On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), allow me first to pay respect to the victims of the South Asia Earthquake, and to offer condolences to the people of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan for the great loss they have suffered over the last days.
Let me also extend my condolences to the people of Guatemala, for the suffering and death caused in the wake of Hurricane Stan. These are all too vivid reminders of the need to support disaster relief, and of the importance of this Committee's work.
The IFRC appreciates the opportunity to address the committee on areas of the 2005 Summit Outcome document, and the Secretary General's Report on "Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance" that it considers of particular importance.
The IFRC and its worldwide membership of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are committed to contributing to the objectives and recommendations contained within these documents.
Globally, we have been involved in the response to and recovery from most of the natural disasters noted in the Report's highlight of the "year in review". For many years, the IFRC has promoted disaster management as a continuum, from risk reduction and mitigation to response and recovery.
It is only from such an integrated approach that impacted communities emerge stronger and better prepared to face the future.
Turning to the Secretary-General's report under discussion today, we support recommendations to strengthen regional, national and community risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response.
Indeed, the core activities of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are centred on community participation in disaster preparedness and response. Community-based disaster management initiatives are a pivotal, people-centred contribution to early warning systems.
Community participation is reinforced by disaster management training which National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provide via their branch offices, and in coordination with governments and the UN. Coordination with regional organisations, governments, the UN and non-governmental systems is an essential part of our activities.
Just one example that has proven effective is the annual pre-hurricane season workshop and contingency planning meeting, hosted by the IFRC, and involving 33 Caribbean and Central American Red Cross Societies, the United Nations, the European Union, non-governmental agencies, donors, and regional disaster management agencies such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) and the Central American Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters (CEPREDENAC).
The special challenges and needs in Africa have long been a priority for us. Last week, as part of a coordinated initiative with the Niger government, WHO, UNICEF, CERMES, and the IFRC committed to making the largest ever distribution of mosquito nets in Africa.
With $13.3 million in funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the Canadian government, through the Canadian Red Cross, and with the support of the Measles Partnership, Polio Eradication Program, and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, we will participate in distributing mosquito nets to protect every child under 5 in Niger.
The ever-challenging demands of coordinating assistance in major natural disasters, such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Bam, Gujarat and the latest earthquakes in South Asia, are a continuing priority for the IFRC. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as auxiliaries to their governments, can and do play an important role in addressing these challenges.
The IFRC coordinates the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's regional and international response, including its technical emergency response teams, following a natural disaster.
The IFRC coordinates its efforts with the UN and other agencies whilst still retaining the independent nature of the Movement. We have a close working relationship, both at headquarters and in the field, with UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Response Coordinator and long-standing participation in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
One example of this is our participation in the Global Consortium for Tsunami Recovery, chaired by former President Clinton, the United Nation's Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery. Another example is IFRC's acceptance of the lead role for transitional housing provision in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
It is our belief that humanitarian assistance must take into early consideration recovery and longer-term development needs. Countries, whether recovering from conflict or disasters, need to invest in institutional capacity-building to strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.
Here again, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can be invaluable partners in supporting local authorities at the community level, given their roles as auxiliaries to national public authorities.
Some examples of this can be found in the countries under consideration today. The Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan supports populations affected by nuclear and industrial pollution in the Semipalatinsk region through TB care and treatment, projects in social welfare, and life-skill training for youth and volunteers.
The Somali Red Crescent, throughout many years of war, drought and famine, has steadfastly maintained its role as a reliable national institution, and is working closely with the UN and other humanitarian agencies to ensure basic health care and social support to the population.
Also in Africa, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society supports vaccination programs as part of the Interagency Coordinating Committee, and conducts HIV/AIDS preparedness in consultation with the National AIDS Committee.
In Asia, one of our newest national societies, the Timor Leste Red Cross, is addressing its country's high death rates due to preventable diseases and has placed community health and care as its top priority.
The institutional development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies plays an important role, in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in countries emerging from conflict or natural disasters.
Allow me to conclude by urging that Governments, be it in the areas of emergency relief, post disaster recovery or longer term development, to mobilize the resources and skills of their Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies and include them in the formulation of their country's disaster management and development plans.