31 October 2012

Ethiopia: Unity, Commitment Against Humanitarian Challenges

A number of years have elapsed as the vulnerability of large segments of the African population to low economic development, uneven income distribution, and high population growth, among others, keep at the same rate.

Nowadays, however, it is becoming crystal clear that Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world. The change witnessed in environment, the growth gained due to a lot of efforts geared towards finding new opportunities for domestic and regional partnerships in which the future role and relevance of the civic societies and associations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the continent would be enhanced and can be cited as promising moves for further progress.

The 8th Pan African Conference of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was held from 19-22 October 2012 in Addis Ababa under the theme: "Investing in Africa". It predominantly focused on humanitarian issues in Africa. In the conference, it was recognized that the growing economies in Africa provide new opportunities to raise new resources with a view to supporting humanitarian and development undertakings.

According to the Addis Ababa Plan of Action drafted by the participants, Africa emphasizes investing in itself in recognition of the recurring and growing risks and opportunities facing the continent. The Plan of Action particularly stresses on the area of food security, climate change, health, migration, violence and growing unemployment among the youth. It also highlights how investing into the capacities and action of volunteer networks can positively contribute to addressing these development and humanitarian challenges.

The objective of the Addis Ababa Plan of Action is to open up African national societies to more domestic, regional and international investment that will enable a scale up of sustainable volunteer action across the continent. One of the key actions is to invest constantly in upgrading the capacities and skills of diverse and representative volunteer bases to effectively address humanitarian and development challenges.

Prime Minister Haile-Mariam Desalegn, on the occasion, stressed the need for meaningful investment in Africa to help the continent independently cope with its humanitarian challenges.

PM Haile-Mariam said that the economic growth rate attained so far, the increasing positive engagement of African diaspora in various sectors and the strengthening of governmental institutions across Africa have been playing positive roles in addressing diverse humanitarian challenges the continent faces.

It was indicated that increasing number of people on the continent is taking charge of their own lives and futures, and the cumulative experience and community presence has contributed a lot. According to him, grass root approaches to addressing humanitarian issues are effective. "In this regard, it is essential to place emphasis on local community strategies for dealing with vulnerable groups through building community resilience," said the Premier. According to relevant evidences, in Africa, as is the case elsewhere across the globe, nations are working much more closely with one another as they realize their inter-connectedness, the benefits and obligations that flow from such co-operation. Hence, Haile-Mariam said, broad partnership between governments, civic societies and the private sectors is instrumental in tackling humanitarian challenges without which development will become inevitable.

Africa is urbanizing at a faster rate than anywhere else on the planet. Accordingly, evidences show that by 2050, Africa will be 60 per cent urbanized compared to 40 per cent in 2010. The urban advantage, keeping its negative consequences, is due to potentially better access to services and jobs.

Furthermore, the increased investment for community resilience requires improved measurement, accountability, management and local volunteer structures. Besides, African national societies need to identify and operationalize creative strategies addressing food insecurity, chronic undernourishment and hunger, for instance, recycling of unconsumed food, and set realistic targets for an active contribution towards poverty reduction.

As to the Premier, Ethiopia supports the Red cross and Red Crescent priorities which are closely tied to the Millennium Development Goals. He assured that the socially conscious polices that the government pursued will continue to be its programmes.

Daniel Tegenu, President of Ethiopian Red Cross Society on his part said that there is great and untapped potential within Africa to response to today's humanitarian challenges. Daniel underlined the importance of integrated approach and grass root network of volunteers, and especially the youth to the maximum possible level to greater humanitarian response.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies President, Tadateru Konoe said that Societies must invest in partnerships both inside and outside their movement. He said, "Because of our auxiliary role, solid relations with governments are vital if societies are to continue to perform well and expand the work they do." He further explained that addressing the root causes of disaster and improve resilience of populations are key to tackle humanitarian challenges.

Established in 1935, Ethiopian Red Cross Society, the host of the conference, has been playing its incomparable role in reduction humanitarian sufferings and supporting efforts of the government and people of Ethiopia exerted in this respect.

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