The Empress Shôken Fund (ESF) is named after Her Majesty Empress Shôken of Japan who – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – proposed the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
The fund is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which maintains close contact with the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute in Japan.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evidenced by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The Fund has a total value of more than 14 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that benefit the communities they serve in many different ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921 to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, more than15 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 171 National Societies. The grants are announced every year on 11April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
Increasingly, the Fund encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit our International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
2023 selection process
The Fund received 51 applications in 2022 for the 102nd distribution of income, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally. The applications submitted featured more innovative proposals than in previous years, further confirming the need for the ESF to support innovation and experimentation within National Societies.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 367,187 Swiss francs to 13 projects in Albania, Belgium, Burundi, Eswatini, Fiji, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Paraguay, Sudan, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The world’s current crises have impacted the performance of the fund, and ESF Joint Commission members have adjusted the process accordingly.
This year the projects selected cover a variety of topics, including first aid and rescue, youth, disaster preparedness, health, and National Society development (NSD).
The 2023 grants by theme
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches, and this is clearly reflected in the selection of proposals to receive funding. Some National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches. With their pilot methodology, they could potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources.In this category, the selected grantees are as follows:
The Honduran Red Cross has taken an innovative approach to volunteer empowerment and engagement. The goal of its project is to establish a fund that supports innovative micro-projects developed and led by local volunteers. This will help forge stronger links between the National Society and the communities it serves. It has designed a pilot with 12 micro-projects, responding to an identified need to grow activity at the branch level.
The Uruguayan Red Cross is focusing efforts on improving mental health resilience among young people by providing training in schools, creating psychosocial support mechanisms and forming youth brigades. There is a growing need for youth mental health support, and this pilot in two schools will give the team an opportunity to learn and adapt their approach.
The Indonesian Red Cross Society will pilot a community-based approach to environmental awareness and food security. A renovated community learning centre will be used to launch the pilot, which will engage over 100 stay-at-home spouses and 30 children. The project aims to tackle emerging issues, such as climate change, while building stronger community connections.
Many National Societies have prioritized innovative solutions to combat the challenges of climate change. In this category, the selected beneficiaries, in addition to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, are as follows.
Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards. The Belgian Red Cross will engage and empower young people impacted by floods to express and share their feelings on climate change through digital story telling. Simple to replicate and scalable, this initiative has the potential to give us tremendous insight and allow for powerful messages to be shared.
As a means of addressing the challenges of climate change, the Burundi Red Cross will engage in implementing activities such as tree planting and promoting improved city waste management. The project is a youth volunteer-led initiative that will reduce youth unemployment. This comprehensive approach will result in significant learning opportunities.
The Paraguayan Red Cross will develop a mobile app that will serve as an early warning system and educate communities on how they can respond to flooding in seven community districts. This solution is scalable, innovative and a sustainable approach to addressing community needs.
Finally, the last group of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to disaster preparedness, health and youth. In this category, the selected grantees are as follows.
The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society will improve data management processes for effective decision-making during emergencies in Eswatini by 2025. The main idea is to integrate and mainstream a mobile phone app dashboard into the existing National Society information management system and increase community participation (affected communities) in information sharing and management.
Thailand is prone to natural hazards, which often cause devastating damage and loss of lives. Therefore, the Thai Red Cross Society aims to improve disaster readiness, mainly for earthquakes, by training children and young people using virtual reality simulation.
The Sudanese Red Crescent will use the funds to support flood-affected women, providing them with cash, grants and livelihood tools to allow them to start their own business. The aim is to build resilience and longer-term recovery contexts for current and future crises by empowering the most vulnerable in a self-sustaining way.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea will focus on developing a mobile health app to comprehensively improve the quality of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care, especially for complex deliveries, with a view to reducing maternal and newborn mortality.
According to figures on human trafficking, Albania is a primary source country and the non-EU European country with the second highest number of victims. To address this threat, the Albanian Red Cross will use the grant to train staff and volunteers, with a view to activating peer-to-peer prevention in high schools. The National Society will reach out to other sister National Societies to build a strong network of certified trainers who will raise awareness through peer-to-peer activities.
The Fiji Red Cross Society aims to overhaul its current volunteer programme, using the grant to implement end-to-end digitization to enhance the onboarding experience and increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of volunteer management. The idea is to also include community-level training that will generate meaningful learning and be easily replicable elsewhere.
At present, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has more than 18,000 staff and volunteers across its local branches who support it in carrying out its humanitarian mission. With a view to scaling up branch development by complementing other initiatives, the National Society will use the grant to digitize its policies for online courses that can be freely accessed at any time, making training more convenient for its network of staff and volunteers.
