Wednesday, May 8, 2013
150 Years of Humanitarian Action for the Red Cross
The year 2013 marks the 150 year anniversary of the birth of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. On 8th May, World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, we celebrate together 150 years of humanitarian action and the Red Cross Red Crescent’s continued relevance, locally and globally, in today’s changing world.
150 years after the birth of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, we continue to provide relevant and timely humanitarian service to vulnerable communities and are committed to doing so now and into the future. Together and building on each other's strengths, our 187 Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mobilize the power of humanity – to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from crisis – now and well into the future.
The Red Cross Red Crescent is the world’s largest humanitarian network, made up of millions of volunteers and professionals working in close proximity with those in need. Over the past decade, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff have supported more than 160 million people in emergency response, ranging from disaster to civil unrest. The Red Cross Red Crescent is at the foundation of international humanitarian action and of modern international humanitarian law. In 1863, Henry Dunant’s ideas, presented in his landmark book A memory of Solferino, were transformed into reality with the creation of the ICRC and the establishment of the first National Societies, followed in 1864 by the adoption of the First Geneva Convention. Today, his ideas remain pillars for the Movement, giving it strength and purpose.
All Red Cross Red Crescent action is driven by humanitarian values such as neutrality, protection of human dignity and respect for diversity, which are embedded in the seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. In our changing world these Fundamental Principles – and how they guide our work – are relevant more than ever before. Our volunteers and staff are driven by principles that go beyond geographical, religious or cultural borders. Our Fundamental Principles make up the ethical framework which guide us in our continued service to vulnerable people everywhere, regardless of nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions.
The seven Fundamental Principles are: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.
Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers will continue to empower their local communities. And it is local communities that will shape the global agenda. We are truly global in our composition and presence as a network, yet local in our approach, thanks to our strong anchoring in local communities. The global humanitarian agenda will ultimately be set by the people who understand the needs and solutions best – the local volunteers on the ground, community members and individuals who have been affected by hardship. Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff worldwide reach more than 150 million people each year through programmes in health, disaster risk reduction, social inclusion and more.
The voices of millions of people and their humanitarian needs are represented through these programmes and the Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff who support them. Our volunteers enable change to happen from within communities, in tune with local needs, aspirations and contexts. 13 million Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers contribute six billion US dollars in economic value through the services they deliver worldwide.
In our fast-changing world, young people will lead positive change. Half of the 13 million Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers worldwide are youth. They are innovators embracing new ideas and technologies faster than any generation before them. Young people are values-driven. They believe in equality and non-violence and want to act with meaning and with purpose in life. They are agents of change, across generations and ideologies, promoting a culture of non-violence and peace, for example as we saw in the Arab Spring.
Thousands of young people worldwide have been trained as peer educators in the Red Cross Red Crescent ‘Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change’ (YABC) programme, in which they are equipped with skills such as mediation and non-violent communication. YABC empowers young people to take leadership roles and inspire a positive transformation of mindsets, attitudes and behaviours within themselves and their community.
Looking to the future, as humanitarian needs evolve, so too will the Red Cross Red Crescent. In the 150 years since our founding, the nature of war and other crisis has continuously evolved, raising new challenges for humanitarian action. Today, as it has always done, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement builds on its history, adapting its humanitarian response to face new challenges, with the sole ambition of serving the most vulnerable. Amongst the challenges facing humanitarian action today is an increase in natural disasters and health emergencies, the continuous lack of respect for international humanitarian law, problems of safe access to health care in many countries and difficulties for humanitarian actors to reach people in need in certain contexts.
Reaching people in need is a serious challenge in certain conflict situations. Thousands of people living in areas of Afghanistan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo or Syria receive scarce humanitarian aid because of insecurity or political barriers. Ensuring that fighting parties understand that we do not take sides and are only interested in helping impartially those suffering is the key for reaching people who need our help, especially in conflict situations. Whether it is by using new technologies to improve our response or adapting to climate change in programme delivery, we will always seek innovative and impactful approaches in serving the vulnerable.
The number of natural disasters reported from 1970 to 2010 increased by 500 per cent. In response, in 2010, the Red Cross Red Crescent trained more than 17 million people in disaster risk reduction and climate change preparedness to help communities adapt to this changing threat.- RED CROSS