IFRC SECRETARY GENERAL, ELHADJ AS SY - Presentation of Plan and Budget 2016-2020/SG report IFRC General Assembly Geneva, 5 December

Published: 5 December 2015

Thank you very much Mr. President.

Today is Volunteer Day, but in fact every day is a volunteer day. To the volunteers in the room, thank you so much.

Allow me also to start by borrowing the words of Warsan Shire:

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

We are living in a turbulent world, a world that is in pain. We are living in a world that is at war. A world that hurts for the way we are reacting, for the words we use. The attacks, the strikes that are ongoing, the bombings, the shootings, the crashes, the fear, the hate, the terror, the mistrust that we all experience. And the qualifications of so many as the radicals, the extremists, the marginalized and the invaders.

Those words influence behaviour and attitudes, push opponents further apart, and push those on the margins even further into isolation, and sometimes into the arms of those who would exploit frustration and loneliness.

In that discourse, our words may sometimes be dismissed. Humanitarians are seen often as idealists, as naïve, sometimes weak, as not serious enough to participate decisively in making a difference in a world that is hurting.

Humanitarians are not weak. There is nothing weak or naïve about speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable, the most isolated, the most forgotten and marginalized.

There is nothing naïve about our Fundamental Principles, which this year celebrate their 50th anniversary, and which, over time, have withstood test after test. And there is nothing weak about the dedication – the fierce and unrelenting determination – of our volunteers. Including the many – the too many – who have sacrificed their lives in trying to save many other lives, like we have seen in Syria.

Our gathering is a safe space to express these ideals without being dismissed as soft or naïve. This is a place to be called an idealist, and to be thankful for the compliment. This is a place to discuss peace and human dignity, to discuss principles and absolutes, and to question, and to doubt. It is a space to allow ourselves to be insecure and, at that same time find, the enabling environment and the support to overcome it. Yes, even in a world which is dominated by a belligerent discourse, it is ok to be humanitarian.

Humanity is the mother, the foundation of our Principles, the belief in the dignity of the human being.

If we listen to mother Humanity, she is telling us that she is also hurting. She is hurting for the children and families who are fleeing their homes in historic numbers, that we haven't seen since the Second World War. She is also hurting for her children, the many children who are braving dangerous journeys today in search  of an opportunity for safety, and to recover what is dearest to them and what many have lost; their human dignity.

She is hurting for the people who are losing their homes to rising seas, and for all those who are forced to seek refuge in cities, and where in those cities they may end up finding new deprivations and new despairs.

Our youth leaders heard that call. Two nights ago I attended an intergenerational event that they organized at our Secretariat, and heard the words they use, which were very different from dominant discourse that I quoted. I heard them talk about trust. I heard them talking about respect, motivation, empowerment, commitment, engagement, partnership and collaboration. I heard them talk about hope, and they summed it up in a hashtag #2together4humanity (together for humanity).

They feel good to be humanitarians. And really, watching them, they even made it "cool" to be humanitarian. And it is what should guide us, and this is what I believe should guide our response. It will also guide our Plan and Budget, that I am very pleased to present to you following the presentation and introduction that we heard about the mid-term review (of Strategy 2020).

This Plan and Budget will reflects our ambition to improve our support to you –National Societies and to work together, together as a Movement, in partnership with the ICRC, and all components of the Movement as well as those partners that have the same goal and are ready to undertake the same journey. At the end, we're partners, but we're partners to deliver. To deliver results at the community level. To deliver results to build resilience for those in need.

It also resonates very well with the findings of the mid-term review of Strategy 2020. Although this review was carried out in parallel to the development of our plan. We are pleased to see that many of our early assumptions were validated (by the mid-term review). We were also able to adjust our plan and budget taking into account the recommendations that were made, including those we heard from Ulrika (Årehed Kågström, Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross).

It is driven by Strategy 2020 and its three Strategic Aims that set out our ambitions: to save lives, protect livelihoods, and strengthen recovery from disasters and other crises; to enable safe and healthy living; and to promote social inclusion and a culture of non-violence and peace.

