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What we achieved at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Statutory Meetings

21 November 2017

Hi everyone,

It’s good to be home. This is my first chance to give you an insight into what we learnt and achieved at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Statutory Meetings in Antalya, Turkey.

I’m very proud of the work we did in Antalya - here are the highlights.

As background, the Statutory Meetings occur every two years, bringing together representatives from all member 190 National Societies, Federation and ICRC. Our Australian delegation consisted of:

  • Michael Legge AM, President of our Board
  • Ross Pinney, Deputy President of the Board
  • Sam Hardjono, Chair, NSW Divisional Advisory Board & Board member
  • Margaret Piper AM, Board Member
  • Pearl Li, Board Member
  • Yvette Zegenhagen, National Manager of International Humanitarian Law, Movement Relations and Advocacy
  • Noel Clement, Director, Migration, Emergencies and Movement Relations
  • Peter Walton, Director, International

Special mention also to my scooter, which went everywhere with us too! It was so much better than crutches, except that my basket picked up a fair bit of junk mail.

Over 10 jam packed days we contributed to four Movement meetings:

  1. The Pacific Nations meeting, involving 14 Societies from the region (two days)
  2. The General Assembly, with all National Societies and the Federation (three days)
  3. The RC2 Forum, which was all about delving into future trends (one day)
  4. The Council of Delegates (two days), comprising all components of the Movement (National Societies, Federation and the ICRC) and attended by the Standing Commission (the highest permanent body of the Movement).

We also attended countless other side meetings and networking opportunities, both formal and informal.

On the agenda? A new IFRC President, a commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons, an historic strategy on working to support migrants, and a focus on advancing youth and volunteer engagement.

You can see the opening speech from outgoing President of the International Federation here, and from the President of the ICRC here.

A new IFRC President and Governing Board

Francesco Rocca, Italian lawyer and President of the Italian Red Cross, was elected President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Monday. Twenty countries were then voted to the Governing Board which meets twice a year to make decisions on behalf of the National Societies.

Some days later, we realised only two of the twenty countries elected to the Governing Board have female leaders. Gender balance is not only a minimum expectation of a modern movement, most importantly, it enriches decision making and deepens the skills and experience available to the Board and wider Movement. Noel worked on a solution with our colleagues from Swedish Red Cross and I was privileged to read it out at the General Assembly. It received a warm reception and spontaneous applause – everyone agreed.

“[Gender equality] will contribute to a stronger, more inclusive and effective Movement for us all that is fit for the 21st century.

First, we call on the Governing Board to take concrete measures to address this issue and report back. Second, there is now a very real opportunity we can seize. We call upon the 20 National Societies elected to the Governing Board to nominate women as their representatives.

We don't need to wait four years for another election process to start to improve this situation; it is our collective responsibility and we need your immediate leadership to put us on the right path.”

The new Federation President promptly adopted gender balance as one of his four priorities, and directly asked his Governing Board colleagues to appoint women leaders. Our intervention also led to a formal decision at the end of the Council of Delegates which will apply to the whole Movement as well as the Standing Commission.

Ross Pinney during a workshop on Strategy 2020.

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

"The principles of our Movement do not permit moral indifference in the face of the terrifying effects of a weapon for which there is no adequate humanitarian response."
Pearl Li, Australian Red Cross Delegate
Australian Red Cross Intervention

We in Australia have always been a strong supporter of the Movement’s efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The recent adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has provided renewed focus for this effort, and on the last day, after many discussions and debates, 107 National Societies formally signed up to this resolution. There was rousing applause. Together, we’ll promote adherence to the Treaty and continue working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

I want to acknowledge Yvette’s contribution to this outcome. She worked with ICRC and Federation colleagues, engaging other National Societies and ensuring strong Pacific support for the agreement.

The treaty clearly and comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons on the basis of international humanitarian law and their catastrophic consequences. It acknowledges that any use of nuclear weapons would be abhorrent to the principles of humanity. It contains strong commitments to assist victims of testing and use of nuclear weapons and to engage in remediation of contaminated environments, and it provides pathways for adherence by all States, including nuclear-armed States. Finally, the Treaty highlights the role of the Movement in promoting IHL and humanitarian causes, and our readiness to work with States towards its goals.

Noel spoke about our work in Australia restoring family links and supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Migration and restoring family links

This theme popped up in a number of areas. The sessions covered future trends and challenges, including restoring family links and building social cohesion in today’s increasingly polarized world. Noel and Margaret were instrumental in driving discussion around these topics.

We were central to drafting the migration strategy, in our capacity as Co-Chair of the Asia Pacific Migration Network. It aims to equip the Federation and National Societies to support migrants at all stages of their journeys, from their country of origin, through to transit and final destination.The strategy will also focus on enhancing migrants’ resilience as well as advocating for their rights.

A resolution was also passed during the Council of Delegates calling on States to protect migrants from death, violence, abuse and violations of fundamental rights.Outgoing IFRC President, Tadateru Konoe spoke some very passionate words on this topic. I want to share them with you:

“Migration is the most politically charged and divisive issue of our time, and one with tremendous implications for the very nature of humanitarian work. There is need for an emphasis on dignity and respect, even in the midst of combative debates. Surely everyone can agree that death, rape, and abuse is too high a price to pay for the hope of safety and opportunity?”

We left the meetings determined to continue doing everything we can to support people through migration. Sam’s interest was piqued by a session on data and he has developed some ideas for us to explore how we can take advantage of big data to help more people more effectively.

Here I am talking about the importance of engaging people vs just communicating ‘at’ people on one of the panels.

Pearl spoke as part of a panel on volunteering.

The future of volunteering and youth engagement

The Movement as a whole is challenged with declining numbers of volunteers because the approach we are taking isn’t sufficiently flexible and spontaneous. It is difficult to conceptualise what new ways of volunteering might look like – but that is exactly what we’re doing. We encouraged discussion towards new ways of thinking.

Pearl worked with the Youth Commission on this theme, encouraging everyone to think about new and creative approaches. Jemilah Mahmood (Under Secretary General for Partnerships at the IFRC) mentioned the work of Australian Red Cross in a panel discussion. She talked about our efforts to reimagine volunteering by finding new ways to empower millions of Australians to take humanitarian action.

The other major issue discussed at the meetings related to the safety of volunteers who work in incredibly difficult circumstances – this topic was quite rightly driven by National Societies such as Syria. It’s important to understand these dynamics.

My thanks to Jane Munro and Sarah Jones for supporting us from back home, and to Cam Power for acting as CEO in my absence.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership and Executive Teams

On Friday our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership and Executive Teams had an all day session together. The purpose of the day was to workshop how we can help Red Cross build a cultural ladder. This is about creating strong leadership, valuing cultural identity, being conscious of cultural difference and strengthening the institutional integrity of Red Cross. It was also about setting values that are strong enough to overcome barriers that might get in the way of working together towards the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. 

It was a really good session and the beginning of a closer relationship.