian Red Cross, and is currently raising almost CHF 40 million for immediate and long-term response.

Second, Disease.
Disease strikes anywhere, and crosses borders with impunity. It compounds and it's compounded by conflict.

Old diseases persist, like yellow fever and cholera. Old diseases return, like diphtheria. New diseases emerge, like Zika.

Last year disease struck conflict-ridden DRC twice, with two Ebola outbreaks of which the second – ongoing – is the largest ever in that country, with fears that it could easily spread.

Again, the IFRC is working closely with the DRC Red Cross, and is currently raising almost CHF 9 million to support immediate and long-term response.

A key part of our work there is the safe and dignified burials of those who have died of the virus. In West Africa four years ago, it has been independently estimated that we saved up to 10,000 lives by carrying out these highly dangerous and highly sensitive burials. That is almost as large a number as the 11,000 who did actually die of in that Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

And third, Displacement.

Displacement is another truly global phenomenon in which the scale of migration into Europe pales alongside the millions of migrants currently being given temporary home in places like Turkey, Lebanon, Sudan, Uganda, Iran, Pakistan, Colombia.

The Red Cross Red Crescent is unique in its presence along the global migration trails, from countries of origin ... to countries of transit ... to countries of destination.

Our National Societies have run migrant information campaigns in West Africa and safe houses for female migrants in Niger...
... they have run refugee reception centres in Italy, Greece and Spain ...
... and they have given vocational training and psychosocial support to migrants arriving in Germany and Scandinavia.

And collectively we lobby on the world stage for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, agreed in Marrakesh in December, that ensures that all migrants, anywhere, are treated with dignity and given access to essential services.

New aid dynamics and the need for partnership

The fact that the three Ds are never static is one reason why we in the IFRC can never stay still, either.

But there are other reasons. We need to respond to the fact that the aid industry is undergoing a significant transformation driven by new money, new technology, and new business models.

Before, the industry was embodied by very few largely governmental and intergovernmental players, like USAID and UKAID, and the various UN agencies. Now, there are more players out there, not least philanthropists and social entrepreneurs.

One thing is clear. The scale of our humanitarian challenges is far, far bigger than any of us. No one can solve them alone. But together, we can.

That is why organisations like the IFRC are working ever more closely with private sector organisations who not only have an increasing sense of their role in society, but also the means to enact that role.

They do it through intellectual support, practical support, financial support or simply emotional support. I could give you many examples.

And as we explore new sources of financing, we are well advanced with players in the financial services industry, for instance on micro-insurance to protect smallholder farmers' livelihoods, the use of humanitarian impact and catastrophe bonds, and the mobilization of Islamic social financing.

We receive support from philanthropic and family foundations, too. And simply from individuals: I wrote recently to the family of a very kind lady in New York who left us 2.5 million dollars in her will.

Dear friends, if you can join us in this great enterprise, please do. I very much liked what Patrice Gordon of the Canadian Red Cross said towards the end of the video piece: 'At home, we're not really hearing this. We want to you to see – we want you to open your eyes and look, and to help us – wherever you can, and however you can'.

'Wherever you can, and however you can.'

I often say that we in the IFRC are privileged to be part of the global community of carers. Our task is to accompany people in their need. We are no better or worse than the people we serve – just luckier. We know that what matters most to them is what matters most to us – their dignity.

All of us know – in Switzerland, in Liechtenstein, and the world over – that Disaster, Disease, Displacement and no doubt more Ds are on all our doorsteps.

We exhibit the power of humanity because humanity is the one very simple and very powerful thing that we all share.

Thank you all so much for giving me this opportunity to be with you today. I wish you a very successful conference.

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Secretary-General’s address to 37th Session of the Governing Board https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/speech/secretary-generals-address-37th-session-governing-board/ Mon, 16 Jul 2018 14:49:44 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?post_type=speech&p=46651 Distinguished members of the Board, Earlier this year I participated in the World Economic Forum and the theme was ‘Creating a shared future in a fractured world’. The assumption is that indeed our world is fractured, and is calling for peace, unity, solidarity, care and support. It is calling for healing, trust, respect and the […]

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Distinguished members of the Board,

Earlier this year I participated in the World Economic Forum and the theme was ‘Creating a shared future in a fractured world’.

The assumption is that indeed our world is fractured, and is calling for peace, unity, solidarity, care and support. It is calling for healing, trust, respect and the protection of human dignity.

That call is echoed at the international level among countries, at the regional level on our respective continents, at the country level among communities, and, not the least, in our midst, among people.

People: that’s where we always start and come back to. As the Charter of the United Nations put it, not ‘We, the nations’ but ‘We, the people’.

People, like the 10,000 people who united in white and red, united in friendship and solidarity, walking through Solferino and Castiglione, with faces enlightened by a flame, a flame of hope, a flame of humanity.

Exactly what we need in this fractured world to create a shared future, a better future, our own future.

I come to this Board, still inspired by the spirit of Solferino and a sense of pride and privilege to be part of you, the rainbow community of carers that was marching over the weekend.

In my remarks to you today, I’d like to reflect on this in terms of how we can be, are, and should be involved in healing this fractured world.

In attempting to do that, I will not refer directly to my written report for the period July to December 2017, which you have already received. I will occasionally draw from it, but I hope that it stands alone.

It houses a Summary Section I, a tabular Section II reporting progress on our four Strategies for Implementation and eight Areas of Focus that the Board agreed and approved, and a detailed financial performance report in Section III.

But today let’s ask ourselves some searching questions about our Federation and our role in healing the fractured world.

And in particular, today I would like to examine a bit deeper the topic of Disease, one of the three Ds that I often touch on: Disaster, Disease, Displacement. I will examine health as an element of every humanitarian emergency response; and health as an emergency in itself.

***

Last week UNHCR told us that there are now a record 68.2 million displaced people in the world – which means that 1 in 110 people in this world leave home because it is not a safe place to be.