The Plan and Budget projects four Strategies for Implementation that explain how we will support National Societies to build resilience at the community level. I hope you all recognize in the Strategies of Implementation the priorities that you yourselves, through the Board, have given to us. While this work is important, we also recognize that they are means and not ends. So we have taken one step further and identified eight Areas of Focus that represent the programmatic or thematic areas where, by working in partnership with National Societies, we will be able to demonstrate results in responding to distresses, shocks, crises or disasters when they happen.

Said situations of crises and distress are more frequent than ever before, and therefore our support is needed now more than ever. In such situations you are there, National Societies with your volunteers, there when there is a flood in Bangladesh, an earthquake in Nepal, there during the arrival of an unfamiliar and unmerciful disease, like in West Africa, there at the onset of hunger in the Horn of Africa, and also there, in Syria, where we have already seen that more than 40 volunteers have lost their lives, and with them a part of our humanity. But in us, each of them will continue to live, so that we continue their work.

We are perhaps best known for our response to crises, and, through our plan and budget, we will ensure effective international disaster response management. That will remain a main stay, and speaks to Strategy for Implementation number two as you will see it in the document we have shared with you.

Effective and coordinated international disaster response is our collective responsibility as an IFRC. When a disaster hits, we are looked upon to lead, to demonstrate consistent good practice, to respond before others, and to respond where there is no one else present. We're the ones that walk the last mile. That last mile that makes such a big difference, that last mile to the health point or to the water point that is often a matter of life and death for many. That last mile to the most vulnerable and hardest to reach communities.

To reach those last 10 per cent.

Effective coordination will lead us to better manage our surge capacity and global resources, such as the Emergency Response Units, and FACT teams so that National Societies, and through them communities, have the support they need. We will continue to manage effectively and efficiently the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and the Emergency Appeal system. However, we recognize that these tools need to be adapted and modernized to a changing environment and for a more coordinated Movement response in the future, including all components of the Movement and strengthening the partnerships that I mentioned before. New tools for supporting the multi-year responses of National Societies to protracted crises need to be developed too.

In keeping with our position within the international humanitarian system – we need to enhance the coordination role of our Secretariat – engaging with other principled humanitarian actors and new players to develop and promote appropriate standards, approaches and modalities for effective coordination, including in our lead role for the shelter cluster, for example. It is extremely important here to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We operate within an environment where we partner with others, where we have a role that we play for our own sake, but also we have a mandate which is often entrusted to us by other actors in the humanitarian community.

We will continue to deliver high quality, timely and cost effective procurement, warehousing, and fleet management services, to support you, National Societies, to strengthen your own technical capacities.

In addition to providing a platform for your action, we will also engage with you to deliver the results that are needed when communities are hit by a disaster.

Our network is the world’s largest provider of humanitarian shelter, and that is our Area of Focus number two. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster or crisis, National Societies provide emergency shelter and shelter settlement assistance. We will continue to support you to promote shelter and settlement at the household and community levels, helping you to adopt enhanced participatory approaches, and by providing technical assistance and best practices.

Another priority is to deliver emergency Health Services and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Areas of Focus number 4 and number 5, as presented in the document, including by strengthening our support to emergency health and pandemic preparedness.

We will work with you to build on your growing role in community mobilization. We will also be strengthening support to community-based health care programmes, expanding their reach and also the type of interventions thanks to newer technologies that can be provided at community level – closer to home, closer to where the needs are. You will hear a lot of discussion about health systems strengthening nowadays, as a basis for resilience. There will be no health system strengthening without community system strengthening, and here we are uniquely placed again to play that role.

We will support National Societies to expand water, sanitation and hygiene for communities out of crisis, but still in the grips of vulnerability. Since we last met in Sydney, over 14 million people have been reached through Red Cross and Red Crescent development and emergency WASH programmes. More than 400 WASH projects have been undertaken in 80 countries supported by 104 different National Societies –impressive figures that show clearly how important this issue is, and it will remain very important for many members of the Federation.

