The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is most interested in the work being done by the United Nations system to support the efforts of governments to improve public sector effectiveness. We believe that the designation of this as the priority theme for the Commission's Session in 2004 corresponds to the priority of the issue in many States. It also corresponds to the need felt by our member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that the public sector must plan and deliver its programs in closer consultation with those elements in civil society which link to the work of the public sector.
We will not deliver a long list of areas in which the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies matches or complements that of governments, but it is nevertheless important to note that in virtually every country the National Societies which make up our International Federation are actively involved in the provision of support and services in the social fields mentioned in the Secretary-General's very helpful base document for this item (E/CN.5/2004.5).
One of the important functions of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in this context, is their well.-established and long-recognised responsibility to act as auxiliary to the public authorities of their countries in the humanitarian field, within clear, accepted and full independence. In 1999, at the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, governments and National Societies meeting together invited the International Federation to study and report on the way the auxiliary role has evolved in the face of "changing needs in the humanitarian, health and social fields".
The report subject was discussed by States and National Societies at the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2003. An important outcome for the purposes of the priority theme for this Commission Session was a decision welcoming the work done, especially on the characteristics of a well-balanced relationship between States and National Societies. The work will continue, and there will be a further report to the next International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent, in 2007.
This means, essentially, that there is considerable scope for the United Nations system and the International Federation to work together on matters of priority common concern. This is particularly relevant because it has also been agreed by States and National Societies, at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, that the important elements of the partnership they enjoy include
"participation of the National Society in the health and social sector and in actions of relief and disaster preparedness. This involves not only the National Society's own service delivery action but also its contribution on the basis of its experience, and the policy of the International Federation, to government policy-making in these sectors. "
It is on the basis of this decision, and the relationship it describes, that the International Federation looks forward to working with the United Nations system as well as with member States, to take this theme forward. We presume that the main elements of the primary document for this item will be the subject of further work in the UN system, including in the relevant specialised agencies and other bodies, but in any case we will be continuing our work on the characteristics of a balanced relationship between States and National Societies as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field. This will, of course, include intensified consultation with both governmental and intergovernmental authorities.
It is our hope that that further consultations will enable the Commission and other agencies to expand on the references to partnerships contained in the primary document. We agree that in many cases the ultimate responsibility for the provision of social services rests with the State, but we believe the document could have provided stronger indicators of the value of partnerships which facilitate alternative delivery systems.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are at the forefront of delivery in many countries, especially with respect to the marginalised and disadvantaged groups mentioned in paragraph 29 of the Report. Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also have the benefit - identified in paragraph 30 - of fitting the delivery preference the report emphasises: being closest to the individuals and the most effective in achieving the desired goals.
Virtually all our member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have programs in the social service delivery field which are either managed in direct partnership with government agencies or which operate with the understanding of government that the programs meet the particular needs of disadvantaged or vulnerable groups. It is important to note that there is no difference between the partnership arrangements in developed and developing countries - the needs of the vulnerable can be just as acute in developed countries.
We will offer a couple of examples to show the breadth of the arrangements, not all of which are formal. They are indicative of what happens all over the world, and of why we would hope to be able to contribute to further work on this theme subject. They involve big numbers too: the Chile Red Cross Society, for example, reports that in 2001 370,794 persons benefited from its activities in the social services field. To give some more specific examples:
The Moroccan Red Crescent Society has an extensive program providing vocational training to the poor and disadvantaged in the country. The program is strongly supported by Ministries and other Government agencies, including through the provision of qualified staff and trainers in priority subjects. Similarly, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society has close partnerships with the Ministries of Health and Education, as well as with WHO and UNICEF. The partnerships function within its mission to relieve the suffering of the most vulnerable people without discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, religious belief, class or political opinion.
The Croatian Red Cross Society, like many others, provides social services support to asylum seekers in cooperation with the Government. National Societies, for example the Swedish Red Cross, also provide certain legal advisory services to asylum seekers with the support of the Government. The extent of these partnerships is such that in some countries, Finland for example, the Red Cross Society provides advisory services to asylum seekers under an arrangement with UNHCR. The volume of this work is so great nowadays that the International Federation has published a booklet as a guide for European National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on assistance to asylum seekers.
Another example of the way these partnerships work is the cooperation between the Gabon Red Cross Society and the Government in promoting awareness of the threat posed to the country by the Ebola epidemic, and in the monitoring of cases and the distribution of relief kits to the families of victims. These forms of cooperation are common around the world, but in Africa there is also a particularly close collaboration between Governments and National Societies in the design and implementation of programming for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Zambian Red Cross, in cooperation with the Government, implements extensive programs of home-based care, orphan support, training for carers, and youth peer education, among others.
The provision of first aid, ambulance, hospital, blood and other medical services is probably the Red Cross Red Crescent function best known around the world. We will not describe every case, of course, but it might help the Commission to see one example of the scale this partnership activity can reach. The Mexican Red Cross runs 14 nursing schools, 13 voluntary blood donation centres, 1421 ambulances and a cancer research centre, among the other functions of the National Society. And, to show that this is not a subject whose priority is confined to developing countries, the Japanese Red Cross runs no fewer than 92 Red Cross hospitals.
Disaster risk reduction and the management of disaster response is another well-known area of partnership in the planning and delivery of services involving National Societies and their Governments. One example, again to show the scale of the activity, is Vanuatu where the Vanuatu Red Cross is represented on the Government's Disaster Management Committee and all programs are designed with the partnership in mind. This is a key element in the International Federation's work, and Governments have willingly accepted an obligation to consult their National Societies in the preparation of all aspects of their disaster management planning, including in the delivery of relief services.
It is the International Federation's sincere hope that the entire United Nations system will respond energetically to the ideas brought forward in the theme document for this Session and in the debate now taking place. The International Federation stands ready to take part in the work which must proceed on the topic, and we believe that our experience and that of National Societies in their auxiliary capacity can provide some valuable assistance to the development of the recommendations in the theme document.