Closing panel: “We are all responsible for making this happen.”

The 32nd International Conference drew to a close with a quick panel debate featuring Fatima Gailani, President of Afghan Red Crescent Society; Yves Daccord, Director General of ICRC; Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Stephen O’Brien, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination, and Dr. Mostefa Souag, Director General of Al Jazeera.

Mr. Sy paid tribute to the millions of volunteers globally, citing their essential role, and reaffirming the International Federation’s support. “Our humanitarian action can be summarized as: being there – being there all the time – at the side of all those who need it. And we want to do this together, with the ICRC, as a Movement, in collaboration and complementarily,” he said. 

When asked to reflect on humanitarian action today, there was common agreement across the panel on the importance of working constructively together, to best serve the people who need help the most. “Nowadays, it feels good to be a humanitarian, to be an idealist, to be a pacifist, especially when surrounded with belligerent discourses and conflict.  The power of humanity will be our compass, our GPS,” said Mr. Sy.

Ms. Gailani reminded the audience of the importance of being a humanitarian today, to be strong and proud humanitarians – to celebrate each life and to mourn each death.  Mr. Daccord saw that in an increasingly difficult world, where humanitarians are sometimes pushed to think of others more than themselves, the Movement still managed to put people at the centre.  “People have been the centre of all our discussions, thinking and resolutions over the past three days and we’re committed to concrete, collective action with a clear vision of what each of us can do,” he said.

The UN’s Stephen O’Brien found inspiration in the energy and commitment of the Movement. “I see in the Movement no better, no greater partner for humanity,” he said.  “The combination of volunteerism and values put humanity right at the centre of your work.” 

Dr. Mostefa talked of the increasingly close synergy that exists between the media and humanitarians: “Media and humanitarians are first on site in a disaster. The media are there to help report, create awareness of the plight on the ground. Humanitarian organisations need the media to tell their stories, to report what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” he said, adding that he sees greater potential and need for the media to work more closely and proactively with humanitarians.

Panel moderator Ashanta Osborne-Moses, former Chair of the International Federation’s Youth Commission, wondered what the panelists would think on Monday morning. Mr. Sy said it was time to go back to the communities, where it all happens, “carrying the torch of the power of humanity”.  For Mr. Daccord, there was no Monday. “For us, we’re working all the time. What we need to do is bring some of the collective energy back to them in the field,” he said, adding that robust plans and action plans need now to be implemented.

In closing, Ms. Gailani called on everyone to make good the promises that have been made at the International Conference over the past three days: “We are all responsible for making this happen.”

32nd International Conference Outcomes

With 177 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and 162 States present and registered to vote, the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent began closing proceedings with the election of a new Standing Commission. For the first time, delegates used digital voting devices, smart phones, or tablets to cast their votes for ten candidates representing all regions.

The new Standing Commission was elected as follows:

  • Mr. George Weber, Canada, 229 votes
  • Ms. Eva Von Oelrich, Sweden, 224 votes
  • Mr. Chrystold Chetty, Seychelles, 176 votes
  • Mr. Greg Vickery, Australia, 175 votes
  • Mr. Massimo Barra, Italy, 172 votes.

The election was followed by reporting from the five commissions. The Fundamental Principles in Action commission stressed the need to tailor the practice of Fundamental Principles to the varying contexts in which National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies operate, to maintain constant dialogue with all stakeholders, and to encourage States to show support for the Principles to allow humanitarian actors to work.

The second commission focused on contemporary challenges in international humanitarian law and how to address them. This commission made note of the increasing complexity of armed conflicts, their expanding geographical scope, including in urban settings, and encouraged all stakeholders to show respect for and compliance of international humanitarian law.

In commission three, joint action on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence was discussed. Practical solutions suggested from this group included ensuring free access to legal aid and financial support for victims, simplified legal procedures, and better coordination internally and externally, including with States.

The fourth commission addressed Health Care in Danger, with delegates recognizing the progress that has been made since the last International Conference. Thirty-seven interventions were suggested, noting that the most effective measures are those that are locally adopted. Many are also reflected in the pledges that arose from the Conference. 

The fifth and last commission included a lively dialogue on building resilience by scaling up local action and strengthening legal frameworks, focusing largely on the One Billion Coalition for Resilience which was launched earlier this week, and which aims to have one billion people taking action to improve their resilience by 2025.

Following 45 hours in session, the Drafting Committee reported back on the nine resolutions, all of which had been adopted in committee by consensus. The Resolutions were then adopted in full session, again by consensus.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Statutory Meetings in numbers


169 Governments
185 National Societies
101 observers

Drafting committee

240 paragraphs
9 resolutions


86 specific pledges
51 open pledges

Side event

Bridging International Humanitarian and Development Financing

Are there really two distinct funding cultures or is there a common ground? Thus kicked off the debate between five prominent panelists in a lively event, facilitated by Al Jazeera’s Lauren Taylor, on the divide between humanitarian and development finance.

Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Co-Chair of the UN’s High Panel on the Future of Humanitarian Financing and Vice-President of the European Commission, explained how the very nature of financing has been affected by the complex nature of conflict today.

“We are looking at displacements that last years, not months,” she said. “Protracted conflicts have changed the way funds are channeled. It is not always possible to budget for needs one year at a time because crises last so much longer, so we need to relook at how to match duration of needs and how funding is structured.” 

