Honorable Government representatives
Dear Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Fellow leaders and delegates of the Red Cross Societies from the Americas
Dear colleagues and friends from the IFRC and ICRC,
Welcome to the 22nd staging of the Inter-American Conference (IAC). We, the Bahamas Red Cross, are pleased to be this year’s host of the IAC and want to ensure we maintain the high standards set by our preceding IAC hosts.
We are hosting this event at a remarkable moment for our people: the celebration of our 50th anniversary of independence. The Inter-American Conference will be one of the official events of the country's anniversary celebrations and will forever remain in the books of our history.
The theme for this year’s conference “Leadership and Sustainability: local solutions to global challenges,” is a most fitting subject as it aptly summarizes how we all face similar challenges across the world, but ultimately it will be the tailored solutions from our local actors which will enable us to adequately and effectively address these and future challenges.
You will notice that in our conference logo, we have elements of the sun, sand, sea and waves. But its meaning goes beyond.
The radiant sun refers to the warmth of our beaches and our people, but also to the global warming that threatens us, bringing extreme cold or heat, across the region. Understanding how to cope with this phenomenon is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our time.
The water symbolizes the sea that surrounds us, attracts millions of tourists and provides a livelihood for thousands of families. It also signifies the rains, floods - or droughts - that across the continent cause more intense and recurrent disasters.
Finally, the waves refer to the hurricanes and tropical storms that each year threaten millions of people in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas. These are phenomena that we must live with and that remind us that building and strengthening the resilience of communities must always be our main objective.
The objectives of the conference are to i) promote cooperation, and networking among the Red Crosses of the region around common humanitarian concerns and challenges; ii) position and show the added value of the Red Cross network as an auxiliary to governments; iii) agree on common strategies for the implementation in the region of the decisions of the General Assembly, the Council of Delegates, and the International Conference and iv) to make proposals to the Governing Board on issues related to the General Assembly and the statutory bodies of the Movement.
All of them, like the Conference’s theme, are integrated transversally in the agenda and all thematic lines. In particular, the second objective is highlighted as an innovative aspect of this conference; the idea of positioning and showing the added value of National Societies is central to all discussions.
Over the next few days, we will have various sessions, with different themes, but all linking back to the overarching theme of the conference.
Following our official proceedings this morning, during which you will hear from the IFRC Secretary General and the Governor General of the Bahamas, we will have the IAC reports shared from the previous period.
We will then go into our plenary sessions starting with “Leadership and Sustainability: Local Solutions to Global Challenges (with a focus on Global Challenges)” and then a session on “Inspiration to mobilize volunteers and youth.”
Later this afternoon, we will have various workshops on the thematic areas and you will see on your agenda the respective rooms for these sessions. We will also have a Presidents’ meeting and later this evening a Red Talk on Climate and Displacement.
For Wednesday, we will continue our plenary sessions with “Leadership and Sustainability: Local Solutions to Global Challenges (with a focus on sustainability)” and look at the thematic areas of climate and environment crises, migration and identity, growing gaps in health and welfare, among other areas. In the afternoon we will resume our breakout workshops on the thematic areas and end the day with another Red Talk this time on Leadership for the Future.
On the final day, we will start off with the plenary session on growing gaps in health and welfare and then go into the session on leveraging our auxiliary role, then a session on integrity, trust and accountability. We will wrap up our plenary sessions with the final session on “Leadership and Sustainability: Local Solutions to Global Challenges (with a focus on localization).”
In the afternoon, we will go into the elections for the Regional Inter-American Red Cross Committee (CORI) and then end with our closing ceremony officially signaling the end to another IAC. As you can see, we have quite a bit of ground to cover this week, however we wouldn’t want you to leave without getting the chance to relax, so on Thursday night we will have our gala banquet, where you can let your hair down and put on your dancing shoes!
We hope you have a truly rewarding, insightful and enjoyable week with us, but amidst all this, let us also remember that the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season officially begun on June 1 and will continue until November 30.
In the Bahamas, we have an old saying that when there is an abundance of fruits, especially mangoes, then we will have a very wet hurricane season. While it has not been proven, we do have many mangoes in the Bahamas now and already we have seen where the first storm, Arlene, recently formed.
That aside, while Arlene was not a threat to land, it is a timely reminder of the need to be prepared at all times, because it only takes one storm to cause catastrophic damage to communities. So plenty mangoes or not, let us ensure we are prepared this hurricane season.
As we go through this week, feel free to enjoy the fellowship of your fellow colleagues, some of whom you might not have seen in a while. But also remember to do so safely. While COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, we still encourage individuals to maintain proper hand hygiene and protect yourselves and those around you. Ladies and gentlemen, please feel free to engage, network, participate and soak up all you can during these next few days.
Thank you for being here and we look forward to an exciting conference.