By Isabelle Granger
On 14-16 March 2012, some 280 delegates from the National Red Cross Societies of the Americas gathered with partner organizations in Montrouis, Haiti for the 19th Inter-American Conference of the Red Cross. Pursuant to the conference theme of “reducing gaps,” the National Societies agreed on a set of commitments to scale up the impact of their work over the next four years in a number of areas, ranging from reducing discrimination and urban violence to advocating for stronger disaster laws.
As articulated by the “Montrouis Commitment,” National Societies committed to promote the use of the IDRL Guidelines by their national authorities and, more generally, to “build [their] capacity to advocate effectively for strong domestic legislation on disaster risk reduction, response and recovery.”
Conference participants also adopted an “Inter-American Framework for Action” to guide National Societies’ work in the region from 2012 to 2016. With a view to implementing Strategy 2020, the National Societies engaged to “strive to increase their profile and influence in their respective countries and be seen as preferred partners based on evidence-based performance and capacity, [and]…obtain concrete advocacy results, including the strengthening of laws, policies and procedures in the interest of vulnerable people.”
“The National Societies should work closely with their governments on the strengthening of disaster legislation,” commented Bekele Geleta, IFRC Secretary General, during a session of the Conference on “Leadership and development from the perspective of the RCRC auxiliary role.”
The importance of strengthening disaster legislation was also highlighted by Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who presented on current trends in humanitarian assistance and development.
The Inter-American Conference also provided the opportunity for Movement partners and participating stakeholders to discuss the importance of strengthening international disaster response legislation at national level, in a workshop on “Relations with States Actors”. In this workshop, both the Colombian Red Cross and Haitian Red Cross commented on the support they are providing to their government in the implementation of the IDRL Guidelines in their respective countries, with support from the IFRC.