The IFRC is aware of the Supreme Court decision regarding the reorganization of the Venezuelan Red Cross’ leadership and board, and related actions. The IFRC was dispatching senior officials to Caracas this week to join its permanent delegation in the country to deal with the ongoing developments; this will continue with the goal to better understand the scope of risks and ability to continue providing principle-based humanitarian services, and the level of government involvement, if any, going forward.
Our priority is to protect the critical role of the Venezuelan Red Cross and its volunteers and staff in the country: their neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian action has been essential in saving lives.
We are currently closely monitoring the situation, assessing the best way forward, and we will inform on our next steps based on that analysis.
Any State intervention in our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies raises serious concerns regarding their independence and principle-based humanitarian work of National Societies and will be treated with the utmost importance. IFRC has its own mechanisms to address situations when a member National Society might be considered breaching our fundamental principles and we encourage governments to facilitate the IFRC’s own internal mechanism to address such situations.
The Fundamental Principlesexpress the values and practices of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. They have served as both a guide for action and a common identity for our Movement for over 50 years, and are written in the Statutes of the Movement.
As the 33rd International Conference in Geneva gets underway, IFRC President Francesco Rocca and ICRC President Peter Maurer discuss humanitarian challenges and some of the big issues on the agenda this week.
What are your hopes for the International Conference?
Francesco Rocca: The International Conference is a unique place where all the components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can discuss with Governments under the safe space of our Fundamental Principles. I hope that we will use this opportunity to discuss about the most pressing humanitarian challenges, like the climate crisis, migration, the criminalization of humanitarian aid, the respect of humanitarian workers, to name but a few.
We need a strong Red Cross Red Crescent voice to advocate on behalf of the communities we serve. I hope that we will have fruitful and bold discussions, without shying away from topics that can be also divisive at an international level. I feel a deep responsibility to represent our 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their almost 14 million volunteers; I will strongly advocate for the localization agenda which is the humanitarian trend we created a few years ago at the World Humanitarian Summit.
Our National Societies are local actors par excellence. We need to strengthen them and involve them in every decisional process. This is the strength of our Movement, the original idea of our founder, Henry Dunant: strong National Societies, strong local actors, mean strong local communities.
Peter Maurer: The unique promise of the conference is that in times of disaster, violence and conflict, in contexts of underdevelopment and other global challenges, when despair and devastation are greatest, lives can be saved and suffering alleviated through the special relationship of signatories to the Geneva Conventions and the components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
This special relationship recognizes that neither States nor civil societies can deal with these issues on their own, but rather need each other. We now have an opportunity to reinvigorate the special relationship we have with States, reinforcing our principles of NIIHA.
In practical terms this means making progress on the key themes and resolutions of the conference: on upholding respect for IHL, responding to key areas of vulnerabilities – mental health and psychosocial support, Restoring Family Links, climate crisis, digital transformation, migration, displacement and urban challenges – as well as trust in humanitarian action.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the Movement right now?
Francesco Rocca: Our main challenge is to stay relevant, ready to anticipate and detect new vulnerabilities and be ready to adapt accordingly. We are facing many complex emergencies all around the world: the climate crisis, the humanitarian crisis linked to migration and pandemics, as well as the many protracted crises where the sustainability of humanitarian activities is deeply under pressure.
We must work as a collective, as a Movement, enhancing our complementarity and putting our National Societies at the core of every discussion and decision. The world outside, the people we serve, donors, the general public, media, all of them only see one Red Cross or Red Crescent.
We must act accordingly; we need to sit together, put aside individual interests, and have an honest and trustful dialogue about roles and responsibilities. If we do not adapt, change will be forced upon us. The world is changing rapidly, and we must adapt accordingly.
Peter Maurer: The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an incredibly powerful force in the world. In our diversity there is strength, from the countries we come from, the languages we speak, and the experiences we have individually and collectively.
But the realities of the crises that the world faces today – humanitarians and States alike – are enormous and complex. We see the nature of crises changing and a widening gap between the shape and scale of people’s needs and our capacity to respond.
In the absence of political solutions, wars are protracted, some lasting decades. Urban battles feature prominently, causing widespread destruction and indiscriminate harm to civilians and their cities. As wars destroy whole systems, as people are displaced for years at a time, new crisis needs are created. Beyond the basics of food and shelter, families also need electricity, water, health systems. What we think of as ‘emergency needs’ is shifting. And so must our response.