Because we are based in our communities, we are present along the entire humanitarian continuum. National Societies are there before a crisis hits. We will increase and strengthen our support to your Disaster Risk Reduction (Area of Focus 1) accompanying you to establish, maintain and expand early warning systems, and to mobilize communities to take action. We will make sure that early alert, early warning will be followed by decisive reaction.

The severity of a crisis, and the path to recovery, are both heavily influenced by the assets that families have access to, and their capacity to generate and maintain an income. When livelihoods are sustainable, vulnerable people can better cope with and recover from stresses and shocks, maintain or enhance their capabilities and assets, and support other livelihoods locally and more widely, without damaging the environment and without damaging the natural resource base, and this is critical.

So, livelihoods, preservation and protection of ways of life will continue to guide our partnership for resilient communities, and you will find that under Area of Focus number three in your document.

The world is changing, we use to say, this is nothing new. However, it is changing extremely fast, at a pace that we have never experienced before. And the question is: are we keeping pace with that speed? Are we remaining relevant and adapting? For the first time in history, there are more people living in urban and peri-urban settings than in rural environments. This dramatic shift has contributed to growing levels of wealth, for sure, but it has also created new vulnerabilities and fragilities. Fragilities that are globalizing and being found everywhere.

This urban migration has also influenced a globalization in patterns of vulnerability. The majority of the world’s poor now live in middle and upper income countries. The so-called “youth-bulge” has left many countries with large populations of young people who have little hope of work or opportunity. As a consequence, we are seeing growing levels of violence and intolerance. And this is pushing so many in the margins, feeding frustrations, a pattern that can have devastating consequences as we have seen unfortunately, recently in many parts of the globe.

And here, once again, National Societies have an important role to play. Since our last International Conference, there has been a 200 per cent increase in National Societies implementing violence prevention and response activities hence the pertinence of Area of Focus six: Culture of non-violence and peace.

There is an increasing number of National Societies that are focusing on sexual and gender-based violence, child protection issues, violence against migrants and urban and community violence.

Under our new Plan and Budget, we will strengthen global partnerships to create new opportunities and resources for you to deepen and further strengthen this important work. Particularly in our work with people with disabilities, or as I heard our young colleagues say: not people with disabilities, but people with different abilities. We will also work with you to expand our collective efforts in the field of humanitarian education. Our Fundamental Principles are indeed powerful antidotes; antidotes to the anger and violence we are seeing. Let us never be afraid to push them, let's never be afraid to stand up for them.

In parallel, we will strengthen our expertise and support as you promote social inclusion (Area of Focus 7). Recognizing that inequality and discrimination lie at the heart of social exclusion and often manifest in violence against excluded and marginalized people, we will build greater coherence between our work in social inclusion and our efforts to support you to build a culture of non-violence and peace.

Our value in addressing these trends lies in our voice as well as our action. We will invest in Influencing others as a leading strategic partner in the humanitarian field and in building community resilience. This is why we have put Strategy for Implementation 3 as one of the axis around which such activities can be articulated.

To this end we will seek to articulate a coherent IFRC policy and advocacy agenda, anticipating our engagement in major policy engagements and dialogues. This agenda will be developed in close collaboration and partnership with National Societies and the ICRC so that we come stronger together as one Movement, having one approach and a stronger voice.

We will support National Societies on advocacy skills building as well as legislative advocacy efforts. We will build on the achievements and relationships from the International Conference, leveraging the outcomes and pledges to enhance our advocacy and policy engagements with governments and also with other partners, all of that, together with you.

There are an estimated 60 million people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of conflict and violence. Globally, there are almost a quarter of a billion migrants, a figure that includes refugees as well as those who have left their homes in search of new opportunities, or simply put, in search of dignity.

