IFRC SECRETARY GENERAL, ELHADJ AS SY Remarks to the World Humanitarian Summit Regional Consultation Budapest, Hungary 3 February 2015

Publié: 3 février 2015

We heard this morning that the world has never been in such disorder. But we also have to recognize that, never before, have we seen a humanitarian community so determined; showing courage and a great sense of motivation, working in the most difficult places in the world, and quite often, paying a very high price for it.

While I speak, we mourn 45 volunteers of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who lost their lives while trying to save lives in the most difficult places. Of course we cannot measure our effectiveness or our motivation or engagement in the number of people we lose, but it is just to remind ourselves that, never before have we seen a community so determined.

And, where we suffer a lack of leadership in other areas, it is heartening to see many colleagues and leaders, among you, Valerie (Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs) and Bill (William Lacy-Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration) and others, paving the way for what we need to be doing. I think we need to remind ourselves of that.

We need to remind ourselves that although humanitarian response is defined in many ways, at the end of the day, it is about people, it is about communities, it is about people in need, and those people are everywhere. They are in every single country in the world. They are in the poorest countries, of course. They are in countries affected by natural disasters. They are in countries affected by conflicts. But they are also in the richest countries of Europe and North America.

Those communities, that suffer multiple deprivations, that are the most vulnerable and that are the hardest to reach: these are the communities that we care about, no matter where they are.

That is the reason why it is important that we sometimes go beyond the level three emergencies, and look at the mushrooming level twos and level ones and the pockets of vulnerabilities which, in turn, are fueling the level 3 emergencies that we are facing.

So if it is about people, then we need to engage, we need to partner. It means we need to build trust, we need to respect. And this is often better done in times of non-acute emergencies. That is the reason why it makes a lot of sense, to engage in a continuum and not just come in during the acute phase and then leave, losing our credibility by doing so, and by the time we come back it is too late for too many.

It is also about having a larger definition of what we consider to be life-saving. Protection is key. Protection of children, protection of women and girls is as life-saving as food, water and shelter. That means that we need to expand our base of understanding, deepen it, expand also our base of interventions so that nobody who is in need is left behind.

It is also about coming back to what people value most, which is recovering and preserving their dignity. There is an unbearable shame that we often witness in the eyes of people who receive food parcels from us, because what they need is much more than that, and unless that is addressed we may continue to see the same vicious cycle continuing.

The sense of a lost generation that is articulated by many children needs also to be addressed beyond whatever we consider to be the primary life-saving interventions.

A sense of humiliation that we are seeing more and more, even in communities in the richest countries of Europe and North America has to be looked at as part of our humanitarian response, guided by the simple principle that we need to focus on people, on people in need.

For us, what it means is to be there, and to be there all the time – and I stress all the time – on the side of communities to accompany them to address their needs of the hour. Those needs may be the epidemics we are facing, like Ebola. They will be conflicts. They will be natural hazards that do not have to become natural disasters if we are better prepared, and if while we respond we also plant the seeds of capacities for the communities to resist further shocks.

What we offer for that is 189 National Societies across the globe. Seventeen million volunteers on the ground, working all the time with communities, ready to walk, and to work, at your side in addressing the needs of those communities.

Our vision of the future is a vision of hope: It cannot be any different for a person from the Red Cross. Hope that is based on our Fundamental Principles, on the Humanity we share and that is guiding us even in the most difficult circumstances which is exactly the time when we are needed most, and the time when we need to come together.

Thank you.