This was echoed by ICRC President Mr. Peter Maurer, who explained that today’s crises needed long-term options beyond short-term financing, such moving from immediate food relief to agricultural programmes from in some situations.   

Looking at how the very nature of humanitarian financing is evolving, panelists offered their take based on specific examples from their own organisations.  Mr. Maurer explained how the ICRC was looking at different contributions ranging from technology support, in-kind contribution, and private sector financing as well as impact bonds.  Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC, continued, “If you have money to invest, put a little bit aside to prepare so the hazards will not become the disasters because people will have the capacity to respond fast, and bounce back better.

Both ICRC and the International Federation noted that a major part of humanitarian action lies in helping communities to prepare for disasters and crises, limiting the impact of those events, and supporting communities to recover post-crisis. The two leaders noted that this work, which by its nature demands sustained presence and commitment, can only be done effectively when working with local people and partners.

“This is the beauty of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.  Not only are we on the ground as international actors, we work with our local partners, the National Societies, so we have proximity to those that need us most,” Mr. Maurer said in closing.

Humanitarian dialogue

Migrants are people

Loud music, high fives, and on-the-spot artistry – not the usual attributes of a conference session, but all were evident during the Humanitarian Dialogue session on Migration. Participants were instructed to leave their identities at the door and think of the world in 2019, imagining what it would be like for people on the move, exploring issues of access, discrimination, partnerships, and dignity.

“It’s not realistic in two-and-a-half hours to solve an issue as complex as migration,” said the facilitator, “but if you leave with relevant questions, we have done some good work.”

After breaking into eight work groups, participants reported back to the group at large. Some overarching and common themes began to emerge, including being the conduit to change the conversation and narrative on migration; to put people at the core of all decisions and actions; to change attitudes towards migrants; and defining who a migrant is and further determining if such a definition even matters.    

“Perhaps most importantly,” said one participant, “is the need to act now. There is a lot of talk about migration but what about action?”

Ideas gathered during the dialogue have been shared with the Vision Lab, and will then feed into the final discussion during plenary.

Humanitarian dialogue

“It’s about listening, not just solving”

This fourth session of Humanitarian Dialogue: A Vision Lab looked into various types of insecure environments with a view to devise possible humanitarian solutions. Scenarios ranged from cyberwarfare, civil unrest, radical rebels, criminal gang violence and a cyclone-affected community. 

Participants debated solutions such as better education programmes and outreach, identifying agents for change, celebrating success, community engagement, innovative aid delivery down to reactivation of economies and dialogue with governments.  Building trust and interest based negotiation, and two-way communication and better listening were both clearly identified as a common solution and a necessity of any effective humanitarian action.  As one participant summed it up, “It’s all about listening, not just solving the problem… Human beings will commit to anything that takes care of the things they care about.”


Strengthening peer-to-peer partnerships

It is a logistical challenge – moving a building that is 1,000 square metres in size across several international boundaries – but it is a challenge the National Red Cross Societies in Burkina Faso and Monaco are ready to tackle.

The Monaco Red Cross is soon going to ship a pavilion to the Burkinabé Red Cross Society. “It will be shipped in several containers stacked on top of each other, first by ship, then by train, and finally, by trucks to its final destination just outside of Ouagadougou,” said Adeline Le Diguerher, project manager, Monaco Red Cross.

In Burkina Faso, the National Society intends to use the building several ways. “It will become a hotel and training centre serving the entire West African region,” explained Jocelyne Sankima, economist manager, Burkinabé Red Cross Society.

“It will also benefit the people of Loumibila who will live near the centre. Women’s groups will have access to gardens on the grounds to grow produce, which can be sold at market. This will help improve their living conditions.”

The joint project is a continuation of a strong relationship between the two National Societies, which began several years ago. “This partnership allows us to share experiences, expertise and capacity building,” said Le Diguerher. “It is a win-win for both of us,” added Sankima.

Commission E

Strengthening legal frameworks for disasters and emergencies

Drawing on the experience of two distant geographical points such as Chile and the Cook Islands, the focus of this session was to analyse the role of domestic law in promoting disaster risk reduction, and how an integrated approach with international regulations could improve not only the impact of development programmes, but also the effectiveness of humanitarian relief operations during emergencies.

Additionally, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Global First Aid Reference Centre presented some of the findings of an analysis they have been carrying out with National Societies around the world. “Through the National Societies, we as a Movement have been able to train 14 million citizens around the world,” said Pascal Cassin. “This is a good number but it is not enough.”

The session also hosted a brief signature ceremony for a new Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen collaboration between the International Federation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as a special agreement on further cooperation related to strengthening national laws and policies related to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. This cooperation has already produced a joint multi-country study of law and disaster risk reduction published in 2014 as well as a checklist for law and disaster risk reduction.


161 National Societies join global online donation platform

By the end of the Statutory Meetings, the ammado global online donation platform had 161 National Societies signed up for the service. Eighty-eight Societies registered during the General Assembly, Council of Delegates and International Conference. The Kiribati Red Cross Society joined as National Society number 160, and the Red Crescent Society of Djibouti was number 161. 

Some National Societies even started to use the service during the meetings: the Haitian Red Cross now has an online donation facility on its web site while the Red Cross societies of Grenada, Vanuatu and Guinea have a “donate” button on their Facebook pages.