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Day one of the IAC 2023: plenaries 1 and 2

Plenary 1: Leadership and Sustainability: Local Solutions to Global Challenges

Moderator: Ms. Terez Curry, Bahamas RED CROSS President


Mr. Pablo Bartol, Social and Human Development Manager,

CAF, Development Bank of Latin America

Ms. Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas

Mr. Hon Leon Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister

This plenary has three moments, the first one describes the Global Challenges in detail, the second one explains how we should address those challenges from a structural perspective, and the third one goes deep into the drivers of vulnerabilities.

Global Challenges:

In our Strategy 2030, the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies, have identified those five global challenges that we believe are the most pressing risks to confront as humanitarian actors:

  1. Climate and environmental crisis

  2. Evolving crisis and disasters

  3. Growing gaps in health and well-being

  4. Migration and identity

  5. Values, power and inclusion

All of them have a piece in common: all primarily impact those most vulnerable, including children and youth, women, indigenous populations, and elderly, persons with disabilities, and LGBTIQ+ people.

The global challenges we face are extremely complex and inter-related. Many of these have been accelerated by the COVID19 pandemic; and the fact is that we were not prepared. The question is: are we now better prepared for future public health emergencies? Have we collectively – as society – learned from this experience?

According to the health sector experts, the world is not better prepared in terms of systems and rules to coordinate a response to it than it was in 2019.

Global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fueled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño weather pattern. Climate change is intensifying heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts, flooding, wildfires and famines, while threatening to submerge low-lying countries and cities as sea levels rise due to melting glaciers and increasingly extreme weather.

This particular threat is of utmost concern to the Caribbean, as many of our islands are highly susceptible to flooding, particularly during the annual hurricane season.

We are caught in a cruel paradox: we are collectively responsible for less than one per cent of the global carbon emissions, but we are suffering those most severe and extreme events related to the effects of climate change, to the extent that some islands could become uninhabitable in the near future.

Water resources, one of humanity´s most important and vital treasures, are similarly facing a global crisis and we are not paying enough attention. Three out of four natural disasters are linked to water (UN Water Conference, March 2023), but surprisingly a quarter of the planet lives without safely managed water services or clean drinking water.

We are facing the largest flow of human mobility, englobing refugees, forced migration, displacement or planned relocation in the history, hosting some of the world’s most dangerous migration routes, with millions of people lacking protection and assistance.

This massive human mobility is a response to these climate developments, but also to violence, insecurity, inequality, and political, social, and economic dysfunctions as well. Our region is the most unequal continent in the world.

Preparedness must start at local level, looking for resilient and cohesive communities, based on inclusive strategies that can handle multiple types of hazards which can occur simultaneously, and that respond to the views, needs, concerns, capacities, local knowledge, problem analysis and co-construction of solutions from local actors. This will certainly require a greater presence of state institutions as well as a closer collaboration with civil society, private sector, and humanitarian actors.

Structural and circumstancial factors of vulnerability:

Crises are usually addressed to enable people to access services and continue with their lives, but there are people who structurally do not have those opportunities.

For addressing these structural factors, there are solutions that are not short-term, such as education.

In order to receive funding from banks and approval from finance ministers, the projects that prosper are those that are evidence-based and manage to demonstrate that the investment pays for itself.

That’s why multilateral banks work to support and strengthen these projects so that they receive approval and funding.

Inequalities are inherited, the context where people are born generates persistence in sustaining inequality. It is true that there are extraordinary stories, but when we look at the cumulative, the reality is that they are still exceptions: this applies to access to rights such as health, education, work, housing.

But we do not have to generate exceptional changes in individual lives, but entire generations that change, for that we need the State, to generate massive investments in education, health and other areas of development. Our role is to work together to serve the state and help generate those solutions, together with other actors.

We have the opportunity to change, the humanitarian sector influences governments, academia, decision makers. We have a legitimate, authentic voice.

Drivers of vulnerability:

The pandemic: The communities we serve are grappling -even more- with weakened public services and the devastating socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today nearly 86 million people are poorer than before the pandemic. They used to have a well-remunerated job, few or no debts, access to at least basic health care and were able to care of their wellbeing.

Its multidimensional impact on the region will be felt for decades in the form of hungry, higher disaster risk, and increased inequality.

This driver poses us these questions: Who are going to be the next vulnerable persons we should provide with assistance? Where are they? What do they fear? What do they expect from the Red Cross?

Irregular migration and the lack of safe migratory roads: In the Americas, there are 73 million migrants, many undocumented or in irregular situation. Thousands of them move every day -right now- through irregular and perilous migratory routes such as the Darien Gap, the U.S. Mexico border or the Caribbean Sea.