We must also respond to the invisible needs – the mental health and psychosocial needs of people. Entire communities and individuals are suffering in silence, overwhelmed by stigma and a lack of appropriate support. This hidden suffering demands our attention as much as physical needs.
And finally we must support our own people. Our Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff answer the call of crises. They step up, despite the personal tragedies within their own communities, despite the personal risk. I recognize their dedication, their sacrifice – and we must make sure we are all there for each other, because we are one family.
Trust is a big theme of the conference. How can we better build trust in humanitarian action?
Francesco Rocca: Trust is crucial, and it is a very important signal that we have it as one of the main themes of our International Conference but also as a red thread for our Statutory Meetings. I believe that our greatest strength is that our volunteers are coming from the same local communities they are supporting. They understand the culture, they speak the same language, they are there before, during and after any crisis or disaster.
Our Movement is unique: we build and maintain trust from communities through our volunteers. The meaning of trust is when an ambulance or a team has access during an outbreak of violence and entire crowds applaud their bravery; we saw it many times over past months in many different places. Obviously, we still need to do it better, but I am sure we are best positioned to maintain trust from the people we serve, as well as from donors and partners. We must engage communities and put them at the centre of everything we do. We are deeply committed to doing this.
Peter Maurer: There is enormous trust in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Trust is the backbone of successful action and is sorely needed in today’s fragmented and divided societies. I firmly believe that the Movement can be a more powerful incubator of trust in societies at large, through the values we embody, the vision we represent and the pragmatism with which we act.
For trust is our license to win the confidence of communities, arms bearers and others to deliver humanitarian aid that is neutral and impartial. We are defined by the trust of populations, by the millions who say: “When I suffered, you were there.”
Mojtaba Yadegari, a youth member of the Iran Red Crescent Society, has been running for peace since he was nine years old. Lately he ran for 17 consecutive days, throughout Iran’s 31 governorates, covering an amazing 310km.
“I really enjoy running and I enjoy it more when I do it for a purpose such as advocating for universal peace and friendship,” said Mojtaba, from the Red Crescent’s Markazi Provincial Branch.
“So far, I have done 27 sport activities totaling about 3,000km,” he said. “My objective is to follow the principles of Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. I want to use my efforts to strive for global peace and friendship and to serve as an ambassador for the Iranian Red Crescent.”
Through his sporting achievements, Mojtaba hopes to promote a culture of non-violence and peace, familiarize the public with the work and objectives of the Red Crescent, and encourage other young people to become volunteers.
The 17 days of running were not easy, and the weather was sometimes a problem. However, “Each time I felt weak, I told myself I shall continue until I reach my objective no matter how hard it might be. I kept telling myself the finish line is not so far. I've come all the way! So, I can do the rest,” he said.
The people in the villages and cities that Mojtaba ran through have been a constant source of encouragement. “Each time I arrived in a new city, people cheered for me and even accompanied me in my run as a gesture of solidarity and friendship.”
After crossing all Iran’s governorates, Mojtaba now plans to run for peace outside Iran. “My motto is to advocate for peace around the world. I do this in my own country, but I dream of doing it elsewhere as well. My dream is to go to Geneva, Switzerland and run 10km for peace there.”
On his arrival at the Iranian Red Crescent Headquarters in Tehran, Mojtaba was welcomed and honored by Secretary General of the Red Crescent Society, its Head of Youth Organization, the Managing Director of the Tehran Provincial branch, senior directors, and many youth members and volunteers.
By Prof. Cecile Aptel, Director of Policy, Strategy and Knowledge, IFRC
Gender and diversity are about what we do, how we do it, and who we are as humanitarians.
Diversity is at the heart of the Red Cross and Red Crescent network, which is made up of National Societies assembling 13.7 million volunteers in more than 190 countries, and an international secretariat in Geneva. A critical element of that diversity is gender equality, which is key to a humanitarian organization delivering better support and services.
Sadly, we know from experience that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by disasters or crises, and are at higher risk of violence, abuse, neglect, discrimination, and being left behind. To effectively reach these women and girls, humanitarian organizations must themselves be inclusive: they must include women and girls’ perspectives at all levels of decision-making, from the design of a programme to its evaluation through its delivery, and therefore must have women at all levels, including the highest ones.
