Daily bulletin - 23rd November 2011

Published: 24 November 2011 8:00 CET

Opening ceremony celebrates volunteers

With 180 National Societies gathered in Geneva yesterday, the opening ceremony of the 18th General Assembly clearly belonged to Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers from around the world. Representing 13 million volunteers worldwide, Maritza Bejarano Mora of the Colombian Red Cross Society and Dr. Amal Emam from the Egyptian Red Crescent Society reinforced the power and value of volunteers for the Movement. From the artist Franck Bouroullec’s creative presentation of the first Red Cross volunteer, Henry Dunant, to volunteers reading the seven Fundamental Principles, the ceremony left audience members with a strong reminder of our purpose, and an underlying motivation of the General Assembly: “To do more and reach further in valuing volunteers,” as Eman said.

Leaders provide thoughts on achievements and the future

In his opening speech, President Tadateru Konoé commended staff and volunteers for demonstrating a spirit of togetherness in responding to recent disasters worldwide. “While the individual capability of each volunteer, staff member or National Society is limited, when they join hands, they can make an incomparable contribution,” he said. The president expressed concern at levels of attention and funding for rapid emergencies, such as earthquakes, compared to slow onset disasters that often remain forgotten and underfunded. Secretary General Bekele Geleta focused his speech on the Movement’s contribution to supporting the most vulnerable, effectively engaging with our stakeholders and increasing institutional effectiveness. Mr Geleta announced that reviews of the decentralization of the secretariat and of the IFRC’s accountability systems will both take place in 2012. 

Maldivian Red Crescent welcomed to the IFRC

The 187th member of the IFRC was welcomed as the Maldivian Red Crescent Society was officially admitted into the federation by the General Assembly. President Ibrahim Shafeeg expressed his profound gratitude to the IFRC for its recognition, and for the support provided by the membership during its years in development. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that caused devastation to many communities, partners provided recovery funding and encouragement to develop a National Society as it responded to the needs of the most vulnerable. “We have recent and humble beginnings,” said Shafeeg. “Without the professional guidance and financial assistance of many, we could not have reached this state of maturity and received recognition.” Read more.

Humanitarian diplomacy: National Societies in action

One of the key advantages of the General Assembly is the opportunity to exchange, learn and build from the experiences of national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. The workshop on humanitarian diplomacy (HD) created a successful platform for just that: an exchange on best practices with National Societies of Australia, Mozambique, Sweden and Uganda, as they advocate for the most vulnerable with full respect for the Fundamental Principles. Workshop participants welcomed the open dialogue on HD in action, from health care for irregular migrants and campaigns on international humanitarian law, to the implementation of international disaster response law and utilizing the principles of Impartiality and Neutrality in violence. For more information, contact humanitarian.diplomacy@ifrc.org.

IFRC and Coca-Cola partner for community transformation

Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, which alongside the Red Cross Red Crescent is one of the world’s most recognized brands, gave an inspiring speech about the organization’s global three-year partnership with the IFRC. Kent gave examples of how the two organizations have worked together for decades, leveraging the power and scale of the Coca-Cola network, to support National Societies in their outreach to vulnerable people with life-saving action and information. He hoped this new partnership would both improve disaster preparedness and inspire millions to volunteer and embrace Red Cross Red Crescent values. “No other organization can reach more communities than the National Societies here today and the 13 million volunteers you represent,” said Kent. 

First aid practices should be based on best evidence

Someone next to you goes into cardiac arrest — what do you do? Your National Society has limited resources; what types of first-aid training should it prioritize? These are two of the many questions that were raised during a workshop on evidence-based practices in first aid, where participants agreed that the best answers are found when sound evidence from the field is properly gathered, analyzed and understood. The Red Cross Red Crescent has a vital role to play, participants agreed, in promoting life-saving skills that have been proven effective. "People look to us for first-aid knowledge," said David Markenson, with the American Red Cross. “We need to be sure what we teach is based on the best evidence available.”

In the community

Throughout the statutory meetings we’ll be asking our online communities to answer polls on some of the topics we’re discussing. It’s a great way to get our broad base of global supporters engaged in Movement-wide dialogue.

Our first poll asked whether people felt their country had sufficient laws to support their community in times of disaster. Almost two thirds of people said yes, leaving 37 per cent feeling their country would benefit from more or better disaster laws.

General Assembly 2011