The World Meteorological Organization now charts some 400 extreme weather events a year, five times more than the annual figure for 50 years ago. All the predictions tell us that we could soon see more than 140 million people displaced as a result of the slow onset impacts of climate change, water scarcity, crop failure, sea-level rise and storm surges.

That’s why my written report on the second half of 2017 duly described the worst floods in a century in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, and some of the worst hurricanes in living memory in Central America, the Caribbean and the United States of America. It charted famine in East Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula, with serious disease and health challenges, including one million cases of cholera in Yemen and Somalia.

2018 has seen no let up, with major earthquakes or volcanic eruptions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Vanuatu; severe floods in Argentina, Burundi, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania; tropical cyclones in Fiji, Madagascar, Mauritius, Philippines, Reunion, Tonga.

Many of these have not made the headlines. Some of them are really forgotten crises and don’t make global news.

Some of the most visible of the newly displaced are the 350,000 children who, with their parents, had to flee Myanmar and are now in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh where the host community, government and National Society are deploying heroic efforts to support them the best they can.

The smaller numbers of the displaced are no less tragic in their reality. Two weeks ago, I witnessed the arrival of 630 migrants in Spain. The sad odyssey of The Aquarius ended in Valencia on Sunday 17 June.

So much went right that day: with the Spanish Red Cross volunteers on the front line welcoming, when others were rejecting. Showing humanity, care and support. But so much also seemed so wrong that day: why should these largely young men be fleeing their own countries which are not at war? Where were the voices of the countries of origin? Where were the voices and initiatives of the National Societies in the countries of origin, before we even talk about the points of arrival? Who is telling them, in their countries of origin, just what migration actually means, so that they do not fall prey to the traffickers and smugglers who are making a criminal business out of their desperation? Some face real persecution at home and they qualify to be supported along the journey, but most do not and they are mis-led.

More needs to be done in the countries of origin and across the continuum.

The countries of destination are being challenged, and rightly so but unless we work all across the continuum, we will not do true service to our presence right across that continuum.

And yet so much seemed right – in the hope and determination of those who got off those three boats, and in the humanity and hospitality with which they were received. Again, thank you Spanish Red Cross. While we were concentrating on Valencia, there were hundreds also arriving in elsewhere. There were also thousands arriving in Lampedusa, Catania and many other places.

Addressing the fear and anxiety of host communities is something that we should not lose sight of. Some communities reject out of fear. Sometimes they close up because they are overwhelmed. Sometimes they are misled by populist politicians. They are also part of our own communities and we should pay attention to them. We should not exclude, stigmatise and judge them with strong words because they are not acting the way we do and they are not engaging at our level. When we do that, we alienate them and instead of them being with us, they turn against us. They are part of our communities and our Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and we should accompany them when we are facing all those challenges.

***

First and foremost, our ‘reason for being’ in the IFRC is to strengthen the capacity of you, our Member National Societies to respond to the challenges faced by people in our respective communities.

Working alongside the Swiss government, we in the Federation are tasked to lead the worldwide quest for ‘localisation’, under the Grand Bargain. Last week we attended the second Grand Bargain Annual Meeting in New York, and there we saw mixed progress.

In part, the Bargain is about channelling new funding to local actors. But in larger part, the Bargain is simply about recognising, respecting and empowering local actors, because it is they who are best placed to serve their own communities.

I have reported on our continuing progress in achieving OCAC (Organizational Capacity Assessment and Certification) as part of the strengthening of local capacities of local actors. Over 100 National Societies are well advanced on this process.

A new and key element in building and strengthening of National Societies is the National Society Investment Alliance – a joint funding and joint operational exercise between the IFRC and the ICRC, which was agreed in Antalya last year. I am pleased to update you that the Alliance formally launches as from next month, with staff and initial funding at the ready, provided by the US and Swiss Governments.

Thus far we have in the order of 1.5 million Swiss francs, and when we have raised double that, we can start launching projects that will benefit the National Societies.

The health and strength of our individual National Societies is our collective concern: we are as strong as our weakest link. This is why today I would like to raise a concern which has troubled us for some time and which came up – again – in the Everyone Counts report.

The most disturbing finding of that report was that our volunteer numbers may have slipped from our previous estimation of 17 million a few years ago to something nearer 12 million now.

Some of you have shared your concerns with me about declining Red Cross Red Crescent volunteer numbers, which may be related to many issues that we need to reflect on and analyse further. How do we explain this?

In part because earlier figures were estimates and they are now more accurate: that is progress.

84 of our National Societies saw an increase in volunteer numbers in 2015-2016, and 100 saw numbers stagnate or drop. Why?

We sense that it might be related to leadership. It might be related to relevance of National Societies in their domestic setting. It might be related to some challenges as they relate to fraud and corruption. It might also be related to the number of local branches that may or may not exist. All of that may be giving us an indication of the issues that we need to look into to gain a better understanding of what we are really dealing with.

We need to assess our own definition of volunteering; the benchmark against which we qualify people who are serving with us, be it all the time or only during times of disaster; and the number of hours or days that make them qualify. If we get clarity on this, we can develop a common base that will help us better capture the numbers and understand what would be the driving forces for the increase in the number of our volunteers.

We also hope that these questions will be part of our discussions on the Strategy 2030 process.

It reminds us that it is also important to reinforce some of the initiatives we have taken so far, like the Volunteer Charter that we agreed upon in Antalya in November, defining both the rights and the responsibilities of our volunteers.

It’s our obligation to protect them, in the face of continuing abuses of International Humanitarian Law and the shrinking of the humanitarian space, which saw 37 staff and volunteers killed in the line of duty last year. Unfortunately, we realized that the number of insured volunteers is declining. Also declining is the number of National Societies subscribing to that insurance scheme at the amount of $1.50 per volunteer. These are all indications that we need to put into strong practice the commitments that we are making.

