The international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been awarded the 2012 Prince of Asturias award for its exceptional work in international cooperation. The award was presented to Tadateru Konoé, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
At the ceremony on 26 October in the Campoamor Theatre in Oviedo, Spain, Mr Konoé said the award recognized the vital work carried out by millions of volunteers across the world. “It is a great honour to accept this award on behalf of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, alongside my friend Mr. Peter Maurer,” he said.
This is the first time the Prince of Asturias award has been given to the Movement. The Jury of the Prince of Asturias Foundation said the award was in recognition of its ‘performance in armed conflicts such as those of Syria, Libya and Somalia and in the natural disasters which have beset Haiti, Indonesia and Japan.’ (see: www.fpa.es/en/2012-special).
Peter Maurer said in his speech: “I would like to dedicate the award to the staff and volunteers of the Movement who have lost their lives in recent months trying to save the lives of others.”
The ceremony was the culmination of a week of activities and celebration around the award laureates, including 14 cultural activities and an exhibition to which the Spanish Red Cross actively participated.
On 24 October, there was a roundtable event which focused on highlighting the voices of women in silent disasters. IFRC senior advisor Mette Buchholz said that girls and women are often invisible in disasters while they are they are the most vulnerable in time of crisis or disasters. “It is urgent to now commit and take concrete measures to ensure their needs are effectively taken into account before, during and after a disaster,” she said.
At the end of the event, Amal Emam, a volunteer with the Egyptian Red Crescent, delivered a vibrant presentation in which she talked about the importance of volunteers, and the IFRC’s ‘Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change’ programme which, she said, gives both women and young people a voice in the Movement. Amal was active with the Red Crescent during the recent revolution in Egypt. “I saw there that a growing number of women had decided to take their destiny into their hands, and to be fully involved in the new wind of change,” she said.
The following day, IFRC vice-president Jaslin Salmon, alongside ICRC vice-president Olivier Vodoz, represented the Movement at the official press conference and for a high-level dialogue with Spanish journalists. He spoke about the efforts to engage with all elements of society, and empower those able to make a positive change in their communities. “This Movement is first and foremost a universal Movement of women, men and young people that bring about hope and social change,” he said. “And so we pledge to you that this award reinvigorates us to do more, do it better, and reach further.
“We accept the award with humility. With pride. We accept the award with the recognition that the Prince of Asturias Foundation - and the rest of the world - expects us to do even more by collaborating with others in meeting the needs of the vulnerable.”
While highlighting major humanitarian challenges on a global scale, Salmon also commended the Spanish Red Cross for their bold initiative and appeal which highlights and addresses growing domestic vulnerability.
“We are proud that such a prestigious international award for the Movement has come from Spain,” said Mercedes Babe, who organised the event for the Spanish Red Cross and gathered together 1,500 volunteers who ensured a magnetic presence of the Red Cross during the ceremony.
Accepting the award, President Konoé stressed the crucial importance of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers: “At the heart of the Movement are more than 13 million active volunteers who provide life-saving and life-changing services in communities across the world.
“In the face of war, disaster, poverty, violence, exclusion or stigmatisation, they show in action that we can all be part of the solution when it comes to improving the lives of the most vulnerable people, and to make this world a better place to live.”