For several years now, the breadth and depth of the programmes and services of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have been captured in its Federation-Wide Databank and Reporting System. This year, for the first time, we have reviewed our performance by analysing the number of women reached by Red Cross and Red Crescent programmes, as well as the proportion of women in staff and governance. The sex disaggregated data at all levels of the network - from leadership and governing bodies, to paid staff and volunteers, and all the way to the people reached and supported by its activities - has been analysed and the results are published in the Everyone Counts report, which we are launching today.
As of 2017, women comprised 52 per cent of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, 50 per cent of National Society staff, and 45 per cent of IFRC’s paid staff worldwide. Yet, the percentage of women on IFRC’s Governing Board was only 17 per cent – significantly lower than the 31 per cent figure across National Societies. Globally, only 21 per cent of National Society Presidents and just 31 per cent of National Society Secretaries General are women. The results are variable by region and are affected by both the National Societies themselves as well as the communities they are situated in: if a country is doing well with regard to gender equality, this tends to be reflected within its National Society.
These numbers provide a baseline but we know that sex disaggregation is only one indicator of gender equality, and other issues should be taken into consideration when striving for a more inclusive Red Cross and Red Crescent. To start with, sex and gender are different things: sex refers to biology, and does not capture all the dimensions of gender as a social construct. The categories of men, women, boys, girls and other gender identities are all made up of individuals with different lives, roles and vulnerabilities, and societal structures often amplify these.
In this context, is it enough for humanitarian organizations to reach equally men and women? Shouldn’t they also aim to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are addressed, for instance in terms of menstrual hygiene? And contribute to achieving a more level playing field where parity can actually lead to gender equality, social justice, and a better future?
Having women able to speak and be heard at all levels of an organization is vital if these questions are to be asked, and to be answered meaningfully. This year’s Everyone Counts report is a reminder that more is needed on this front. Because there are structural and cultural barriers preventing skilled, talented, and committed women from progressing in their humanitarian careers, everyone – especially men - should work together to dismantle those barriers.
The IFRC is committed to rising to this challenge. It has recently announced that, by 2028, its secretariat will have gender parity at all staffing levels. It is also working with National Societies across the world to help them set their own targets based on their own analysis of current staffing as well as projected growth and staff turnover.
A Red Cross and Red Crescent network with sex parity as a prelude to gender equality will be better able to function and deliver more considered and more effective services. It will be a better reflection of the communities we work alongside, and be better able to harness the full power of humanity in all its diversity. This is who we should be as humanitarians.
Geneva/Solferino, 21 June 2019 – Fifteen thousand Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and more than 250 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders are have gathered this week in the historic Italian town of Solferino to debate pressing humanitarian concerns, and to celebrate the centenary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The week-long “4th International Solferino Youth Meeting” has featured a series of workshops exploring issues as varied as climate change and violence, digitalization and the opportunities and threats posed by new technologies, protracted crises and the role that young people can play in shaping a safer and more humane world.
Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC, said:
“Young people are the present and the future of our organizations. We need their strength, passion, vision and commitment to reach more people in need, to scale up our activities and to identify and effectively respond to new humanitarian priorities,” said Mr Rocca.
“The remarkable young people who have gathered here this week are a powerful antidote to the often-cynical representation given to millennials around the world. They are inspiring and give me hope that our network will remain as relevant and effective for another hundred years.”
Khadijah Ahmed Alwardi, a young Red Crescent volunteer from Bahrain, said:
“Meeting my peers from all over the world helped me realize that young people and the communities we live in often face very similar challenges. It was empowering to express my thoughts and the challenges that I face as young woman. I am leaving Italy with enthusiasm and I am committed to advocate fiercely for collaboration, mutual understanding, and for the role of young people in humanitarian action,” said Ms Alwardi.
The week-long event is taking place in Solferino where, in 1859 Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organized local people to treat the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Tomorrow (Saturday 22 June) 15,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from all around the world will participate to the traditional annual “Fiaccolata” – a candle-lit march between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere.