One of the most graphic statistics of last year was revealed by the same Everyone Counts report, which showed that there were over 800 recorded partnerships – financial and operational – between our National Societies in 2016, as givers and receivers of support. This is a powerful testimony to our global solidarity in compassion.

On disaster, in 2018, I would like to point to just one important development in disaster management.

It’s the launch of a Forecast Based Action window in the DREF. Forecast based financing and action is a great example of innovation, of true disaster preparedness, and of mobilising National Society and Government support. We have learnt particularly when it comes to shocks and hazards, those regions that are prone to natural disasters, year in and year out, and yet we go in with the same interventions, leaving communities and National Societies at the same level of vulnerability, and when we return to respond to the same disaster, we start from the same baseline where we started before.

Going in every time and finding a greater number of people in need may not be the best sign of success. We need to reflect and see what we can do to prevent the shocks from becoming disasters. On the other hand, when we intervene, we should not leave communities at the same level of vulnerability. This is what forecast based financing will contribute to.

I would like to thank the governments that have supported us from the beginning, especially Germany, and the 14 National Societies which are now using it: this is a very exciting start.

***

We continue to contribute in healing the fractured world through our engagement in the global humanitarian agenda.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – signed in the UN in July last year – represents an advance of existential value.

Our ongoing contributions to the two UN Global Compacts on Migrants and Refugees is shaping that agenda. We are one of the key actors who will be holding very important side events when they are signed in New York. We are very pleased that our President will be there to represent us, alongside the two facilitators and a number of member states.

The Federation’s work on International Disaster Response Law has reached the national statute books of 40 countries. We were proud to mark IDRL’s 10th anniversary at the end of last year.

***

To achieve all this, the International Federation needs to be run in a way that empowers, that allows growth from the strongest of roots and the firmest of foundations, and indeed which heals where necessary.

Let me briefly mention the way we manage this Secretariat and its precious human and financial resources.

Section III of my report charts our financial progress over the last year.

2017 was another financially healthy year for the IFRC.

Voluntary contributions from donors increased by nearly 8% to 263 million Swiss francs, and our year-end Regular Resource working capital was 6 million Swiss francs above target, leaving sufficient room for the capital investment we hope to do. We also carried forward 189 million Swiss francs for programming in future years.

Our financial principles are as simple as they are strong: we never spend money we have not received. But we still face major challenges. Here are some.

First, our appeals and programmes are needs-based, but they are underfunded. Some are overfunded; more are underfunded. We see ‘geopolitical localization’ determining the contribution to crises, which leaves orphaned crises – and this is why we need flexible funding to cover the forgotten crises which don’t attract the same level of attention and solidarity.

Second, over 80% of our voluntary contributions remain tightly earmarked. The Grand Bargain set an objective of 30% un-earmarked funding for humanitarian organizations, and thus far we only manage 17%. This earmarked income creates other obstacles, like the production of over 2,200 additional reports to donors every year. The majority are written for our own members.

Andrew Rizk will tell you much more about our finances later this afternoon.

Just a reminder of something very simple – we have regular resources and other resources. The most important regular resources are our statutory contributions … but they are not paid. The other ones are the additional unearmarked voluntary contributions that we successfully raise – and the rest is 83 per cent of the budget in tightly earmarked funds which is coming from our appeals to our donors for our National Societies.

Closely linked to the issue of our financial performance is our fraud and corruption work, and our new ‘triple line of defence’ (at management, oversight and field level) coupled with extensive staff training, which has already rolled out amongst 1000 of our staff across the Federation.

***

Our human resources are ultimately as valuable as our financial resources. We seek to make this Secretariat not just a safe but also a satisfying place to work.

Gender equality is key to achieving that. I made it clear in the report how we have achieved gender parity among our Directors – there are now more women than men. We still have a long way to go to make sure that parity is achieved across all staff. The picture is mixed, and you have all the details, looking at the different grades and the regions across the Federation.

Meanwhile the wider humanitarian sector of which we are a part has been the subject of very public stories of sexual harassment and exploitation. These are unacceptable within our organizations, and haunt our conscience when the victims are the very people whom we are supposed to serve.

We are working closely with the Inter Agency Standing Committee and other agencies – especially regarding the screening of candidates, and verification procedures – and with the ICRC on a common approach with a joint working group.

I have kept you fully informed of our zero tolerance policy, of our commitment to review historical cases in this Secretariat, and of our staff Codes of Conduct and Safecall hotline for reporting abuse. We recently launched our new policy for the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and its accompanying action plan.

The next step is for the Federation to work with its own National Societies so that together they develop their own Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse policies. We will discuss this most important of issues with you in a separate session tomorrow.

I would like to thank you to Kate Forbes from the Audit and Risk Committee and our President for their leadership and support on this.

Safeguarding our staff takes many forms. For instance, we have worked very hard to ensure that 100% of our field premises have achieved the Minimum Security Requirements we request.

And in all this, we need to be held accountable. That’s why the written report details our new Key Performance Indicators on internal management issues, and how we are faring on meeting them.

They cover important issues of process (such as time taken to launch Emergency Appeals or DREFs), financial issues (such as levels of expenditure – and risk – against available budget, levels of reimbursement of unused funds), management support issues (recruitment, contract, report and audit recommendation processing times). All of these are being very closely monitored and refined, and we would like to share them with you on a regular basis.

***

One of my tasks to which I alluded today is to look closer at D for ‘Disease’, and wider health. If we contribute to solving this, we will bring so much of the healing of the world to which we aspire.

The health of nations is hopelessly unequal. In some parts of the world we face an escalating crisis of obesity; in others, famine, and children who are underweight or stunted. 20,000 children die every day from preventable and treatable diseases as simple as diarrhoea, malaria and measles, and 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. It’s totally unacceptable. And every day, a billion people don’t have access to safe water; and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation.