As we have seen so dramatically over the past six months, once people are forced to leave their homes they are often exposed to intolerable levels of risk, exploitation and suffering. We are increasing our focus on migration (Area of Focus 8), and prioritising support to National Societies to address the needs of people at all points along migratory routs, in countries of origin, and at points of transit and of course, in countries of destination.

Our support to National Societies is articulated around the areas of assistance – this is what we do best as a Red Cross and Red Crescent – as well as protection, and public awareness. Oftentimes, the public is our best ally. Quite often, before any humanitarian actor arrives on the scene, hosting communities as affected as they might be themselves, will start extending a hand and providing support and protection, giving us a lesson of humanity that we can all build on.

We spoke this morning of the need for a new approach to humanitarian action. And we thank Dr Dembisa Moyo for inspiring us on that.

We need to rethink our approach to addressing humanitarian needs, adopting one that tackles the risks and vulnerabilities that are at the heart of the disasters and crises we are seeing every day, and that supports communities to become more resilient. Shocks do not have to be disasters. The level of hazards could be mitigated by the level of preparedness. Our success at being prepared and the capacity we have to respond will determine if those hazards become disasters or not.

We, through the Plan and Budget and together with you, must support communities to be strong so that they can take ownership for their lives and withstand the challenges they face, whatever those challenges might be.

I believe that we, our network, can be a decisive and inspiring agent for this change. The Red Cross and Red Crescent can be a powerful agent for resilience. In many ways, you already are. In many ways, we are already that powerful force, and that is why we champion the One Billion Coalition for Resilience.

Just over a month ago I sat in this very room during the final, global consultation for the World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place next May in Istanbul. I listened to UN agencies, international NGOs, and Member States speak of the need for a humanitarian system that is more inclusive, that leans more heavily and equitably on local capacity, that is connected with vulnerable communities.

That was a call, a call to us, that we're needed, and we're needed more than ever before. During that time, I also saw here in this room Dr Jemilah Mahmood in action, who is so happy and proud to have joined us as our Under Secretary General, for Partnership, coming and completing the team composed of Gary Connille who you've met this morning, and Anitta Underlin.

The ambition of the SDGs, of the World Humanitarian Summit and of the Sendai Framework, and hopefully what is going to come soon out of the Paris meeting, will strengthen us to reaffirm our support to National Societies to ensure sustained and relevant Red Cross and Red Crescent presence in communities (Strategy for Implementation 1).

Many Societies are taking steps to strengthen themselves, and we see that through the OCAC process.

We will continue to support you to mobilize volunteers, strengthen your branches, and develop the capacity to meet your accountability obligations. And that will be a true response to the recommendations of the mid-term review: to put National Society development at the heart of what we do.

To do all of this, we will get our own house in order. We have to ensure a strong IFRC that is effective, credible and accountable (Strategy for Implementation 4). We have already done a lot of work in this regard, simplifying our structure, revising our Plan and Budget approach, removing layers and, where inefficiencies exist, addressing them on a daily basis, and where they are systemic, moving them out so that we can drive more resources to support you more effectively.

Working with you, we will set out targets for each of these areas of focus, and then we will support you to report on these targets. We heard this morning that the mid-term review of Strategy 2020 asks us to consider adopting three to four shared targets. This may be a matter of taxonomy. I think targets are at such a low level that we cannot chose just three or four. Or, if we do, then we have to select ones that are at a very high level. But I think we can unpack that together with you, and with your support, reach an agreement on what those results might be, what our objectives might be, as well as the targets and indicators that would help us measure our progress.

It is also important to note that this plan and budget represents the work that we do to support you. It is not what every member of the Federation does. In many countries, there are areas that fall outside of the eight Areas of Focus. That is normal, because it is so specific to those countries that respond to the needs of the same communities, and the nuanced responses to those needs that you have developed over many years.

We have adopted a needs-based approach to budgeting. The budget reflects the ambition and analysis captured in the plan. The architecture has changed, as you can see, with the classifications of restricted and unrestricted being replaced by regular resources, which includes statutory contributions and unrestricted voluntary contributions, other resources, which includes restricted voluntary contributions for humanitarian response and thematic activities, and the third component, supplementary service resources.

