Global Leaders must be held more accountable and listen to the aspirations of the people – Red Cross Red Crescent Sec-Gen reflects on Davos 2012

Published: 27 January 2012

27th January 2012, Geneva/Davos –  After three days of high-level engagement with  leading figures in politics and business at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Bekele Geleta,  Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),  said global leaders need to heed the signs of growing economic hardship and social discontent by investing more in people and their communities.

“In these times of economic austerity and social discontent, it is glaringly obvious that leaders can no longer shy away from their responsibility to empower, protect and support the aspirations of their own people, “ he said. 

With 13 million plus Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff working at the grass roots in communities around the world in both emergency response and development, Geleta also noted from first-hand experience that a top-down approach of leadership would never lead to the creation of prosperous and dynamic societies.  

“Discussions around more effective and accountable leadership – both North and South- were central to Davos 2012. Amid these times of financial hardship and unrest, it’s clear we need to invest more in people and community building if we are to be serious about eradicating poverty and creating strong civil societies. People need to be in a position to help themselves.”

Universal access to technology is one area which Geleta continues to be particularly passionate about, emphasising throughout his 3-day participation in Davos that knowledge and technology were the tools for both development and also for greater scrutiny of those with the power to influence and make change.

 “The rapid spread of knowledge and the increased awareness and expectation of the public should be considered a major challenge to global leaders. It became clear from my discussions in Davos that mass access to technology has meant decision-makers are now under a lot more pressure to listen to what the people want and to act on that.”

Geleta also stressed at Davos that disaster preparedness, a key focus area for the IFRC, is a development issue and as such, should be a major development funding priority for governments.

 “With disasters striking more frequently, increasingly in densely populated urban areas, there is no excuse for governments to not invest seriously in preparation and risk mitigation.  This is a core responsibility of an accountable government and I made that very clear in Davos, “ said Geleta.

In a speech at an event hosted by the Disaster Resource Partnership (DRP), Geleta stressed that countries could simply no longer afford to resort to expensive measures after disasters strike.   “In these times of economic hardship, it is particularly important to make every dollar count. Investing in disaster preparedness measures dramatically increases the value and sustainability of development efforts, as well as saving lives and making humanitarian responses much more cost effective. Disaster Preparedness should not be seen as a charitable contribution but as an economic investment.” 

About the IFRC

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil¬lion people each year through its 186 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

For more information or to set up an interview with Bekele Geleta please contact:

Susan Chippendale: IFRC Head of Communcations, Geneva: +41 799592536

Jessica Sallabank:  IFRC Senior Media Officer, Geneva:  +41 799481148