Helping Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies to be better prepared for future disasters

Published: 4 May 2017 8:19 CET

By Ika Koeck, IFRC


As the world’s largest independent humanitarian network, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is always at the forefront of natural disasters. The ability to respond quickly to emergencies is critical in order to save lives and help affected communities recover and rebuild.  As disaster response operations become more complex, success often hinges on the efficiency of the operations manager. A role that requires experience together with an understanding of the Red Cross Red Crescent’s many global tools, systems, policies and procedures designed to guide disaster response operations.


The Canadian Red Cross, in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has developed a training curriculum to better prepare operations managers.  From 21 to 27 April, an Operations Management Training course was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which involved the participation of 26 people from the IFRC and different Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies from around the world. Participants came from various backgrounds, with three to 30 years of experience working in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.


“This is the third iteration of the training, which now expands on IFRC processes and procedures in finance, human resources, and logistics,” said Emma Sturrock, Manager of Operations with the Emergencies and Recovery team at the Canadian Red Cross. “The course is targeted at personnel working with affected National Societies in countries struck by disasters. These people will be accountable for upholding IFRC policies, strategies and guidelines as well as standards of quality and transparency.”


According to Mathieu Léonard, Operations Coordinator for IFRC Asia-Pacific Regional Office, the case studies used in the training are based on real experiences. “This will become very handy for the candidates as they will be able to anticipate how to make difficult decisions during a real operation.”


Some of the issues covered during the training included corruption and fraud prevention, managing relationships with different stakeholders and ethical challenges during an emergency response. Participants engaged in group activities, role-plays and individual coaching feedback sessions to ensure they maximized their learning during the one-week training.  


“Every disaster should be an opportunity for development,” explained Juan Antonia Sáenz, Director of Humanitarian Productions, who was one of the training facilitators.


Jim Batres, a participant from Costa Rica Red Cross, agreed that the training provided crucial skills for enabling operations managers to work more effectively in the field.


“One of our biggest questions is how do we, as operations managers, perform our job with quality and accountability, while keeping in mind the rules and limitations that govern how the IFRC and National Societies respond to disasters ? ” said Batres.


“One of the first things I will do when I return to my National Society is to share everything that I have learned here and try to formulate a team, then familiarize them with these tools.”