If we’re looking for a crisis, we’re in the middle of one.

Yes, there is good news on health on a global level, and very real improvements in global health indicators. But from our humanitarian point of view, the picture is less positive.

If we took a map of our humanitarian crises and another one of our health crises, the pictures would more or less be the same.

So you see 1 million cases of cholera in Yemen.
You see yellow fever in DRC and Angola – the one single outbreak in DRC almost exhausted the whole world’s supply of the vaccine.
You see Ebola – as we saw it in West Africa and as we’re now responding to it in the DRC.

And we also have health as an emergency itself. Last year, as my written report explains, we saw a continuation in the frequency and spread of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, epidemics and pandemics.

So in 2017 we battled cholera, we even battled plague in Madagascar, and we have fought SARS, H1N1, Zika, Nile fever, Lassa fever, Dengue, chikungunya, Marburg … Neglected diseases for neglected people. So we have to address this where it happens, starts and ends, at the community level.

That’s where we must meet them, and one way to do that is through Universal Health Coverage, or UHC – one of the moral imperatives of our times.

The IFRC has a big role to play here, because we are present everywhere and WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom called on us very publicly, at the World Health Assembly a month ago.

As he recognized, our millions of volunteers, many are community health workers. They are from the communities they serve. They reach the last mile – the most vulnerable people, the hardest to reach. They turn the last mile into the first mile.

These diseases may seem very far from us in exotic places, but none of us are safe until all of us are safe in this globalized world in which diseases travel at such speed.

Achieving universal healthcare and pandemic preparedness are ultimately shared and global enterprises. A big element of pandemic preparedness has to be reporting to each other and being held accountable – from Governments and Ministries of Health, to the WHO, to communities. That’s why we are pleased to be co-chair of a new Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, along with Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway.

The Everyone Counts report reveals very powerful facts: we reached more than 171 million people worldwide with health services in 2016, and 10 million people with related water and sanitation services. That is 171 million instances of healing in a fractured world.

This is all part of what only the Red Cross and Red Crescent can do – being there as part of its communities, before, during and after the shocks. That long term presence is so critical, because in the middle of a crisis you often can’t build the partnerships which are needed to build trust and resilience.

***

A lot have we achieved together; but more, better, faster we can do!

The scale and magnitude of human suffering and humanitarian needs force us to be humble, and call for more care and support.

None of our achievements would have been possible without your help and support, and I would like to thank you, and through you, all our members for their invaluable help and support.

But we need your help and support more than ever before.
Help us pay the statutory contributions (over 100 members still have not yet paid – so at least we have the credibility to approach others for funding).
Help us with ideas and guidance.
Help us in expertise to put our shared leadership vision into practice.
Help us create a safe, respectful and enabling environment for partnerships and collaborations.
Help us by challenging us and criticizing us constructively, and making this Board the legitimate forum to find solutions to the problems we face.

And I commit to deliver, to meet and where possible, exceed your expectations. I also stand to be held accountable, and hopefully rewarded for what we achieve, but if not, sanctioned.

Thank you very much.

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Supporting the future of Syria and the region https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/speech/supporting-future-syria-region/ Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:16:41 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?post_type=speech&p=44443 Thank you for the floor, and thank you to our hosts the European Union and to the United Nations for organizing this important conference, and for all that they are doing on the ground in Syria. Colleagues, I confess I am weary at saying the same things to you as I said here almost exactly […]

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Thank you for the floor, and thank you to our hosts the European Union and to the United Nations for organizing this important conference, and for all that they are doing on the ground in Syria.

Colleagues, I confess I am weary at saying the same things to you as I said here almost exactly a year ago, on 5 April 2017.

But my weariness is nothing compared to the weariness of the people of Syria, which I encounter in the daily exercise of my work in the country.

“Help us. Help this fighting to stop. Help us return to lead our normal, decent, dignified lives.”

We were quite moved by Fahra’s message here this morning. There are also a series of video messages that our Red Crescent volunteers recorded in Syria just last week. We in this conference should take good note of them.

They provide extraordinarily eloquent testimony to human decency and resilience in the face of appalling suffering. They call for more help – and they show the results of the help we have given.

Because for all the continued suffering in Syria, the fact is that there are signs of hope in that country.

It’s why the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in support of our dedicated colleagues from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, along with other member National Societies, and standing proudly alongside our colleagues from the International Committee of the Red Cross, are increasingly providing longer-term recovery support – above all in building health services, giving vocational training, and supporting livelihoods projects.

Today – as last year – we make a passionate plea for your help for the one national humanitarian organization in Syria: the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, or SARC as we all know it, a prominent member of the IFRC.

It’s the Syrian organization through which the vast majority of national and international humanitarian support is channelled. SARC supported no less than 5.5 million Syrians, a quarter of the population, in 2017, including in the last month to people displaced from Eastern Ghouta and Afrin.

SARC is the organization that walks what is called ‘the last mile’ – and what we call ‘the first mile’ – to reach the most vulnerable and remote people. It’s working around the clock to provide life-saving food and non-food relief, health services and emergency evaluations, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene.

Meanwhile one million Syrians received consultations in SARC medical facilities last year, and four in five Syrians benefited from SARC’s water projects.

So what is special about SARC? First and foremost, its volunteers: more than 7000 ordinary Syrians who just want to help other ordinary Syrians, whoever they are and wherever they are.

They do so at real risk of their lives – no less than 65 volunteers and staff have lost their lives since this war began.

We are asking you, our partners, to invest more significantly in strengthening the capacity of those on the ground, especially SARC and the other Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in the region who – as well – are opening up their hearts and homes to those in need.

We need your help.

Help for recovery work …

Help for restoring the dignity and pride which will put the country back on its feet …

Thank you.

