The Arab Spring was an extraordinary time. Change was the one thing that was constant and the people were at the heart of the story. But behind the scenes, away from the spotlight, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies – and young volunteers in particular – stayed vigilant in their service to the vulnerable: people who were injured, displaced and overwhelmed. As the region now starts to settle into a new order, governments are solidifying their mandates and confirming partners in community building and the creation of a culture of non-violence and peace.
On 22-27 April, IFRC President Tadateru Konoé traveled to Libya and Tunisia to help ensure that the Red Cross Red Crescent continues to be seen as a critical community partner - and leader - throughout this important period of change. His primary goal: to pursue humanitarian diplomacy to nurture governments’ understanding of the auxiliary role of National Societies and their volunteers, as well as the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
In Libya, following meetings with the leaders of the Red Crescent Society, President Konoé met with Abdurrahim El-Keib, Prime Minister of the National Transitional Council and Mabrouka Al-Sharief, Minister of Social Affairs. Konoé spoke to the importance of recognizing the auxiliary status of the National Society as the new government moved forward. He promoted the creation of its legal basis through the Red Crescent law, the emblem law and disaster law to ensure that the Red Crescent’s humanitarian services can be delivered effectively, at all times under any regime, in service to the vulnerable. Prime Minister El-Keib expressed his government’s support for these ideas, and requested information on how others have defined their humanitarian laws to help inform their process in Libya.
In Tunisia, President Konoé met with the President of the Republic of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, Mustapha Ben Jafar, and the Minister of Public Health, Abdellatif Mekki, together with the Secretary General of the Tunisian Red Crescent Society. The consolidation of the IFRC’s legal basis was promoted. President Marzouki, originally a human rights activist himself, expressed his full support for the process and the implementation of the legal documentation required.
“In both Libya and Tunisia, it was important that I promote the legal basis and auxiliary status of the Red Crescent. With this formal recognition, the National Societies will truly be empowered to be the primary humanitarian partner in these countries in service to the vulnerable,” said Konoé. “I also met with Red Crescent staff and volunteers. It was an opportunity to congratulate them for safeguarding the neutrality, impartiality and independence of the National Societies, and thank them for their selfless contributions.”
Konoé also stated that cooperation between the IFRC and the ICRC had been excellent in Libya and Tunisia. Since the beginning of the Libya crisis, in Tunisia, daily and later weekly cooperation meetings have been held between the Tunisian Red Crescent, IFRC and ICRC in order to maximize the efficiency of the Movement’s response at the Tunisian border. President Konoé took part in a Movement meeting with the Tunisian Red Crescent Secretary General, ICRC Regional Head of Delegation, the Spanish Red Cross representative and the IFRC Regional Head of Delegation at the IFRC’s regional office in Tunis.
“I was very much encouraged by the harmony that I witnessed between all of the Movement partners, who are all committed to working better together as a Movement in the common pursuit of helping to strengthen the National Society,” said Konoé.