Voices to Action: Civil society debates priorities on global humanitarian agenda in Beirut

Publicado: 13 noviembre 2015 10:16 CET

By Soraya Dali-Balta, IFRC

On 4 and 5 November 2015, more than 70 people from different Lebanese regions gathered in Beirut to discuss challenges facing local communities and debate possible solutions. Mayors, university professors and schoolteachers, agricultural cooperatives, social activists, members of municipality unions, Lebanese Red Cross volunteers and people who benefitted from the Red Cross assistance, all put their differences aside and came together to discuss social, economic and humanitarian concerns in their country, guided by the seven Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The idea behind Voices to Action is to gather “voices” from the field, and raise local concerns and matters to the attention of governments and leadership of the Red Cross Red Crescent, shaping the agenda for humanitarian planning for the future. This meeting was the fifth event on the Voices to Action agenda.

After Austria, Bangladesh, Honduras and Liberia, Lebanon was chosen as the last stop on the Voices to Action 2015 calendar. The event was hosted by the Lebanese Red Cross, and facilitated by His Excellency Mr Dimyanos Kattar, a former Lebanese minister. The workshop kicked off on 4 November 2015 with the presence of Mr George Kettaneh, the Secretary General of the Lebanese Red Cross, Mr Fabrizio Carboni, the head of the ICRC delegation in Lebanon, and Mr Elias Ghanem, the Director of the IFRC Middle East and North Africa region.

Over the course of two days, participants at the Voices to Action hub event highlighted the issues they considered to be challenging in Lebanon, imagined how the situation would change in 2022, and suggested possible paths which could lead to their imaginary scenarios. Poverty, the refugee crisis, healthcare, environmental worries, and education were among the matters debated in Beirut, with participants repeatedly stressing the importance of civil society in leading progress and development. They also praised the work and efforts of the Lebanese Red Cross at several fronts in the country, and more importantly, its role in bringing together the Lebanese people, regardless of their differences. The closing ceremony of the talks was attended by Mr Kettaneh, Mr Carboni, Mr Ghanem, the President of the Lebanese Red Cross Ms Souzan Oueiss and the executive committee of the National Society.

On the significance of the Voices to Action event, Ms Raghida Chamsine, the Principal at Qobbe Elementary School in the northern city of Tripoli, said: “The best thing about this workshop is that it joined together people from all over Lebanon, and was an opportunity for us to share our thoughts about Lebanon and its problems and our aspirations for the future.”

“I thank the Lebanese Red Cross for this opportunity,” she added.

Member of the Tyre municipality union, Mr Adnan Faqih said at the end of the two-day talks: “When we started the discussions, we were all blaming the state for the problems we suffer from in Lebanon. Now we are suggesting solutions ourselves. Maybe the solution is actually in the hand of the civil state.”

Voices to Action

Voices to Action is an initiative launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in anticipation of December’s International Conference, when state representatives of countries party to the Geneva Conventions, the heads of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, the IFRC and the ICRC will meet in Geneva to discuss humanitarian matters of common concern.

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