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Guide to strengthening the auxiliary role through law and policy

Manual and Guideline
Originally published
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Written by Rachel Macleod


A. Background

In 192 countries around the world there is a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society established on the basis of a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Law (RC/RC Law). Although this Guide uses the term RC/RC Law, a country’s RC/RC Law may not necessarily be called a ‘law’, but instead may be titled a decree, order, regulation, charter or bill. Equally, a country may have a series of RC/RC Laws, with later laws supplementing or replacing earlier ones.

RC/RC Laws are to be distinguished from National Society Statutes, which are an internal legal document developed by a National Society to address matters such as its leadership, membership and organizational structure. In addition to its RC/RC Law and Statutes, a National Society’s legal base may include sectoral laws, meaning laws that relate to a specific sector of activity such as a Public Health Act or Disaster Risk Management Act.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) has long recognized the importance of strong and modern RC/RC Laws and National Society Statutes. In 2011, the Council of Delegates adopted Resolution 4, which encouraged National Societies to pursue dialogue with their national authorities in order to strengthen their legal base in domestic law through high quality RC/RC Laws, so as to formalize their auxiliary role and ability to operate in accordance with the Fundamental Principles. This same call to action was reiterated in Resolution 4 of the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (International Conference).

The Joint Statutes Commission is tasked with supporting National Societies to strengthen their legal base, with a specific focus on National Society Statutes and RC/RC Laws. The Joint Statutes Commission assesses the compliance of draft or amended National Society Statutes with the standards in the Guidance for National Society Statutes, 2018. It assesses the compliance of draft RC/RC Laws with the Model Law on the Recognition of National Societies (RC/RC Model Law). Annex 1 to this Guide is the RC/RC Model Law.

To date, the importance of sectoral laws to National Societies’ auxiliary role has not received detailed attention. Sectoral laws can, however, play an important role in supporting and enabling National Societies to serve as an auxiliary to their public authorities. Sectoral laws may allocate National Societies specific roles and responsibilities in fields such as health, migration, disaster risk management and social welfare. Equally, they may provide for National Societies to participate in key coordination and decision-making bodies in these areas.

B. Purpose and Scope of this Guide

The purpose of this Guide is to provide practical guidance to National Societies about how to strengthen their auxiliary role through domestic law, policies, plans and agreements. Each of these types of instrument has different characteristics and functions, which are discussed in Chapter Three. This Guide has a strong focus on sectoral laws, policies plans and agreements. It also focuses on legal facilities, meaning special legal rights and exemptions that enable National Societies to conduct their operations more efficiently and effectively.

The focus of this Guide is predominantly on how laws, policies, plans and agreements can strengthen the auxiliary role in sectors such as disaster risk management, health, migration and social welfare. The Guide does not address how to strengthen the auxiliary role in the context of armed conflict or other situations of violence; guidance on this topic is provided by the Safer Access Framework developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Guide also does not address National Society Statutes; guidance on this topic is provided by the Guidance for National Society Statutes, 2018.

C. Contents of this Guide

The structure and content of this Guide is as follows.

  • Chapter One provides a brief refresher on the auxiliary role. It outlines what the auxiliary role means and where it comes from. It also discusses the respective roles and responsibilities of National Societies and their public authorities.

  • Chapter Two focuses on RC/RC Laws. It discusses the main elements of the RC/RC Model Law, as well as three additional elements which can be included in a RC/RC Law. This Chapter concludes with a set of assessment questions, which can be used to identify areas where an existing RC/RC Law could be improved.

  • Chapter Three focusses on how sectoral laws, policies, plans and agreements can strengthen National Societies’ auxiliary role in health, disaster risk management, migration and social welfare. It focusses on two key mechanisms: (a) the clear allocation of roles and responsibilities; and (b) guaranteed participation in coordination and decision-making bodies. This Chapter also concludes with a set of assessment questions.

  • Chapter Four focusses on legal facilities that may assist National Societies to perform their auxiliary role more efficiently and effectively. It discusses legal facilities relating to: (a) staff and volunteers; (b) tax; (c) funding; (d) access and freedom of movement; and (e) disaster-related goods, equipment and personnel. This Chapter also concludes with a set of assessment questions.

  • Chapter Five outlines a process that National Societies can follow in order to advocate to strengthen their auxiliary role through domestic laws, policies, plans and agreements. Chapter Five also includes case studies of National Societies that have successfully advocated to strengthen their auxiliary role in domestic law.

Annex 2 to this Guide provides a complete list of the assessment questions from Chapters Two, Three and Four.

This Guide is accompanied by a 30-minute online training course on the IFRC Learning Platform. The online course, entitled Strengthening the Auxiliary Role through Law and Policy, provides a high-level overview of the content of this Guide.

D. Research Underpinning this Guide

This Guide draws on insights from a collection of 30 country-level mappings commissioned by the IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme (the Country Mappings), as well as supplementary research into other countries. Each Country Mapping focuses on how a National Society’s auxiliary role is reflected in domestic laws, policies, plans and agreements. The 30 countries that have been mapped to date are: Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Finland, The Gambia, Ireland, Jamaica, Laos, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Spain, Solomon Islands, Peru, Poland, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the United Kingdom and Zambia (the Sample Countries). The Disaster Law Programme continues to conduct auxiliary role mappings and welcomes expressions of interest from National Societies that wish to undertake a mapping.