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Robert Tickner opening address

Address by Robert Tickner, CEO Australian Red Cross, to the Joint Grand Opening of the General Assembly and Council of Delegates, Sydney, 12 November 2013.

Eminent guests,
Ambassadors and Members of the diplomatic corps,
Mr Greg Vickery, Chair of the Standing Commission,
Mr Konoe, President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
Dr Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross,
Mr Bekele Geleta, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
Mr Yves Daccord, Director General, International Committee of the Red Cross,
Mr Michael Legge, President of Australian Red Cross,
Delegates and Red Cross and Red Crescent friends.

It's my great honour to welcome you all to this Joint Grand Opening of the General Assembly and Council of Delegates.

We gather today as representatives from across the globe, from right across the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

This is a landmark event for us - never before has there been a joint opening ceremony for both the General Assembly and Council of Delegates. It truly represents the joining together of all components of the movement, united by our living commitment to the fundamental principles.

Some of you join us at this conference from places that are experiencing acute conflict, upheaval and humanitarian tragedies. As brothers and sisters in the movement your people are in our thoughts and we are so grateful that you are here today.

We also welcome our Youth Delegates, who following the Global Youth Conference join us at these meetings. For the first time the Global Youth Conference has been held immediately prior to the General Assembly. This has been a very deliberate strategy supported by Australian Red Cross and endorsed by the governing board of the IFRC. I am delighted to be able to report that we have a record number of youth delegates with us today. This is a real achievement and a Global Youth Conference model we can and should repeat in the future to ensure our youth voice remains powerful and resonant in our statutory meetings.

As a representative of your host national society I want to issue a collective challenge to us all to use these meetings not just constructively but courageously to address some of these key issues which have held us back and thwarted our progress as a Movement. We need to have authentic and ongoing conversations around these issues and I would like to help spark that discussion in my brief remarks today.

There are four critical issues I wish to raise and issue a call for action at these meetings and in our work when we return home.

Firstly this history making joint opening to our Statutory events embodies the essence of the way we increasingly need to operate as a cohesive Movement. We cannot remain as separately operationing grand historical institutions where real and genuine collaboration between us on key common issues is not maximised for the common good.

We all know in our heart of hearts this is true and that too often we adopt high minded resolutions of collaboration at these international events but fail to walk the talk in our daily practice.

We all know that close and ongoing collaboration between the ICRC and the IFRC will of course have its challenges as we have our own distinct mandates and roles but I am utterly convinced that if the leadership of both institutions continue to commit themselves to this collaboration objective and to the mutual respect for our distinct roles which must underpin it ----that deep cultural change can and will occur.

The people of the world understand our emblems and what they stand for very well and they see us as one Movement. We have a duty to meet that expectation and to relentlessly drive collaboration and co-ordination because our capacity to perform our humanitarian work will be hugely enhanced if we do and the world is watching.

My second challenge is however to all national societies. It is us who have a responsibility to build the momentum for what must be a coming period of further substantial reform and innovation within our Federation. We have been here for almost a hundred years and we are not going away but we do have to address some critical challenges if we are to remain relevant and to maximise our potential.

We all know those challenges include our commitment to sound financial systems, greater self reliance and resource mobilisation in all national societies as well as boosting our volunteer numbers and links with local communities. I am so deeply heartened however that there is a groundswell of opinion developing right across our Federation around these issues and I have seen it in the outcomes of the Pan African Conference, in Latin America and in the Pacific National societies and most other places around the world.

I think we all want a stronger IFRC which must be better resourced and better able to meet the demands placed on it by the membership.

We also need to be able to speak more effectively with one global voice and when necessary with the ICRC. When we do this the world will listen as witnessed by the extraordinary influence both the ICRC, the IFRC and national societies have exercised in the leadership role we have played on nuclear weapons.

My third challenge is also directed both to national societies and to the IFRC and that is that we need intensify the building on the reforms already achieved in recent years to be seen as an outward looking and entrepreneurial organisation. In addition to our role in relation to natural disasters we are the natural partner of our Governments and multilateral funding bodies in relation to many public health and human development programs. There is no other organisation on the planet which has the global reach and the deep relationship with local communities which our IFRC and its members have but we do not yet maximise the potential of that global footprint. At the same time we must also ensure that we have the capacity to deliver and that all necessary risk management issues have been addressed.

Finally for me, the greatest challenge and the most exciting work to be done by us all is in the area of national society development. There is a landmark document coming before the General Assembly which I deeply urge you to support and which gives us the best conceptual framework ever for future national society development. It is a document which is also very practical, placing the responsibility for national society development on the national society itself but clearly pointing to the need for a new basis of relationship between partner donor national societies and their governments and developing national societies . This new relationship must place the developing national societies in the drivers seat and in control of your own destiny.

I would argue this is the greatest and most important challenge of all to the legacy of the IFRC and we will ultimately be judged by the track record and capacities of national societies to deliver our humanitarian programs on the ground in local communities.

May I conclude my reminding us all that we are part of the world's largest humanitarian organisation and we are made bigger and stronger than the sum of our parts.

It is by working more effectively together that we are best able to ensure our love of humaniy and collective Red Cross Red Crescent capacity can truly change the world.

This, is the power of Humanity!

Thank you.

Download this address as a pdf document.

Robert is on Twitter @RobertTickner