By Siddharth Chatterjee. IFRC Chief Diplomat - Head of Strategic Partnerships and International Relations
Africa’s most pressing humanitarian and development challenges were top of the agenda at a high-level Ambassadorial event organized by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on 4 May.
The event was attended by 26 African Ambassadors from the Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva and the African Union representative, and was co-hosted by IFRC Secretary General Bekele Geleta and His Excellency Minelik Alemu Getahun, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia.
Discussions included how best to strengthen the partnership between African governments and their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, known as the auxiliary role, with particular focus on the current food security crisis in Sahel and elsewhere on the continent.
The group heard of the outcomes of a high-level Sahel food insecurity meeting co-organized by the African Union and the IFRC in Dakar, Senegal, on 25-26 April. These included an agreement on a twin-track approach that focuses on African solutions and joint advocacy on the worsening Sahel food crisis, and a commitment to addressing policy and financial barriers to successful food production through sustainable and equitable agricultural growth and development.
Secretary General Bekele Geleta, who was later invited to join the African Group of Ambassadors, spoke of the IFRC’s plans to support one million vulnerable people across the Sahel and the need for more funds for its 17 million Swiss franc emergency appeal, which will provide immediate relief combined with long-term development work to build community resilience to help break the cycle of food insecurity, vulnerability and dependence.
Ambassadors were also briefed on the outcomes of last November’s 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, where representatives from 164 States Party to the Geneva Conventions sat with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to plan approaches to the humanitarian and development challenges of today and tomorrow.
Nine resolutions were passed at the conference with the overall aim strengthening international humanitarian law, disaster response law and humanitarian action in areas where collaboration between States and the Red Cross Red Crescent at local, national, regional or global level will make a lasting difference in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.
The increasing number and severity of natural disasters, combined with a rise in the number of organizations that respond to such events, underlines the need for domestic legislation that ensures international assistance is rendered effectively, with speed and coordination, and is of a high quality. The Ambassadors were encouraged to work closely with the IFRC and National Societies on this issue, using the International Disaster Response Law Guidelines and commitments made at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent as a basis for ongoing dialogue between States and National Societies.
IFRC welcomed the opportunity to highlight National Societies’ capacity to respond to disasters, advise Governments on legal and regulatory frameworks to facilitate effective international disaster response, and to engage in disaster risk reduction and resilience building, but emphasised that their institutional capacity could be even further enhanced in the coming years.
Ambassadors and the IFRC identified the auxiliary role as an important relationship that should be strengthened. The Ambassadors asked for more briefings of this kind, so that they can be kept up to date on Red Cross Red Crescent activities, and acknowledged that they have a strong partner in the IFRC.