Along migration routes like these ones, many people suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence, or disappear and are separated from their families. Some are killed or die from disease or inclement weather and environmental conditions.

Migration is a complex crisis. It increases the number of people who need access to first aid, health care and mental health, information, protection, connectivity, access to clean water and hygiene services.

This driver forces us to ask whether we are prepared to deal with the unstoppable growth of these flows, and whether there are more effective ways of helping people whose location and needs change from one day to the next. It also raises the question of how to deal with the growing anti-migration sentiment that is affecting the viability and feasibility of our response.

Recurrent disasters and climate crisis: These two elements cut across every single aspect of our mandate, from logistics to humanitarian diplomacy, from early warning systems to anticipation, and National Society development.

Climate and weather extremes are increasingly driving displacement in every region of the world.

In 2020 alone, more than 30 million people were internally displaced by disasters, more than three times the number displaced by conflict and violence. The vast majority were displaced by weather and climate hazards, as in the case of Central America, where 1.5 million people were displaced in the same year by disasters including hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Even here, in The Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian displaced several communities and some of them have struggled to move back to their hometowns. The Bahamas also taught us many lessons helping us to improve our humanitarian responses. We developed key Disaster studies on International Disaster Response Law; Disaster Recovery, and Unsollicited Bilateral Donations during the response to Dorian. We -IFRC and the Bahamas Red Cross- engaged the authorities on these policy review processes.

We, IFRC and States, should -and need- to continue working together. Joint action and coordination with local and national authorities as well as with humanitarian partners, maintaining a community-based approach through our extensive branch network is indispensable to address the challenging scenario ahead of us.

The future calls also for an extended network of strong, effective, sustainable and trusted National Societies, influential in humanitarian action, with diverse and inclusive volunteers, and a firm commitment to women's leadership and digital transformation.

It is because of our local presence, our firm commitment to transparency, accountability and integrity that our corporate reputation is a symbol of credibility and trust, two of the most valuable attributes that a humanitarian organization can have. We must protect that precious commodity.


Plenary 2: Inspiration to mobilize volunteers and youth

Moderator: Ms. Luciana Marino, Argentine Red Cross


Mr. Andrés Morales, Volunteering & Youth Development Regional Coordinator

Ms. Gleny Yepez, president, Bolivian Red Cross

Ms. Silvia Gelvez, vice-president, IFRC Global Youth Commission

Mr. Adrian Reid, Caribbean Youth Network Coordinator

In this plenary, Luciana told us about the youth event they shared the last two days. They discussed the challenges we face as a humanitarian movement, mainly on how to mobilize youth movements in the future, but also in the present.

At a second moment, Andres Morales showed some findings on volunteerism and youth, based on a Strategic vision and future survey shared with all volunteers through National Societies. The survey collected the responses of some 2,500 volunteers from 26 National Societies throughout the region.

The study addressed topics as emerging trendings that will have a significant impact on the humanitarian sector, challenges that we’ll face, as well as concerns and preferences of the youth in the coming years.

It also reviews how are we preparing to meet these challenges as an organization, how our management and volunteer development systems are in place to better serve communities.Some areas in which we have improved is in volunteer database systems, insurance for volunteers, and recognition systems for volunteers.

Then, the three panelists discussed along how to strengthen volunteer leadership to find local solutions to global problems.

They highlighted the importance of prioritizing inclusion, wellbeing and mental health of the volunteers for them to serve efficiently and gain experience and knowledge within the humanitarian work.

The institution must create a safe environment, prepare the staff so that they know how to work with volunteers and can exercise leadership.

Preparation is also key for the development of leadership in youth volunteeers. Improve and promote educational tools, not only so that they can take a message to the communities and specialize, but also for them to learn to develop the personal dimension.

We also have the responsibility to be an example of leadership, to reflect with our actions.

Finally, the panel talked about what they think is the new red cross cause:

Beyond the new causes, it is to think how to anticipate those causes, many times we see anticipation in technical terms. It is important to remember how to integrate science, technology and research to anticipate, but when we go beyond the data, we can create trends and become transforming actors of our realities. How can we think about the future we want, and create new scenarios and strategies to create that future.

The new cause will not be reduced to a specific problem, it is the coexistence of communities with their environment, sustainable development, taking care of our environment, harmonious relationships between people.

We need to address violence, discrimination, human rights violations, comprehensive health, including mental and psychosocial health, gender and migration. This has to be done by building systematic and comprehensive solutions that articulate the efforts of states, civil society and the private sector. Prioritize actions according to the context, and promote transparency, accountability, and our fundamental principles.


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