Algiers conference endorses plan of action

Published: 14 September 2004 0:00 CET

Roy Probert and Saleh Dabbakeh in Algiers

The 6th Pan African Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has ended in Algiers with a resounding endorsement of the strategy developed four years earlier in Ouagadougou, which saw African National Societies pledge their commitment to scaling up their work in the fields of HIV/AIDS, health and food security.

The conference, which ended on Monday, approved an Algiers Plan of Action, which urges Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to make better use of their network of volunteers and work more closely with their governments, to which they have an auxiliary role in the humanitarian field, and with partner organisations, such as United Nations agencies, the private sector and other civil society actors.

The highlight of the final day was a visit to the conference by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, under whose patronage the event was being held. The head of state, who thanked the International Federation for its assistance during last year’s earthquake operation, said it was vital that the problems of Africa be addressed.

“The African continent has become the primary concern of the world. It can be either a ray of light that improves the world or a shame to humanity as a whole depending on how its problems are dealt with,” Bouteflika told participants, who included representatives not only of African National Societies, but also sister Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from other regions, the International Federation and ICRC, UN agencies, corporate partners and government.

He added that, “despite being influenced by all other continents we are affected much more by the problems of Africa. I recommend that the whole world give enough attention to Africa. What costs large sums in other parts of the world can be done with much lower costs on our continent. And the results are more obvious and far-reaching.”

The President of the International Federation, Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro, praised the leadership of the African National Societies for arriving at the Plan of Action, which he said made clear how the Red Cross and Red Crescent could “make a difference in this complex humanitarian world.”

“We want a real, equitable and transparent partnership which responds to the aspirations and expectations of our vulnerable communities,” he said, pointing out the importance of maintaining a culture of good governance. “It goes without saying that this partnership will not be effective if we do not reinforce our institutional capacities (and) if we do not offer an appropriate framework for partnership.”

The Algiers Plan of Action confirmed HIV/AIDS as Africa’s most serious humanitarian challenge, setting three of its five key objectives in this field. There were: helping to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through education, fighting stigma and discrimination, and expanding the provision and use of protective means; supporting government efforts to increase access to antiretroviral treatment; and providing psycho-social support to orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

In addition, the document commits African Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to ensure food security in populations made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, disasters and poverty, and to reduce illness and mortality in vulnerable populations and in emergency situations.

“These interventions are already being undertaken by most African National Societies. We would like to see a continent-wide implementation of this strategy through the plan of action, which calls for an integrated approach that utilises to the maximum our most precious resource – our grassroots network of volunteers,” said Razia Essack-Kauaria, secretary general of the Namibian Red Cross, who headed the committee drafting the document.

A recognition of the strategic role of volunteers and a commitment to strengthen volunteerism was included in an Algiers resolution, which was approved by the participants.

Pledging to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals and the interventions agreed to in the Plan of Action, they also called for an ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Ouagadougou Declaration, which forms the backbone of the Algiers Plan of Action.

The resolution also expressed its “concern with the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan” and stated its “solidarity with and respect for the efforts of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.”

The conference agreed that the 7th Pan African Conference in 2008 would be held in South Africa.