08/05/2016 – Colombo, Sri Lanka:
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, 8 May, is an opportunity to celebrate the bravery and the achievements of the 17 million volunteers and nearly half a million staff members who ensure that we keep our commitment to humanity every day, by being there before, during, and after a disaster, health crisis or conflict. We are local and international, independent and impartial, and we are everywhere for everyone.
While serving as the President of Sri Lanka Red Cross, I have had the privilege of seeing the strength and diversity of our Movement first hand, and of learning what “everywhere for everyone” means to us, the ICRC, IFRC and our 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as they ensure that the humanitarian imperative continues to come first.
Being everywhere for everyone means supporting marginalized and stigmatized groups. Our Post Conflict Recovery Programme that partners with people returning from the 30-year-old conflict, has now seen over 400,000 people in northern Sri Lanka being providing with permanent shelter.
It means staying to support people in need, even when many others are running away.
When the tsunami came to our shores and took thousands of lives away, it was our volunteers who were in the thick of it all, foregoing their own loss in order to help others. They continued to aid them even after the story became a byline in the media.
It means that people fleeing their homes to escape war, persecution or disaster can keep in touch with family members or trace missing relatives through the Movement’s global Restoring Family Links network.
In a complex and increasingly vulnerable world – one that is troubled by health crises, protracted conflicts, migration and displacement, increasing numbers of natural disasters linked to climate change, and a continued threat from nuclear and technological risks – being everywhere for everyone is a growing challenge. Every year, we already reach millions of people with disaster response activities and development and resilience-building programmes. But as vulnerabilities increase, so will humanitarian needs.
To continue to be everywhere for everyone we must use our global network to reinforce local capacity. So today, while we celebrate our Movement and its brave and dedicated staff and volunteers, we will also be reflecting on how we can work with individuals, communities and Governments to best support people who need us, reduce their risks and build resilience, and to improve our services and accountability.
We will strive for improved access to health care and action to prevent non-communicable diseases; the integration of disaster risk reduction into climate change strategies; the strengthening of legal frameworks and greater respect for international humanitarian law; safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to people affected by conflict; and investment in youth leadership.
This is our 80th year since the Sri Lanka Red Cross was found. In all those years we have continued to ensure our commitment to most vulnerable people are upheld.
Today on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, I renew that commitment and ensure that for years to come we at Sri Lanka Red Cross Society will continue to be there for everyone, everywhere.