Geneva, 8 May 2019 – On World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2019, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is celebrating the nearly 14 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world who provide a lifeline to countless communities in need.In a statement sent to the volunteers, staff and leaders of the world’s 191 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, wrote:“I want to thank all our volunteers and staff who are working around the clock to reach people in need and to alleviate their suffering. You are the last mile of humanitarian aid everywhere in the world.“You are the proof that local actors are crucial to saving lives, to preparing communities, to working faster and better in every single crisis in the world.”This year’s World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day comes as volunteers around the world respond to a range of emergencies and crises. For example, volunteers in Mozambique are assisting thousands of families affected by Cyclone Idai and, more recently, by Cyclone Kenneth.In Venezuela, Red Cross volunteers are supporting communities, hospitals and health clinics across the country, providing needed medicines, medical supplies, equipment and care. In Afghanistan, Red Crescent volunteers are scaling up support to people who, in a matter of months, have suffered droughts and then floods.World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is held on 8 May – the birthday of the founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Henry Dunant. Each year, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies use the day to highlight the unique role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in their countries.This year, IFRC has launched a global digital campaign to celebrate World Red and Cross Red Crescent Day. Hundreds of submissions that reflect the diversity and the power of the IFRC network have been received so far from volunteers and staff in Kiribati, Yemen, Venezuela, Mali, Lithuania, and dozens of other countries. These contributions will be showcased across 8 May via an unprecedented Twitter marathon.This year’s celebration also coincides with the centenary of the founding of IFRC on 5 May 1919 by the American, British, French, Italian and Japanese Red Cross Societies.
by Francesco Rocca - IFRC President
At this very moment, in Mozambique, we are taking care of hard-to-reach communities, after Cyclone Idai hit. We are supporting hospitals and health facilities in Venezuela, providing lifesaving items. In Syria, we are doing our utmost to support the country’s growing needs. In the Pacific and Caribbean Islands, we are preparing local communities to respond to the humanitarian consequences of climate change. In Italy and in Spain, we are strengthening our actions for the most vulnerable, to be able to reach communities on the fringe of our society, as well as continuing our activities for migrants, to save lives, to protect human dignity and to work for integration. In Afghanistan, we are scaling up our activities to support the population which is suffering from drought and floods.
These are only a few examples of Red Cross Red Crescent activities around the world. I could go on, with at least 191 examples from our 191 National Societies. On World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, I want first to thank all our volunteers and staff who are working around the clock to reach people in need and to alleviate their suffering. You are the last mile of humanitarian aid everywhere in the world, you are the proof that local actors are crucial to save lives, to prepare communities, to work faster and better in every single crisis in the world.
We are facing unprecedented humanitarian challenges. Crises are worsening and are frequently becoming protracted over many years. Natural disasters and climate change are putting millions of people at risk, and causing new population movements. Drought and famine are hitting a larger number of countries and communities. In war zones, rules are frequently not respected, civilians are trapped and used as a tool of war and our volunteers and staff are becoming a target. Today I want to remember all the volunteers and staff who have lost their lives in the line of duty: we will never forget you, you will be with all of us every day, inspiring our actions and activities. And I will continue to advocate in every place, in every conference, in every meeting for the safety of our people in the field, reaffirming that we must not be a target: an attack against humanitarians is an attack against humanity, an attack against entire vulnerable communities and a crime of war.
If we look at the news and the current scenario, a sense of frustration affects all of us. Individually, we all have our own personal stories, our own backgrounds, experiences, careers and personal lives, but we still come together as humanitarian actors, engaged for humanity and committed to our Fundamental Principles. For this reason, we must continue being optimistic, we have to keep hoping and to continue serving humanity, as the Red Cross Red Crescent Family is much needed by humanity.
And it is for this reason, too, that we have to speak out for the protection and dignity of people enduring the worst of times, to influence without being influenced, and to detect vulnerabilities that might affect our communities.
Again, thank you to all of you. As a volunteer myself, I am deeply proud and honoured to represent and to be part of the Red Cross Red Crescent Family and its 14 million volunteers.
Thank you for your daily support to humanity and making the world a better place.
Geneva/Caracas, 7 February 2019: The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Francesco Rocca, will be in Venezuela between 8-10 February.
He will be taking part in a press conference at 13h00 on Friday 8 February at:
Venezuelan Red Cross Headquarters
Edificio Cruz Roja Venezolana
Final av Andres Beloo #4, Caracas
During his visit, he will meet Red Cross emergency teams, volunteers and leadership. He will be discussing humanitarian needs in the country and the Red Cross’ response, and will highlight the importance of neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action.