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Pacific communities at the forefront of local action and adaption https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2018/04/20/pacific-communities-forefront-local-action-adaption/ Fri, 20 Apr 2018 03:27:19 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=44187 By Hanna Butler / IFRC The 191st pin on the Red Cross Red Crescent world map is set to be for the Marshall Islands Red Cross, which is on track to becoming the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) newest National Society, after the first visit from the Secretary General of […]

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By Hanna Butler / IFRC

The 191st pin on the Red Cross Red Crescent world map is set to be for the Marshall Islands Red Cross, which is on track to becoming the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) newest National Society, after the first visit from the Secretary General of the IFRC.  Elhadj As Sy visited the islands from 15 to 21 March 2018.

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is home to 50,000 people, across 29 coral atolls and more than 1,150 islands and islets.

Like many Pacific islands, the Marshall Islands are living with the reality of a changing climate, with more frequent weather events – storms, floods and droughts threatening its communities.

“These threats, along with other social and health challenges facing the islands are what drives it to gain official Red Cross recognition,” says Jack Niedenthal Secretary General of Marshall Islands Red Cross.

“We are already active as a local Red Cross, but official admission will help expand our scope, especially during disasters, and give us a greater voice on international forums.  This will, in turn, help us to help our communities more.”

Mr Sy visited Jenrok, a seaside neighbourhood on the main island of Majuro, which has the impacts of climate change on its doorstep, with king tides, floods, storm surges and a rising sea lapping at homes and livelihoods.

The preparedness work which the Jenrok disaster committee and Red Cross have embarked on, Niedenthal says, has paid off, with every household knowing what to do in an emergency.

“When people hear three rings of the bell, they know to get their essential items together quickly and to evacuate to the high school, which is the highest and strongest building in the community,” he says.

For the IFRC Secretary General, the visit to Jenrok showed the reality of life for many Pacific Islanders.

“It’s widely known that the Pacific is at the forefront of changes to our climate – in terms of impact and action. Here in Jenrok, I can see it for myself. But what I also see is the strength of this community, their community action and resilience. It also shows why Marshall Islands have been so committed and proactive in forming their National Society. They are a small society, but one facing significant and urgent challenges,” says Mr Sy.

While Marshall Islands Red Cross will be one of the newest Red Cross National Societies, they are already a local leader in first aid, with a plan, according to Niedenthal, to have a first aid trained person in every household of the islands.

“Here in the Marshall Islands, our communities live across vast and remote islands where healthcare can be hard to access, so ensuring local people who are the first responders to any emergency are first aid trained is vital,” says Niedenthal.

By boat, Mr Sy headed to Rongrong Island where 24 high school students were completing a first aid and emergency response training, becoming the latest recruits to Marshall Islands’ 300-strong volunteer family.

“First aid is part of our Red Cross DNA.  It doesn’t matter where in the world, first aid empowers people as first responders and is an essential element for building safe and resilient communities. Especially here, where the nearest hospital is at least a boat ride away, these young people can save lives.”

While boat is the common local means of transport in the Pacific, a flight a across the huge Pacific Ocean brought Mr Sy to Fiji, home to the Fiji Red Cross.

In Fiji, Mr Sy visited Narocake village, where Fiji Red Cross and the community have built a raised concrete footpath to connect the low-lying flood-prone village with the main road, providing a safe evacuation route during flooding.

Initiatives like this are just one of the ways Fiji Red Cross works in partnership with communities to better prepare and respond to disasters. Mr Sy commended Fiji Red Cross for their work, particularly their response to Cyclone Winston which hit the country two years ago, impacting more than 80 per cent of the population.

The 14 pins on the globe representing the Red Cross Societies in the Pacific show how remote and isolated the region is, and how significant a visit from the Secretary General is.

“It is fairly rare for the Marshall Islands to get such a high-ranking official from any organization, so Mr Sy’s visit was important and much appreciated by our entire organization and by the entire country,” says Niedenthal.

The Marshall Islands Red Cross is scheduled to receive official admission to the IFRC at the next General Assembly in 2019.

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FIFA Conference for Equality & Inclusion 2018 – ‘Pass it on: Hope through football’ https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/speech/fifa-conference-equality-inclusion-2018-pass-hope-football/ Mon, 05 Mar 2018 09:15:58 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?post_type=speech&p=42604 The bonds brought about by The Beautiful Game Mr President, Madame Secretary-General, chère Fatma, dear friends, thank you for this invitation to join you today at your fourth FIFA Conference for Equality & Inclusion. On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I am truly delighted to be here. Preparing […]

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The bonds brought about by The Beautiful Game

Mr President, Madame Secretary-General, chère Fatma, dear friends, thank you for this invitation to join you today at your fourth FIFA Conference for Equality & Inclusion.

On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I am truly delighted to be here.

Preparing for this address, part of me said: ‘just talk about football – The Beautiful Game, the global game, the ‘shared language’.  Talk about the magic, the fun, and the incredible things that can happen… the bonding …. when you simply throw a ball into a crowd’.

Another part of me advised that I must go far beyond that, to look at gender, race, human rights, children’s rights and safety, health and safety, the poor, the vulnerable, the excluded, and so much more.

I think both were right, but I will certainly start with that shared magic which is the foundation of all the big ideas we will share today….

… and because I know that if I suddenly launched a ball among us right now, in this audience … there would heading and passing … and laughter, fun.

Football, we know, is as much of a bond between men and women, boys and girls, rich people and poor, people of every colour and creed, people in cold countries and warm, as almost anything on earth.

Go anywhere in the world and you will see someone wearing a Premier League or a Bundesliga or a Senegalese National team shirt, and you can strike up a conversation with that person.  There is a reason that so many people turn first to the back pages of newspapers, where the sport often is, and not the front.  And there is a reason, too, why football is so often on the front.

We have seen this graphically illustrated recently at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, with sport providing the platform for the cautious embrace between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The cheerleaders, the shared ice hockey teams: all have made global headlines on the first and last pages of our newspapers.  Sport breaks barriers; sport brings people together.

