Myanmar visit stresses the importance of partnerships and resilience

Published: 11 July 2012 18:00 CET

By Andy McElroy in Nay Pyi Taw

Resilient communities require resilient community organisations as partners to prepare for and quickly recover from disaster.

That was the headline observation Tadateru Konoé, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, today on a return visit to Myanmar four years after he witnessed the devastating aftermath of cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

Mr Konoé said that few organisations are better placed to be such a partner than national Red Cross Red Crescent societies. He cited the Nargis experience in Myanmar, as well as the events in Japan following last year’s earthquake-tsunami-nuclear plant radiation leak as two cases that powerfully prove the point.

“When I was last here it was on the most tragic occasions. Even then, I was uplifted to see first hand the incredible work of Myanmar Red Cross volunteers, many of whom had suffered directly from the disaster including the loss of family and friends,” Mr Konoé said.

“Now, four years later and reviewing the experience and success of the cyclone Nargis response and recovery operation, I am delighted to see that not only did the Myanmar Red Cross survive that disaster but its resilience enabled it to bounce back quickly and do its job in the face of awful circumstances.

“I saw a similar thing last year in my own country and it brings home the message that we need to keep building strong, resilient National Societies to partner with communities. It is a key part of our Strategy 2020 and its importance is clear to see ‘on the ground’ in places such as Myanmar.

“In short, resilient communities not only need – but require – resilient community organisations as partners.”

During his visit, Mr Konoe will hold a series of high-level meetings with government officials. In these discussions he will highlight how a resilient Myanmar Red Cross performed so ably in the trying circumstances of Nargis and that this resilience would be increased with continued strengthening of the auxiliary role of the National Society as the country’s leading domestic humanitarian/development organization.

Mr Konoé also officially opened the Annual South-East Asia Red Cross Red Crescent Meeting, which is hosted by Myanmar Red Cross Society in the country’s capital Nay Pyi Taw.

He again returned to the theme of partnership to praise National Societies for looking to strengthen their relationship with ASEAN as the regional bloc assumes a pivotal role in disaster and pandemic preparedness and response.

“This classic case of humanitarian diplomacy in action will codify and supplement the already excellent operations that exist on the ground between the two institutions,” he said.

“Such partnership and coordination – that respects the role of the RCRC – will save lives and speed up recovery.”

It was also noted that Myanmar Red Cross Society has taken a lead in the global Red Cross Red Crescent initiative to reform the principles and rules of disaster response and make them fit for purpose in the 21st century, drawing on its many lessons during cyclone operations, including Nargis and Giri.