We set out a total revenue budget of 500 million Swiss francs for 2016 and for 2017, respectively. The 2016 budget includes a projected 30 million Swiss francs in voluntary regular resources, 200 million Swiss francs in contributions for thematic areas of focus and 187 million Swiss francs in emergency appeals to respond to humanitarian crises. Of course, the latter figure depends on the nature of shocks that may come our way during 2016, but it is based on a five year historic average. As you heard yesterday, when I was presenting the financial statement, the Ebola response in 2014 changed that figure dramatically. Hopefully we will not have such a dramatic challenge to face in 2016.

How will we achieve this? We will strengthen existing partnerships with you to maximize voluntary contributions, working together very closely and through you and your respective Governments.


To ensure adequate and flexible funding for the IFRC budget for 2016 and 2017, we will develop a thematic funding approach. Thematic funding will allow us to agree on a certain number of themes, and then the results we want to achieve, and then see how those can be matched with your respective priorities and accountabilities to your own donors.

While regular resources remain the most effective way of financing the work of the IFRC and National Societies, other resources will be raised and allocated according to operational needs. The intention is to enable access to better quality funding; larger pledges that are less earmarked, and income that is subject to standard reporting based on results outlined in annual operating plans and budgets.

We will make sure that we have the systems and control mechanisms in place, as well as the risk management that goes with it, the results focus and then the indicators to measure those results, which hopefully will give you the confidence that you can invest in voluntary contributions and reach the same results with the same levels of accountability.

The optimum condition for success in thematic funding is a clear match between results and donor priorities. Internally, allocation of global thematic funding needs to be proactive, strategic, expeditious and transparent. And we believe that if we're serious about National Societies development, there should be a thematic funding window for that, at a scale that would match our ambition to make a difference in the long term, in 20 to 25 National Societies that we will identify to accompany, as recommended by the mid-term review.

In parallel to this, we will work with you to strengthen our shared resource development capacity.

It is easy, distinguished members of this assembly, when looking at the many challenges that we face, that we sometimes feel overwhelmed. However, it is worth recalling our heritage, our history. We are an organization that has faced many challenges, been tested by time. We're an organization also that has been tested by disasters and shocks like you have experienced in your respective countries over time. But, together, as the world’s largest humanitarian network, we have overcome each and every one of these challenges.

We remind ourselves and we take pride of the fact that we are an organization that has won a Nansen Medal, and that also has a Nobel Prize. I would like to finish this morning, with two quotes. The first is from the inscription on the Nansen Medal that we received in 1957 as recognition for our response to the Hungarian refugee crisis:

“The League’s timely action on a worldwide basis…clearly demonstrated the power of international solidarity when harnessed for the common good.”

That was true then, it is true today. We should be motivated by the same power of international solidarity, harnessed for the common good.

The second comes from John Alexander MacAulay, who was the Chairman of your Board, when he accepted the Nobel Prize in 1963. And I quote:

“The Red Cross [and Red Crescent], acting on behalf of mercy, touches a vibrant chord of out-welling sympathy that stretches from land to land, from black to white, red to yellow, from creed to creed, from heart to heart. There is no delay, no finely weighed counting up of plus and minus, no calculation of the terms of trade, or estimate of what we get for what we give."

Because indeed, what we get is priceless. 

We are a powerful force for good, confronting cynicism that has less and less time for dignity and solidarity. We are stronger when we work together, and we will work together.

My team and I commit to results, quality and accountability, and we're committing to work in partnership with you, to work in partnership with ICRC, to a very strong Movement.

We are seeking your approval, we are seeking your support and your help to resource this plan in front of you. We are listening to your criticisms to continue to improve on them while we go.

And, let me use the cool hashtag from the youth and say “together for humanity” (#togetherforhumanity), and thank you.