I’m told that during the height of the conflict in Sri Lanka, there would be times of an ‘unofficial truce’ between the Tamil Tigers and government forces as they watched Sri Lanka play cricket.  This is the power of sport.

Everyone has a story or an opinion about the power of football to bring people together.

Some will always recall the ‘pipes of peace’, and British and German troops playing football in No Man’s Land in Saint-Yvon, near Ypres, on Christmas Day in 1914.

Others tell more recent stories, and FIFA Communications Manager Honey Thaljieh could no doubt speak for hours on the work that organisations like Football4Peace do to build bridges between footballers in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories.

At the core, we are simply bonding over our shared humanity.  Football – sport – unlocks that.

And what – beyond a ball, and two goals, and a group of people having fun – is this bond of football about?  Of course, it is about your two key words in this conference: equality and inclusion.

Equality and inclusion – in the Red Cross and Red Crescent too

Those two words are also at the core of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.  They are inextricably linked with two of the principles which have defined the world’s largest humanitarian network since its founder, Henri Dunant, organised thousands of local women as volunteers to tend to the dead and the dying at the Battle of Solferino in Lombardy in 1859.

The two key Red Cross Red Crescent words are ‘Humanity’ and ‘Unity’.  Both – in their own ways – say ‘equality’ and ‘inclusion’.

We are one Humanity. We are a diverse humanity, a rainbow community as Nelson Mandela put it, and our world calls us to be inclusive.  And central to the idea of humanity is the goal of unity.  Just as all come together for the same team and the same flag on the football pitch, so do we all have to come together in the pursuit of a better world.

It is the world of our commonly shared Sustainable Development Goals: a world free of poverty; a world of opportunity; and a world which preserves what matters most to people: their dignity.

We in the Red Cross Red Crescent put these principles into practice each and every day, largely though the work of our 191 National Societies and their 14 million mostly young volunteers.  These people willingly giving of their own time to serve their own communities in whatever way they can.

They may be helping the elderly and homeless during the severe cold period we are facing now in Europe … or they may be risking their very lives bringing much needed supplies and aid to those affected by conflict in Goutha, Syria.

Today and every day, and all over the world, they are helping people in need.  The Red Cross Red Crescent is there before, during and after disasters, shocks and hazards, and always there on the side of people in need.

We leave no one behind; we reach the hardest to reach and the most vulnerable; we walk the last mile.  You are certainly very familiar with these concepts, chère Fatma, as you championed them in many parts of the world as a Senior UN Civil Servant.

So friends, let me now explore where our worlds overlap: your world of football and sport, and mine of humanitarianism and its twin development.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent and football – the story so far

So what do we in the Red Cross and Red Crescent do in the realms of what the international organisations call ‘SDP’, or ‘Sport for Development and Peace’?

You are no doubt well aware of the great work of some of our partners – UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, and more.  But what about the Red Cross Red Crescent?

Our work in SDP sits under the banner of ‘promoting social inclusion, and a culture of non-violence and peace’.  It also sits under another banner: Education.  Education both in humanitarian settings, and – a personal passion of mine – education about humanitarian values.

All this ties in with our collective belief that sport, and especially football, can teach values such as fairness, teambuilding, equality, discipline, inclusion, perseverance and respect.  Sport teaches universal values, and responsible citizenship – inside and outside the ground, and as much to players and supporters.

Some of the qualities that we learn on the field of play are transferrable to a bigger and often even more hostile playing field: the playing field of life.

Almost all of our Red Cross Red Crescent work on these two playing fields – those of football, and of life – is carried out through our National Societies.

So, for instance ….

I call to mind the work of the Spanish Red Cross and FC Barcelona in launching a campaign to help refugees integrate into Spanish society.

And the Jamaican Red Cross, supporting football as way of ending violence.

Or the Latin American National Societies – in Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama – which have run an advocacy campaign called ‘Friendly stadiums’, which aims to prevent violence in and around football grounds.

Or the Danish Red Cross, which runs its sport for integration programmes in family refugee camps in South Sudan, and in asylum centres in Denmark.

Some of my favourite examples are ….

… the way the Hellenic Red Cross uses football to bring together local residents and migrants at the Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesvos ….

… and how the Serbian Red Cross sets up football training and a makeshift gym at the Pirot migrant centre at the Bulgarian border.

A story that really speaks to me is how the British Red Cross has supported a team called Plymouth Hope FC – a team of refugees, asylum seekers and others who are vulnerable and marginalised in that city in the south-west of England.

It’s the brainchild of a young Guinean and an asylum seeker, David Feindouno, and here I quote him:

“We started by thinking, ‘What’s our purpose, our vision? People come to play football – but they also come to make friends and integrate into society. They hope to be accepted.  We all have hope. …..

….. I didn’t know I’d stay in the UK. A lot of people in the team don’t know if they’ll be deported. Everyone has the hope that the government will listen to their plea. ‘Hope’ means a lot to me, as a word. That’s why we’re called Plymouth Hope FC.”

The Red Cross and Red Crescent and football – where next? 

Our task in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is to take our SDP work up a gear, and make it systematic.

Two examples of our work can hint at how the future might be.

The first is a programme called ‘Moving Together’, set up by our Red Cross Red Crescent Reference Centre for psychosocial support, in Copenhagen. It’s a handbook for experts in sociology, psychology, social work, sport and physical education, to help them deliver psychosocial support programmes in crisis situations.

The second is a programme in what you might think an unlikely place. The Myanmar Red Cross works with Football United and the Asian Football Development Program to get its local branches and their youth volunteers to use sport for development, sport for health, and sport for education.

So we want to go up several gears in the Federation and across all our 191 National Societies, and make this common practice.  We want to do so in three main ways.

