ICRC/IFRC presidents on Red Cross/Red Crescent Day - © ICRC/KOKIC, Marko
Today, in the Philippines, young people whose lives have been turned upside down by repeated typhoons are planting mangrove trees to protect homes from storm damage and protect fish-pond dykes to ensure more secure livelihoods.
Today, in Gambia, young musicians are delivering powerful messages, through music, about vaccines, malaria prevention and HIV to increase community access to much needed health care. In Romania, youth volunteers are spreading similar messages through an innovative SMS helpline.
Today, in Afghanistan, where the conflict and its resulting insecurity prevents many from safely accessing health care, thousands of volunteers are learning basic first aid techniques, thereby safeguarding vital access to primary health care for their communities.
Today, In Lebanon, to build respect for diversity and a culture of non-violence in a region facing unprecedented change, youth are breaking world records by securing creative commitments to tolerance, participating in peace festivals and leveraging the power of our fundamental principles.
Today, on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, we honour these contributions and encourage young people around the world to continue “doing more, doing better and reaching further.”
Each year, the 8th of May allows us an opportunity to celebrate our remarkable history of neutral, impartial voluntary service to humanity. But this year, World Red Cross Red Crescent Day also affords us a chance to look to the future, faced as we are by emergencies that are unquestionably increasing in their frequency, severity and complexity. From civil unrest in the Middle East, to open conflict in Afghanistan, to food insecurity in the Sahel, to severe flooding in South America, our well-established network of more than 13 million volunteers and humanitarian workers continues to play a vital role in meeting the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people. But we cannot rest on the stable foundations of today.
Rather, we must work to better recognize, invest in and empower the next generation of young leaders who will surely carry our Movement and our lifesaving mandate forward. Today, we recognize “Youth on the move,” and the profound impact that young people, who represent nearly half of our volunteers world-wide, are having in their communities and on the global stage through the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
In the face of major challenges such as climate change, conflicts and violence, migration and urbanization, young people everywhere are showing that they want to be part of the solution. They give time, talent and energy, delivering vital assistance and harnessing the power of technology to mobilize their peers, connecting people and the causes that are important to them. They are helping communities prepare for disasters, facilitating safe and equitable access to health care, accepting responsibility as agents of behavioural change and building a culture of peace. Youth around the world are exploring humanitarian law enabling them, as tomorrow’s leaders, to take decisions preventing unnecessary suffering in times of armed conflict and other situations of violence.
Today, young people are already making a profound difference in the lives of vulnerable people. They have true capacity to become community champions and to provide needed expertise in an increasingly digital world. For these reasons, young people should fill positions of leadership within our humanitarian network, and they should be afforded real opportunities to advise our strategic decision-making. They should increasingly become the face and the voice of our Movement, allowing us greater access to new generations of volunteers and leaders to come after them.
On World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, let us, together, celebrate our rich history of service to humanity. Let us, at the same time, celebrate the rich promise of our “Youth on the move” and fully embrace the potential they offer for an even brighter future.
President, International Committee of the Red Cross
President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies