The United Nations took its commitment to humanitarian principles directly from the 21st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Istanbul in 1969. Honoring this legacy and the ongoing work of the Turkish Red Crescent Society (TRCS) to uphold these principles, President Tadateru Konoé undertook a mission to Turkey, visiting both Ankara and Istanbul from 22 to 24 September 2011.
This mission was successful in continuing the robust dialogue with the TRCS, and it was a significant milestone in enhancing the spirit of togetherness between the TRCS and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in our shared humanitarian mission.
The meeting, postponed from its original March 2011 date due to the major disaster in Japan, occurred only five days after the election of Ahmet Lutfi Akar as President of the TRCS. In welcoming President Akar to his new role, President Konoé recognized the society’s strong domestic capabilities and international engagement, and the important role the TRCS has in building solidarity with the Red Crescent societies.
President Konoé visited the Society’s regional disaster management centre and blood centre in Istanbul. Within Turkey, the TRCS is well known for its large scale capacity in disaster management and blood services, and for creating innovative income streams to support its activities. The Society has undergone significant change within the 21st Century, becoming more dynamic, transparent, and structurally strong. These changes have included a modernised technical infrastructure, non-stop communications system, renewal of the vehicle fleet, implementation of logistical support centres, and an increased emphasis on psychosocial support. A nationwide disaster preparedness education programme called 'Project for Organizing Community Leaders' trains community leaders from educational, religious and local administration institutions to deal with potential disasters.
The Turkish Red Crescent Society is active in humanitarian action, domestically and around the world. Honoring the support received during the 1999 Turkish earthquake, the TRCS has offered humanitarian assistance to approximately 60 other countries over the past decade, most recently in Pakistan and Syria. TRCS has a wide portfolio of memorandums of understanding with regional National Societies. Recognising Turkey’s historic role as a bridge between the East and West, President Konoé urged the TRCS to utilise their strengths in an even more prominent role within the IFRC, to effect the “spirit of togetherness” by working closely with secretariat colleagues in Geneva and the zones.
With the objective of improving our influence building and advocacy vis-a-vis the Turkish Goverment, President Konoé joined President Akar in a meeting with Abdullah Gul, President of the Republic of Turkey, Cemil Cicek, President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and Bekir Bozdag, Deputy Prime Minister. During the talks, which included discussions on humanitian issues in the region and beyond, TRCS and government representatives laid out key issues and positions regarding important regional considerations.
In the meeting, President Konoé highlighted TRCS strengths and capabilities, as well as the growth of Turkey’s political and economic powers and influence vis-à-vis the Middle East, Central Asia, and the rest of the world. He expressed a wish that the TRCS, in continued cooperation with important partners, take an even more prominent and closely-coordinated role with the Movement, including making their vital activities known to the wider world audience.
During the Turkey mission, President Konoé emphasized the increasingly complex humanitarian environment in which we work and the bridging roles to be played by the TRCS to strengthen the entire IFRC, inclusive of its membership. President Konoé noted that he looks forward to close collaboration with the TRCS in continuing to grow the humanitarian principles outlined in the 1969, in the region and worldwide.