Statement by Ms Elyse Mosquini of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation to the United Nations, in the General Debate of the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York
6 October 2010
On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), allow me to first congratulate you and the members of the Bureau on your election to guide the important work of the Committee during this session.
In three days of rich debate, we have heard much about the importance of maintaining a persistent focus on sustainable development - despite, and indeed in light of, the challenges posed by concurrent crises. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies could not agree more.
With the adoption of our new organizational strategy last year, the IFRC and its 186 member National Societies are enhancing our focus on development activities. We are building on our more than 90 years of disaster response experience and our established service strengths to promote development by preventing and reducing the underlying causes of vulnerability.
The IFRC takes a people-centred approach to development, placing people at the centre of our development activities. For us, development means that everyone is able to achieve their full potential, and lead productive and creative lives with dignity according to their needs and choices, whilst fulfilling their obligations and realizing their rights.
The IFRC and our member National Societies are working through our global network of community-based volunteers to empower communities and individuals as partners in development. National Societies are bringing their experience and community knowledge and working with public authorities on development plans and implementation. We are working with authorities to upgrade water and sanitation facilities and train local populations as operators; we are providing training in home care management to improve maternal and child health; and we working with authorities and communities to address the critical challenges of food insecurity and climate change.
For example, in Mongolia where extreme weather conditions and the resulting loss of livestock are straining herding communities, the Mongolian Red Cross was one of the first organizations to respond. Following the government's declaration of a state of disaster, the Mongolian Red Cross mobilized its extensive network of branches to collect assessment data on socially vulnerable groups. This data complemented the livestock loss figures maintained by government agencies and was used to create a more comprehensive view of needs and vulnerabilities in the affected communities - allowing more targeted interventions that address the underlying causes of vulnerability. Working together under the framework of the government's Mongolia Livestock project, the National Society and the government are helping to build a more economically sustainable lifestyle for pastoralists.
Allow me to highlight another example in a very different context. On the other side of the world in Kibera, Kenya, the Kenya Red Cross is working to promote hygiene and pandemic influenza preparedness in one of the world's largest informal settlements. The lack of running water and electricity, coupled with overcrowding, mean poor sanitation and high vulnerability to diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and influenza. Working through existing social networks, such as women's groups, youth groups, schools, churches and the mosque, Kenya Red Cross volunteers are making their voices heard in the wider community - and the community is responding, underlining that people want to be part of their own future.
The living conditions in settlements like Kibera highlight an important trend in the development landscape that we must all take account.
For the first time in history, more people live in an urban environment than a rural one and in just 20 years, over 60 per cent of the world's population will live in cities and towns. This shift requires a change in development strategy. Further, the urban risk divide is only set to grow wider as climate change brings on ever more severe disaster impacts in some of the world's most vulnerable locations.
The IFRC chose urban risk as the theme for our latest annual World Disasters Report. The report explores urban risk in its different facets and presents a number of recommendations to reduce this risk and build resilience. But one common thread runs through - as stated in the report "good development, good disaster risk reduction and good adaptation to climate change are all intensely local with many links and complementarities between them."
Thank you, Madam Chair.