INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY: IFRC calls on governments to make volunteering in disasters “safer and easier”

Published: 5 December 2012

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on governments to identify and overcome gaps and barriers in laws and policies that can endanger or impede volunteers in the wake of disasters.

“Whenever a disaster strikes, whenever there is a crisis, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are amongst the first to respond,” said Bekele Geleta, the Secretary General of the IFRC. “Before international assistance arrives, they are often the ones providing front line help, often in incredibly dangerous environments.”

“We are calling on governments to work with us to make the work and lives of these volunteers safer and easier,” said Mr Geleta.

As a part of this call the IFRC is asking governments to work with the Red Cross Red Crescent and other key partners to ensure that all volunteers involved in an emergency response are covered by insurance, a process that the IFRC and many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have already begun.

Said Mr Geleta: “It’s unacceptable that, given the risks they face, many volunteers do not have the safety and security provided by basic insurance.”

The IFRC is highlighting other areas where legislation can help or hinder volunteers.

Strong Volunteer Laws can make volunteering easier, for example, by providing volunteers with strong legal protections. This might involve revising tax codes to make sure that volunteers can have expenses reimbursed without incurring tax penalties, or to make sure that people do not lose benefits such as unemployment payments or pensions because they chose to volunteer.

It could also involve the drafting of ‘Good Samaritan Laws’ that protect registered volunteers from being sued for the work they carry out in good faith following a disaster or other crisis.

“At the end of last year, at our International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, 164 governments endorsed this broad call for volunteerism to be made safer and easier,” said Mr Geleta. “That was an important step, but now our focus is on working with governments to make sure that this pledge mean something for the millions of people who volunteer their time and effort and who deserve much more.”

A 2011 study by the IFRC highlighted the incredible impact of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, estimating that in 2009 alone, 13.1 million volunteers contributed 6 billion US dollars worth of services worldwide.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil­lion people each year through its 187 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 interviews, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Susie Chippendale, Manager, Corporate communication, IFRC. Mobile: +41 799 592536