Statement by Mr Tadateru Konoé, President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Mr Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, 8 May, is an opportunity to celebrate the bravery and the achievements of the 17 million volunteers and nearly half a million staff members who ensure that we keep our commitment to humanity every day, by being there before, during, and after a disaster, health crisis or conflict. We are local and international, independent and impartial, and we are everywhere for everyone.
While serving as Presidents of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), we have had the privilege of seeing the strength and diversity of our Movement first hand, and of learning what “everywhere for everyone” means to the ICRC, IFRC and our 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as they ensure that the humanitarian imperative continues to come first.
In Tuvalu, being everywhere for everyone means that the 11 people living on the tiny island of Papaeliese – one of the smallest and most remote communities in the world – are trained and supported in disaster preparedness by the Tuvalu Red Cross, and can receive cyclone and tsunami warning messages on their mobile phones.
Being everywhere for everyone means supporting marginalized and stigmatized groups. A multi-award winning health and first aid programme designed by the Irish Red Cross helps people in prison to gain valuable skills during their rehabilitation journeys - benefitting more than 4,000 prisoners and 12,000 staff and family members every day.
It means staying to support people in need, even when many others are running away. When the terrifying West Africa Ebola outbreak destroyed lives and ravaged communities in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Red Cross volunteers were among the first to respond in spite of the terrible risks. One volunteer was asked why they stayed and answered, “If we as the Red Cross don't do it, who will?”
It means that people fleeing their homes to escape war, persecution or disaster can keep in touch with family members or trace missing relatives through the Movement’s global Restoring Family Links network.
In Syria, being everywhere for everyone means risking injury or death to provide the most urgent humanitarian assistance to people in desperate need. Since the conflict began more than five years ago, 53 Syrian Arab Red Crescent and eight Palestine Red Crescent Society volunteers and staff have been killed while providing basic services such as food, water, blankets or medical care.
In a complex and increasingly vulnerable world - one that is troubled by health crises, protracted conflicts, migration and displacement, increasing numbers of natural disasters linked to climate change, and a continued threat from nuclear and technological risks - being everywhere for everyone is a growing challenge. Every year, we already reach millions of people with disaster response activities and development and resilience-building programmes, as well as in situations of armed conflict. But as vulnerabilities increase, so will humanitarian needs.
To continue to be everywhere for everyone we must use our global network to reinforce local capacity. So today, while we celebrate our Movement and its brave and dedicated staff and volunteers, we will also be reflecting on how we can work with individuals, communities and Governments to best support people who need us, reduce their risks and build resilience, and to improve our services and accountability.
We will strive for improved access to health care and action to prevent non-communicable diseases; the integration of disaster risk reduction into climate change strategies; the strengthening of legal frameworks and greater respect for international humanitarian law; safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to people affected by conflict; and investment in youth leadership.
And later this month, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, we will reaffirm our commitment to humanity by raising our global voice in pursuit of a safer, peaceful, and more resilient world, and underline our Movement's unique role in supporting those in need.