International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Secretary General Elhadj As Sy spent several days in Majuro earlier this month, visiting with top-level RMI government leaders and people in communities around Majuro Atoll.
The IFRC Secretary General met with Acting President Amenta Matthew and Cabinet members the day following his arrival. Discussions with Cabinet focused on the future of Marshall Islands Red Cross Society (MIRCS) involvement in providing services to the people of the Marshall Islands.
The courtesy visit involved the signing to two documents. Minister of Foreign Affairs John Silk and Secretary General Sy signed the IFRC Legal Status agreement that establishes full recognition of MIRCS by the RMI government. Following this, Minister of Health Kalani Kaneko and MIRCS Secretary General Jack Niedenthal signed a memorandum of understanding on a Voluntary Non-Remunerated Blood Donation program that signifies cooperation between the local Red Cross and the Ministry of Health.
To inspire youth, MIRCS invited high school and college students and faculty to listen in on a special lecture given by Sy at the College of the Marshall Islands.
Before Sy spoke about “The Humanitarian Movement in the World Today as it Impacts the Marshall Islands and the Pacific,” CMI Dean Vasemaca Savu delivered a warm greeting and introduction of the event’s keynote speaker. From this, the high school and university students learned of Sy’s extensive repertoire as director or representative of a handful of agencies, such as UNICEF, in the humanitarian sector for more than 25 years, and in his role in the IFRC since 2014.
Sy began his talk by time traveling to the age of waging wars. His general recount touched on the height of fighting, when many wounded soldiers — agonizing, bleeding to death on the battlefield — had no one to care for them. “Even in times of war,” said Sy, “there should be space for humanity.” And it is for such a humanity, he continued, that we “save lives where we can; alleviate human suffering where we can; and most importantly, to accompany people to recover what is most important to them, which is human dignity.”
The IFRC has seen the important work that the MIRCS, run by Secretary General Jack Niedenthal, and according to Sy he came to “pay tribute” to the MRCS, which is 191st — and newest — IFRC member, and to the people of the Marshall Islands. He also urged the young listeners to join the large Red Cross family of over 90 million volunteers.
Sy admitted that it is not always easy. Sometimes, it is extremely difficult to be in the “battlefield” and remain impartial and to not be tempted by economic lies or political perspectives. With evident pride he was able to say that such a test has been passed many times by those who honor the IFRC’s values, but, of course, that the world has changed dramatically. Travel, technology, communication are all globalized to the extent that challenges and issues are as well — such as climate change, which is “hitting” all of us in the world and the consequences are felt everywhere, he said.
“The bottom line is that there will be people in need, there will be people that will be needing support, accompaniment, respect, protection. And as long as we are part of humanity…the pertinence and relevance of the Red Cross and Red Crescent work will remain.”
The lecture started with a full house and ended with a full house.
Read more about this in the March 30, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.