Vedran Drakulic, Australian Red Cross, in Brisbane
A meeting in Brisbane of 14 national Red Cross Societies in the Pacific has taken an important step towards the implementation of an action plan agreed last November at the 6th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Manila.
The four-day Red Cross Pacific Partnership Meeting brought together over 50 participants from all 14 Pacific National Societies, as well as partners such as the International Federation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and sister national societies.
One of the main objectives of the meeting was to define the strategic priorities for the Red Cross in the Pacific and to agree on a Pacific Action Plan - concrete steps to ensure that the Manila Action Plan (MAP) is implemented locally.
"The Pacific Region is the first to create a concrete regionally-focused plan designed to translate MAP into action on the country and region level, and the Red Cross Societies from the Pacific should be congratulated on this initiative," Leon Prop, head of the International Federation's Regional Delegation in Suva, told the gathering, which closed on 11 July.
He said the three-year action plan should help to turn words and commitments into concrete actions. “This declaration presents an important document of reference … we simply need to get on with it. This plan can aid us to do this in a coordinated and concerted way, moving in the same direction and working towards similar goals," Prop added.
Three key areas formed the backbone of the Manila Action Plan: affording greater protection to the victims of disaster through international law; fighting for the rights of displaced people; and stepping up HIV/AIDS programmes.
The Brisbane meeting agreed to focus their actions in the health field on first aid, HIV/AIDS and voluntary blood donor recruitment. In Emergency Management area, it agreed to work to carry out risk reduction programmes in the community. And in the area of Capacity Building, participants agreed to continue working on becoming well-functioning National Societies.
"Under each of these strategic directions we agreed on a number of key action steps that are specific, realistic, achievable and above all, measurable. Very importantly, we have in place a follow-up programme, so that we can monitor progress in the coming three years," added Niki Rattle, Secretary General of the Cook Islands Red Cross.
The plan not only defines the steps for National Societies, but also for their key partners, such as the ICRC, the International Federation and National Societies that provide regional support.
"When we look at delivery of humanitarian programmes and activities in the Pacific, one of the key questions is how we go about coordinating our activities and how we can work together most effectively and efficiently, both among the components of the Movement, as well as with external partners," said Mr. Nathan Rabe, head of the International Operations Department of the Australian Red Cross.
Another critical issue debated in Brisbane related to strengthening the capacity of Pacific Red Cross Societies and their community programmes, which are often hampered by remoteness, poor communications and climate change.
"There are clear indications … that climate change will lead to an increase in extreme weather events, as well as change in sea levels, and these events will affect millions of vulnerable people,” said Taito Nakalevu, of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme. “It is critical for the Red Cross in the Pacific to be at the forefront of climate change issues, and work on raising the awareness in the community, and adapting and strengthening its capacity to deal with extreme weather events, as well as mainstreaming this in Red Cross disaster management activities.
“At the same time, given its unique local and global reach, we believe the Red Cross is perfectly positioned to advocate for the dialogue on climate change and humanitarian consequences with key stakeholders and policy makers," he added.
The Brisbane meeting was supported by a number of National Red Cross Societies, including the Australian, Japanese and New Zealand Red Cross, as well as through a substantial financial contribution by AusAID.
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