On July 27, 2015, Red Cross LA Region volunteers, staff, board members and community partners had the unique opportunity to meet Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), at two events, including an evening reception held at Herbalife, a longtime supporter of the American Red Cross mission.
Based in Geneva, Mr. Sy oversees the 189-member IFRC - the world’s largest humanitarian network. The American Red Cross is one of the national Red Cross societies.
Mr. Sy spoke about how the Federation is advancing the cause of the most vulnerable, the organization’s successful response to the Ebola crisis, interconnectivity and the power of partnerships.
Distraught at recent news about Red Crescent colleagues killed in an ambulance attack in Yemen, he declared “the battlefields are everywhere—in our own communities, schools and places of worship. Shared humanity is needed now more than ever before.”
He discussed the “New World Disorder,” urging Red Cross supporters to help build a more resilient world through the One Billion Coalition initiative to minimize vulnerability by 2025. No one is impervious to catastrophe, which he defined as global risks ranging from climate change, rapid urbanization, and rising natural and manmade disasters. Mr. Sy said the 10-year goal could be achieved if one person per household around the world takes “active steps towards enhancing community resilience.”
Reminding us that he is but a mere caretaker of the IFRC for the next generation, Mr. Sy encouraged investing in public awareness and education to transform the mindset of current and future generations. “The bottom line is not just giving food and shelter to the vulnerable but also trust, respect, and support in a dignified manner so they can bounce back better.”
Asked about his vision for the coming years, the Secretary General talked about Strategy 2020 which aims to: (1) Save lives, protect livelihoods, and strengthen recovery from disasters and crises; (2) Enable healthy and safe living; and (3) Promote social inclusion and a culture of non-violence and peace. These aims will be achieved through building strong National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; pursuing humanitarian diplomacy to prevent and reduce vulnerability in a globalized world; and functioning effectively as the International Federation.
“There is no Red Cross Movement without you, and thank you for everything you do on a daily basis,” he said. “It is a privilege to be a part of this Movement which is well-grounded in communities and served by millions of volunteers at the frontline of the most pressing humanitarian challenges of today’s world.”
The Secretary General’s visit to the Los Angeles Region came on the heels of his participation in the Special Olympics World Games marching alongside athletes from his native Senegal, and working with the organization on inclusive global development.
Harold Brooks, SVP of International Services, American Red Cross, accompanied the Secretary General on his LA visit.
View photos (by volunteer Mimi Teller) from the Herbalife event.