International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Annual Report 2015


A small boy, lying face down on a Turkish beach.

The image of young Alan Al-Kurdi, dead after the boat carrying him and his family sank en route to Greece, shocked the world. It brought attention to the migration crisis on the shores of Europe, cutting through – at least for a time – the divisive rhetoric that had masked this humanitarian tragedy.

It served as a reminder of how deeply interconnected we are and of how suffering in one country or one region can have ramifications across the globe. It called to our collective humanity, to our shared decency.

Alan’s death, and the suffering and despair of the more than one million people who turned to Europe in search of safety and dignity, cannot be separated from the conflict, poverty and persecution that has spread and deepened in recent years. Families fleeing the fear and violence of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; families fleeing the poverty and inadequate opportunities of West Africa or South Asia; families and individuals fleeing the persecution and discrimination that is too prevalent in too many countries.

A world on the move

By the time of Alan’s death, hundreds of thousands of people had already risked their lives to enter Europe. It was a crisis that was in many ways predictable, and indeed it was something that we had foreseen. Our volunteers had witnessed first-hand the rising numbers of people arriving on the shores of Italy and Greece. They had seen the rising demands for their services in western and northern Europe. They had also seen the increase in traffic along migration routes through the Middle East, and across the Sahara and into North Africa.

This phenomenon goes well beyond Europe and Africa, however. As in years prior, National Societies responded to the needs of migrants who braved other treacherous seas – the Gulf of Aden, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, to name a few. And they brought life-saving medical attention, water and food, and family reunification services to migrants traveling through Central America.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent was present, has been present, at all points along these dangerous journeys. The red cross and red crescent are emblems of hope and relief for hundreds of thousands of people. In the face of crisis, we are there.

Always there, all the time

While the world’s attention was undoubtedly focused on migration, 2015 also saw a number of other major humanitarian emergencies. And for each of these, National Societies were at the frontline.

In March, Red Cross volunteers in Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands helped communities prepare for, and respond to, Cyclone Pam. In April, the Nepal Red Cross Society led a truly Movement-wide response to the earthquakes that struck the Kathmandu valley. Within minutes, Red Cross volunteers were digging for survivors in the rubble. Within hours, first aid posts were established. Within days, support from around the world arrived. As the emergency phase abated, the Red Cross and Red Crescent focus turned to recovery and to the long-term needs of survivors.

These are just two examples of the impact of our network throughout 2015. These responses were mirrored countless times during the year, in response to events both large and small, and many more responses are highlighted in this report.

The value of local

National Societies are permanent and integral parts of their communities. As a result, they are usually the first to respond to emergencies, and they remain long after international aid organizations have packed and gone. This permanent presence is central to our unique identity. No other organization can claim to be present in 190 countries around the world, active in tens of thousands communities, and linked globally to a network of solidarity and tremendous capacity.

In 2015, a series of international processes put the value of our network at the forefront. In March, the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This agreement makes explicit reference to the crucial role of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in addressing disaster risk at the community level.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by United Nations Member States in September, place great emphasis on reaching the most isolated and most vulnerable people. National Societies and the IFRC will have a critical role to play in bridging the gaps between governments and remote communities.

This agenda was a central part of the discussions that led up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. Throughout 2015, in various WHS forums, the IFRC advocated strongly for the need to increase support for, and recognition of, national humanitarian organizations.

Together for humanity

The year ended with the Movement’s Statutory Meetings in Geneva. At the IFRC General Assembly, National Societies gathered to discuss a number of issues of common concern, and to endorse a new strategic plan and budget for the organization. The Council of Delegates – the Movement’s highest decision-making body – endorsed a series of measures that will bring greater coherence and efficiency to our Movement, including a new framework on cooperating in emergencies, and a new Movement logo.

The 32nd International Conference brought representatives of States Party to the Geneva Conventions together with all components of the Movement. The conference adopted a series of Resolutions that will strengthen our response to humanitarian crises, improve the way humanitarians and governments prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence in emergencies, prioritize the safety and security of humanitarian volunteers, and strengthen legal frameworks for disaster response, risk reduction, and first aid.

The conference also reaffirmed the relevance and importance of our seven Fundamental Principles, which marked their 50th anniversary in 2015 and which continue to define our approach to humanitarian action.

Looking ahead

The IFRC was a strong voice in all of these processes. It is our sincere hope that these changes will deliver for the communities that rely on all of us for survival and support. This is the ultimate test. We should never forget the young boy on the beach, and the many other boys and girls who hope for a better life.

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