Secretary General speech at the Inter American Conference 2023

IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, delivers the opening speech at the XXII Inter Americas Conference in June 2023.

IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, delivers the opening speech at the XXII Inter American Conference in June 2023.

Photo: IFRC


Speech delivered by IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, at the opening ceremony of the XXII Inter American Conference on Tuesday 6 June 2023.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s so good to be here in the beautiful Bahamas.

Bahamas —thank you for hosting this conference. I take this occasion to congratulate the Bahamas on 50 years of your Independence.

President Terez Curry, IFRC Vice President Miguel Villarroel, Dr Judith Carvajal, Vice Chair of CORI, GB members and Commission and Committee chairs of the IFRC, George Weber Vice Chair of Standing Commission, Giles Carbonier VP of ICRC, National Society leaders, staff and volunteers and my amazing IFRC secretariat team led by Martha Keys —I pay tribute to all of you who have shown incredible leadership these past few years--through the COVID-19 pandemic and so many other compounding crises.

I thank you all for your focus on doing what is right for the people we serve, and for your unwavering commitment to your communities. 

The Americas region is vibrant, teeming with diverse communities and extraordinary resilience.

It is also one of the most unequal regions in the world, hit by a complex web of crises that is driving up humanitarian needs and negatively impacting communities’ lives, livelihoods, and dignity.

The climate crisis with rising temperatures, extreme weather events and environmental degradation are wreaking havoc on communities and their livelihoods, across the region.

Endemic violence has shattered communities leaving scars that last for generations.

It has widened inequality and worsened socio-economic conditions.

It is pushing people to flee their homes and has directly contributed to the most severe migration crisis the Americas region faces in recent history.

Today, 3 out of every 10 migrants or asylum seekers leave their country of origin because of threats of violence.

Sadly, women and children bear the brutal brunt of this terrible crisis.

The tragic and horrifying stories of the people I met who were making the perilous journey across the Darien Gap last August will stay with me forever.

Every day, around 1000 people take this dangerous path in Darien Gap, in search of safety, hope, and new opportunities.

With no political solutions in sight and less resources available, the global humanitarian system is buckling under pressure to meet assistance, and protection needs of people in these circumstances.

But, 35 National Societies in this region, sadly only 34 now, have shown that we can confront these challenges by providing a wide range of services that address the core needs of communities.

From managing blood banks, clinics, hospitals, and ambulances to leading search and rescue operations, supporting people on the move, running nursing institutions, and developing solutions to tackle the climate crisis and violence, National Societies play crucial role.

IFRC is proud to support these efforts through the Disaster Response Emergency Fund, Capacity Building Fund, Emergency Appeals and our annual unified plans.

To address increasing migration needs, we are expanding our Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) to provide life-saving and inclusive services across migratory routes.

Collectively, we have reached millions:

  • Over a million people through programmes for migrants and host communities
  • A further one million people through disaster response,
  • More than 3.5 million people through health and well-being programmes.
  • And the millions reached during the COVID-19 response and related immunization efforts.

But we cannot rest on our laurels.

Today we face serious challenges, both in our ability to meet growing humanitarian needs but also in our ability to safeguard our fundamental principles.

In this context, today we gather at this 22nd Inter-American Conference recognizing the responsibility we bear, the solidarity we must foster, and the impact we can create together.

Firstly--The responsibility we bear is our opportunity to contribute to something greater than ourselves.

Our IFRC network is like no other.

We are part of the communities we serve.

And we are the largest, most connected, global humanitarian network.

This sum of local action and global reach makes National Societies effective auxiliaries to their public authorities in humanitarian field.

Our responsibility is to deliver quality humanitarian action that makes a positive difference in people’s lives, that reduces their risks and vulnerabilities, and that enhances their capacities and potential.

We can only succeed if we remain true to our Fundamental Principles.

They are the foundations of just and inclusive humanitarian action.

They are the building blocks of unity, trust, and cooperation in our Movement.

They are our moral compass.

Without them, our credibility is called into question and our ability to deliver neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action is threatened.

We must reassert our Fundamental Principles.

Let’s practise them in our work, speak to them in our discussions, live by them, teach them, help communities, partners and donors understand them.

Secondly, solidarity is at the heart of everything we do across the IFRC network.

Solidarity and commitment to our Strategy 2030 and Agenda for Renewal has enabled us to respond to the multiple crises and disasters in this region, to provide relief to those in need, and to support communities as they recover and rebuild.

Solidarity also means that we stand together as one.

It means that we put the needs of those we serve before our own, and that we work to alleviate their suffering.

Solidarity enables us to leverage our collective resources, expertise, and influence, to reach more people in need, to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and to amplify their voices.

Solidarity is not an option. It is a moral duty. We need this now, more than ever.

Thirdly—Our impact.

Our success is measured by the outcomes we achieve for the people we serve.

In this era of fast paced change and shifting political divides, our focus must be on accountability, agility, engagement, and innovation—which are important elements of our Agenda for Renewal.

For this, the IFRC is working for and with National Societies.

We have invested in scaling up digitalization, risk management, new funding models for greater agility, accountability, and impact to reach to the communities we serve.

We use these resources to foster learning and strengthen National Society capacities, so they are leaders in the humanitarian field, not just in response but in resilience building, data, influence, collaboration, and innovation.

This brings me to our volunteers—the lifeline and heartbeat of our network.

More than 50 percent of our volunteers today are people under 30.

Young people bring with them energy, technological know-how, and innovative solutions.

Let’s harness their skills today, give them opportunities to lead us to a more just and equitable future.

Colleagues, our impact must be about scaling up our delivery, while ensuring the quality, relevance, and sustainability of our actions.

None of the obstacles we face today are insurmountable.

We have the knowledge, the resources, the expertise and the skills to bring about the change.

As Mother Teresa once said – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”.

Colleagues- just like Mother Teresa, let us all dare to cast a stone across the water that will collectively create millions of ripples to make this world a better place for everyone. Not just for the few but for everyone.

Thank you.