ESF and learning
The Fund constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole Movement and to diversify its learning materials. Later this year, the Fund will join with the stakeholders of the other NSD funding mechanisms, namely the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA),for a learning event, with the aim of sharing lessons learned and experiences from grantees across the different funds.
It is important to recognize the diversity of National Societies within the network and the wide range of NSD support that is needed. The ESF and the other funding mechanisms (which focus more on NSD) operate in a complementary way, and togethertheyhave the capacity to meet this array of NSD and learning needs and support a broader transformation in our network.
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services.
The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere.
This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022:
Burundi Red Cross
Kenya Red Cross Society
Malawi Red Cross Society
Russian Red Cross Society
Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Zambia Red Cross Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development.
In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019.
This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years.
The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said:
“We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale.
It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey.
2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.”
For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 22 February 2021 – Red Cross teams in Guinea and across West Africa are ramping up response efforts to contain a deadly Ebola outbreak.
Red Cross volunteers and staff Guinea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone have stepped up surveillance and community sensitization efforts. To support these live saving activities, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has issued an international emergency appeal for 8.5 million Swiss francs.
MohammedMukhier, the IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“Ebola does not care about borders. Close social, cultural and economic ties between communities in Guinea and neighbouring countries create a very serious risk of the virus spreading to Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, and potentially even further.
“That’s why we are launching an integrated cross-border operation aimed at rapidly confining the outbreak to its current location—and swiftly containing any eventual outbreak beyond Guinea.”
In Guinea, Red Cross teams in N’zérékoré were mobilized to conduct safe and dignified burials for two people who were killed by Ebola. They also disinfected a local hospital and started efforts to create broad community awareness about the return of the disease in the urban areas of N'Zérékoré and in Gouécké.
There are an estimated 1.3 million people living in the health zone affected by the outbreak. The Guinea Red Cross and IFRC plan aims to support about 420,000 of them with a range of services, including community sensitization, community-based surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, safe and dignified burials, infection prevention and control, as well as psychosocial support.
In surrounding countries, Red Cross actions will target an additional 6 million people. In Sierra Leone, a network 200 Red Cross volunteers in Kambia and Kailahun are now on high alert and are conducting surveillance activities. In addition, an alert was sent to the four other districts (Kono, Koinadugu, Western Area and Pujehun) bordering Guinea and Liberia, where an additional 100 volunteers are preparing social community awareness activities.
In Liberia, in areas along the borders with Guinea, Red Cross volunteers are on high alert and are currently conducting awareness in communities. The most at-risk areas include Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu counties. Liberia Red Cross will be sending Personal Protective Equipment to the region.
In Mali, Red Cross teams will provide services such as surveillance and community sensitization. The Senegalese Red Cross is beefing up surveillance efforts at border points, while ramping up community awareness activities.
In addition to enacting community response, surveillance and sensitization activities, Red Cross teams are also concerned about the needs being created by localized efforts to limit movements in a bid to contain the outbreak. As a result of these public health measures, people near the epicentre are already in need of water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as food assistance.
IFRC’s Mukhier said: “This outbreak is likely to complicate an already challenging situation. COVID-related containment measures currently being implemented have exacerbated food insecurity in the region and this may lead to the reluctance of communities to respect new preventive measures that are being put in place to contain Ebola.”
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 February 2021 –A network of more than 700 trained Red Cross volunteers has been activated as part of a first wave of response to the new Ebola outbreak in the rural community of Gouéké in Guinea’s N’Zerekoreprefecture.
Drawing from theirexperienceduringthe2014–2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak,theRed Crossteams are rushing to contain further spread of the virus.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“Time is of the essence.The resurgence of the virus inGuineacomes at the worst possible time whenthe country isalreadyfacing theCOVID-19pandemic.There are reasons for fear, but there are also reasons for hope.While we are extremely concerned, we are also reassured bythelessons we learned from previous outbreaks, and by recent medical advances.”
More than 11,000 people were killed duringthe worst-everEbola outbreak in history in 2014-2016.
Mukhier said: “We need a response that is faster than the virus itself. Unless the response is swift, the health, economic and social impacts are likely to be immense for millions of peoplein a country witha relatively weak healthsystem, andwheremore than half of the population lives below the poverty line.”
In response to this new outbreak, the IFRC and Guinea Red Cross have activated their “epidemicpreparedness and response network”in the country.Through thissystem, Red Cross teamshavebeen helping communities prepare and prevent the spread of diseases.
Red Crossvolunteerswill provide services such as, contact tracing, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene and—if needed—safe burials.
Guinea Red Cross has almost 2,500 volunteers across the country which gives it extraordinary reach into communities.