Erstellt am: 13. 3. 2015 - 22:30 Uhr
The Red Cross and its inspirational leader
by John Cummins
John Cummins works as a journalist for FM4's Reality Check
It's not every day that you get the chance to interview the head of an international aid organisation, and not any old organisation, but the International Red Cross, the oldest and most prestigious such group in the world.
Nevertheless it was with a certain sense of trepidation that I headed off to the recent Humanitarian Congress in Vienna. Bureaucrats from international organisations have a reputation for being slippery creatures, silver tongued sophists who tend to speak at length about nothing in particular, using jargon that you can barely understand.
As soon as I sat down with Yves Daccord, the Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, it became clear that nothing could be further from the truth. Here was a plain talking man, a former journalist like myself, passionate and articulate, who still burned with a sense of youthful optimism, despite his 50 years.
Still going strong after 150 years
The ICRC was formed back in 1863 by the Swiss businessman and social activist Henri Dunant, after he witnessed the terrible aftermath of the battle of Solferino in Italy. The original aim of the organisation was to help wounded soldiers and those affected by violence - something that hasn’t changed over the past 150 years.
Yves Daccord told me how the organisation has struggled to keep pace with the complexity of modern warfare - to continue to provide help to those in need in the age of drones, roadside bombs, and conflicts without clear boundaries or belligerents, to operate free of interference in a world of social media and an explosion in propaganda.
ICRC/Younes El Shalwi
Part of the reason for the organisation’s success is its strict policy of independence and impartiality - not taking sides in conflicts. The ICRC has won three Nobel Peace Prizes and is the only humanitarian group mentioned specifically in international law. Nevertheless aid workers are constantly at threat from rogue actors and terrorist groups. Yves Daccord shared with me his concerns about the recent kidnapping of ICRC workers and what can be done to keep them safe.
Open to change in a world full of challenges
The world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian situation at the moment, with the UN declaring extremely severe or "Level 3" crises in four countries. I was not surprised when Yves Daccord nominated Syria as his organisation's greatest concern, however his thoughts on other crises, particularly those in Nigeria and Ukraine, were truly enlightening, revealing a man fully engaged with, but not overwhelmed by, the many problems in the world.
Even when I confronted him with criticisms of the Red Cross: that it was sometimes slow to act, and could be perceived as luring talented people away from developing countries, Yves Daccord was not defensive. Instead he gave a forthright and honest account of what he saw as the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, and how it was constantly seeking to improve its performance.
At the end of the 30 minute interview, I was left with a strange feeling of admiration and respect. Part of being a journalist is to be a sceptic - to question everything that you are told and hold to account those doing the telling - and yet with Yves Daccord I couldn’t help being impressed. Here was a man who was genuinely trying to make a difference. In a world full of egoists and shameless self-promoters that’s not something you can take for granted. And it makes a very pleasant change.
Listen to: Reality Check Special: Yves Daccord on the Red Cross
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