The first is by making SPD part and parcel of every National Society’s work.  Here’s one example of what that might mean in practice.

IFRC could develop the concept of a ‘sports delegate’.  Just like we send a ‘health delegate’ into any crisis or humanitarian situation, we want to send a sports delegate.  That means a trained individual with professional experience of using sports for development – or for peace, or for community work – who could be deployed within a humanitarian setting.

Imagine a sports delegate in a place like Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where nearly 380,000 kids have fled Rakhine State in Myanmar, and are living miserably in camps. Just how much could that person achieve in young refugees’ hearts and minds, by encouraging them to do things with their feet?  I have been there myself and seen it – these children are having their childhoods stolen. We can help restore their childhood, and sow the seeds of a happy and responsible adulthood.

The second way is through being advocates for the role of sport and football, not least in using the auxiliary Governmental status of National Societies to work on national Sport for Development and Peace policies and strategies.

The third is through capacity building to equip our National Societies and volunteers with the right tools and skills to work on Sport for Development and Peace.

So where do we go from here?  Can FIFA support the Red World Cup in Qatar 2022?

I know that you too, in FIFA, are also stepping up your activities in the area of sports for development and peace.

I know that you in FIFA are already doing brilliant things, and you will no doubt explore them further over these next few days.  I am also well aware of how you are going well beyond ‘just’ Sport for Development and Peace, and looking at all the implications of the game of football.

I hear about the work of your Human Rights Advisory Board. I know how you have embraced the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and asked its author John Ruggie, along with Rachel Davis, to examine in detail and in practical terms how they applied specifically to you.

It’s clear that you are looking very closely at every aspect of the game of football and, very importantly, the way in which it interacts with the world around it.  You are now starting systematically to look at the social impact of every facet of the game, on and off the pitch, working with your 200+ member Football Associations.

I learned you are also involved with the newly launched Centre for Human Rights and Sports, in Geneva.

And there may be other areas where FIFA and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement can partner, including in the Qatar 2022 World Cup where we already have a concrete proposal.

In the ruins of Qoms and Aleppo, in the rubbles of Kathmandu and Haiti after the earthquakes, in the mud of Cox’s Bazar after the floods, in the favellas of Rio, in Zatori refugee camp under the Sahelian sun, we work and we see smiles on the faces of many children running after a football, as if running for hope, as if they are running for dignity. They run to score a goal on the pitch, as they run to achieve a goal in life. So let’s accompany them.

So my message today is that we collectively need to build on the magic, and to plan and partner and monitor and ensure what happens.

Because football is a great global good.  It is one of the very special things – in a very fractured world – that can bring people together, take some of the most vulnerable and excluded people out of the margins and bring them into our societies.   Let’s take our collective commitment and experience, and – in your own words in the title of this conference – ‘pass it on’

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Markku Niskala, former Secretary General of the IFRC https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2018/02/27/42414/ Tue, 27 Feb 2018 07:20:34 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=42414 The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies deeply mourns the loss of its friend and former leader, Markku Niskala from Finland. 

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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies deeply mourns the loss of its friend and former leader, Markku Niskala from Finland.

“Markku was a great humanitarian and an inspiring leader,” said current Secretary General Elhadj As Sy. “It was a proud moment in 2008 when the IFRC made him an Emeritus Secretary General. We honour his commitment to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – in Finland, in Africa, and worldwide.”

Markku Niskala was a moving force behind the “Federation of the Future” process which continues to inform much of the IFRC thinking and planning.  He engendered a strong sense of collective belonging across the IFRC membership, and oversaw the entry of several new members of the IFRC, most memorably in 2006, the welcoming of the Magen David Adom of Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society into the Federation.  This was a real demonstration to the entire world of the power of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Fundamental Principles to unite people in the cause of human dignity.

He led important initiatives in combating HIV-AIDS, promoting disaster risk reduction, and providing emergency shelter in disaster situations.  He made  the  IFRC Global Programme for Africa happen, and important initiatives in humanitarian diplomacy, such as the adoption of the definition of the auxiliary role during the International Conference in 2007. But, from an operational point of view, perhaps he is most remembered for his leadership tackling the big challenges the IFRC and the National Societies faced triggered by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2005.

Markku gave 48 years of dedicated and distinguished service to the IFRC. He was Secretary General from 2003 to 2008 and Emeritus Secretary General from 2008 until his passing on 21 February 2018. He will be remembered by all who met him as a truly great humanitarian.

For any external partners and colleagues who would like to send messages, a dedicated email address has been created: memorialbook@ifrc.org.  All messages will be collated in the memorial book which will then be shared with Markku’s family.

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IFRC Governing Board commits to ‘highest standards of integrity’ at Geneva meeting https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2018/02/01/ifrc-governing-board-commits-highest-standards-integrity-geneva-meeting/ Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:35:00 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=41583 The new Governing Board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, elected last year at the General Assembly in Antalya in November, met for the first time in Geneva on 31 January 2018.

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The new Governing Board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, elected last year at the General Assembly in Antalya in November, met for the first time in Geneva on 31 January 2018.

The meeting began with the signing the IFRC Code of Conduct for Governing Board Members.  Each Board member committed to observe the seven Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality) and agreed to abide by the IFRC’s Constitution and its Rules of Procedure.

The Code of Conduct sets standards of integrity and respect for all persons. It also stresses that Board members must abstain from all acts which could be considered as harassment, abuse, discrimination or exploitation.

Speaking after the signing event, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “I am honoured to preside over the governance of this Federation, as we continue to strengthen its strategies, policies and practices in meeting ever greater humanitarian needs.  We will hold it, and ourselves, to the highest standards, in the service of those who need us most.  In all that we do, we will be mindful of the hundreds of millions of people whom we serve, and of the millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers worldwide who give of their time and energy to make our vision reality. This Board knows its pivotal place in overseeing the work of the world’s largest humanitarian organization.”

IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy added: “The IFRC has a proud history of almost 100 years in the service of humankind, and it enjoys the trust of millions.  We must absolutely preserve that trust with the highest standards of integrity, supporting and protecting all who work for us and everyone we serve.  Our new Board will lead by example in achieving governance excellence and high standards.  We are delighted that the new Board is indeed ‘on board’ “.

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World Economic Forum: Pandemic preparedness in a divided world https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2018/01/30/world-economic-forum-pandemic-preparedness-divided-world/ Tue, 30 Jan 2018 13:23:39 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=41406 The 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.

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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.”

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IFRC Secretary General announces dramatic expansion of Red Cross Red Crescent relief operation in Cox’s Bazar https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/press-release/ifrc-secretary-general-announces-dramatic-expansion-red-cross-red-crescent-relief-operation-coxs-bazar/ Thu, 26 Oct 2017 13:01:52 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?post_type=press-release&p=38786 Cox’s Bazar/Geneva, 26 October 2017— The Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has made an impassioned plea for more support for people fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Speaking at the end of a visit to Cox’s Bazar and the surrounding camps that are now home to […]

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Cox’s Bazar/Geneva, 26 October 2017— The Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has made an impassioned plea for more support for people fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Speaking at the end of a visit to Cox’s Bazar and the surrounding camps that are now home to more than 600,000 people, Secretary General Elhadj As Sy said:

“In our work, we are confronted with many situations of suffering. But what I have seen over the past two days has been deeply unsettling. The needs here are enormous. People are arriving hungry, frightened and exhausted,” said Mr Sy

“What particularly struck me was that this is in many ways a crisis of children. There are 300,000 children living here in these camps. They are losing their childhood. There are children carrying younger ones around, children carting sacks of rice and bamboo, they are not able to simply be what they are – children.”

Mr Sy visited an IFRC field hospital that has been set up near two of the biggest camps. The 60-bed facility has an operating room, delivery suite, intensive care unit, three wards, a laboratory and an isolation unit. It is staffed by Bangladesh Red Crescent doctors and nurses, with the support of 30 international medical staff.

While there, Mr Sy met with some of the patients, including a baby boy whose leg was broken when his mother dropped him while fleeing Myanmar.

He also visited the Bangladesh-Myanmar border where people are still arriving in their hundreds on a daily basis.

We desperately need a solution to the issues that are forcing people to flee their homes. But until then, we will continue to do all we can to support as many people as we can reach, to help them recover their dignity,” he said.

Mr Sy announced a dramatic increase in the IFRC’s emergency appeal for the Bangladesh operation, with the global humanitarian network now seeking more than 33.5 million Swiss francs to provide a range of support to 200,000 people. This represents a nearly three-fold increase from 12.7 million Swiss francs.

How we support these people in the coming weeks and months will speak directly to who we are as an international community. The amount we need is high, but the cost of not responding appropriately will be much higher, from both a financial and moral perspective,” Mr Sy said.

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Statement at Bangladesh/Myanmar Pledging Conference https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/speech/statement-bangladeshmyanmar-pledging-conference/ Tue, 24 Oct 2017 12:50:42 +0000 http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?post_type=speech&p=38737 The stories from the hundreds of thousands of displaced people that have arrived over the last two months challenge even the most hardened of our teams. This is a deeply harrowing situation, and a situation of raw desperation, and one that I will witness myself on Wednesday. I am told by my team on the […]

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The stories from the hundreds of thousands of displaced people that have arrived over the last two months challenge even the most hardened of our teams. This is a deeply harrowing situation, and a situation of raw desperation, and one that I will witness myself on Wednesday. I am told by my team on the ground that I am in for a huge, deep shock.

I am honoured to speak on behalf of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Local actors such as the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, auxiliary to the Government of Bangladesh, do not get to pick and choose which disasters or crises they respond to. They are always there, on the side of those in need. It is these local volunteers and their communities who, without question or hesitation, are responding to those who are suffering, in solidarity, irrespective of their own problems and challenges.

28 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, the IFRC and the ICRC are supporting the tireless work that the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is doing around the clock, in the searing heat and amidst the torrential downpours. The IFRC has been supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to respond to this emergency since December last year, when we launched our first appeal.

We quadrupled this appeal in August to 12 million Swiss francs and we have today increased the appeal to 33.5 million Swiss francs.

Our global response, with more than 80 specialists from 25 countries, includes specialized response units and coaching to local responders, focusing on life-saving humanitarian assistance and gender-sensitive protection. Among them is a 60-bed field hospital that has world class surgical capacity, supporting the whole spectrum of health issues from injuries sustained on the journey to complicated pregnancies, providing assistance to displaced people and host communities.

Down the road from the hospital we are taking a leading role at a transit centre for new arrivals, many of whom have walked for two weeks and sat at the border for days. Our staff and volunteers are providing water to severely ill babies and squeezing mouthfuls of a nut paste for starving toddlers and the elderly.

We are also present in Rakhine state, supporting the Myanmar Red Cross Society, and working alongside our partners at the ICRC. We are providing much needed humanitarian assistance to all people affected by the violence, and strengthening the capacity of the Myanmar Red Cross Society to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, with mobile health teams and relief items.

However, we must honestly look to the long term.

We cannot have lost generations of affected people living in camps. Any returns must be voluntary, safe and dignified.

People deserve to have a life; they need to be able to move freely and safely; they need to have access to work and education. We need to support them to recover what is dearest to them, their human dignity. The only viable future is the one when people wake up in the morning without fear of whether they will see the end of the day.

On behalf of the IFRC and our 190-member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I am asking you, our partners, to invest more significantly in strengthening the capacity of those on the ground, including the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. I would also like to commend the compassion and generosity of the Bangladesh Government and host communities for allowing us to jointly help those in need, especially while one third of Bangladesh is affected by floods.

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