Today, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies marks the tenth anniversary of obtaining permanent observer status at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. The status was qualified as the Federation’s “most important diplomatic tool”, according to President Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro.
It has allowed the Federation to strengthen its partnership with UN agencies and speak out on humanitarian issues in fora such as the General Assembly, the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), and the IASC (Inter-Agency Standing Committee), which brings together the major UN Agencies, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and other major humanitarian actors, to coordinate policy and address operational issues.
Endorsement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), in particular the eradication of poverty, is also evidence of the Federation’s will to engage in common goals with the UN. “In our view, the Goals are achievable, but not without active participation from the communities,” explains Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro. “This is where we can play a special role because of the commitment of our 100 million volunteers and members, working at the community level. The Federation believes that the building of partnerships for development is a principal ingredient for success with the MDGs, and this is what we are seeking.”
Evidence of these increased relations can be seen in the recognition of Federation positions in UN documents. “Over the last five years alone, more than 20 UN resolutions and reports from the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office have reflected the work done by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation in the field of disaster response and preparedness, health and care in the community, HIV/Aids, or on issues such as the humanitarian impact of sanctions on vulnerable populations,” says Markku Niskala.
The observer status has also allowed the Federation, which speaks out on humanitarian issues in the name of its 181 member Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to advance on major global projects such as its International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) initiative, begun in 2000. The project aims to study, compile and analyze existing international law, treaties, regulations, declarations, guidelines and UN resolutions dealing with disaster preparedness and the provision of emergency relief in the event of natural or technological disasters.
“The first stage of the project has been completed. The involvement of governments is crucial to the furtherance of the IDRL initiative, since only they can make international law,” underlines Encho Gospodinov, Head of the Federation’s Office in New York.
"We can see that the Federation’s observer status to the UN is much more than a privilege; it is an important tool to allow us to deliver assistance to people in need more quickly and efficiently. In these times of globalization, the United Nations is the only ‘Global club’, and the Federation has an important voice in it," he adds.