Mukesh Kapila

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What does "Busan" mean for Red Cross Red Crescent, its volunteers and people in communities?

1 December 2011 - Statement by Dr Mukesh Kapila, Under Secretary General for National Society and Knowledge Development, on behalf of the IFRC, at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Final Plenary "A New Consensus on Aid and Development", in Busan, Republic of Korea.

Mr Chair, distinguish delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The Red Cross Red Crescent is present everywhere. In tens of thousands of self-organised communities with tens of millions of members, volunteers and supporters across 187 countries we are the world's largest assistance network. You know us as a household name. So you should as we have been around for more than 150 years when, with respect, may I say that most of today's independent countries did not exist.

Everyone knows us for our work in disasters and crises - we are always present when misfortune or catastrophe strikes. But you may not be fully aware of our equally extensive role as a development actor. This comes naturally from our permanent presence in communities. We are there much before disasters and long afterwards. Overall, our rough estimates suggest that at least US$20-30 billion annually goes through the Red Cross Red Crescent system worldwide.

In welcoming the Busan outcome but going beyond it, may I offer four key messages from the International Federation perspective:

First, to all governments: Good external aid is, of course, appreciated and more of it could be well-used. But development effectiveness relies ultimately on peoples' own efforts. This is the International Year of Volunteers and Volunteering. We estimate that Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers alone add over US$6 billion to global GDP through their freely given labours and skills.

If we add to this, the contribution of other voluntary bodies, perhaps volunteering contributes some US$10-15 billion i.e. close to 10 per cent of the equivalent of current official development assistance (oda). This is currently invisible in national and global balance sheets - and should be so under the principle of transparency in aid effectiveness. Amidst current calls for more "smart aid" is it not smart that every aid dollar can leverage a further voluntary contribution - provided governments help to create a better enabling environment for expanded volunteering?

However, more than dollar values, is the social capitalisation from volunteering. Volunteering creates good citizenship, fosters local ownership, and promotes the accountability of governments. These are other vital principles for aid effectiveness.

Second, is an "ask" from donors. It is still deeply disappointing that rigidities in humanitarian and development budget lines and internal donor institutional divides fragment assistance efforts and increase related transaction costs. From the beneficiary perspective, I don't think that people in need stop to think if the help offered to them is coming from relief or development accounting spreadsheets!

So, bridging the relief-development divide is still unfinished business from before. Will the Busan outcomes move us forward? For the Red Cross Red Crescent, we do this every day through two interconnected areas of our routine business: building resilient communities and building community capacities. That is why we now invest at least 10 percent of our relief spending on risk reduction.

Third, in welcoming this High Level Forum's focus on engagement in fragile states, let me say that the "new deal" presented here would be even better if we also thought more broadly on "fragile people". They live not just in conflict countries but in conflicted communities in all countries - rich and poor. In the Red Cross Red Crescent, we know them well through our work on social inclusion which tackles the neglect, marginalisation, and discrimination that can breed violent grievance and disgruntlement.

Fourth, when the Millennium Development Goals were agreed more than a decade ago, they provided much-needed consensus and focus on development priorities. Since then, experience has taught us many lessons and these have generated a patchwork of additional "fixes" - the concern with aid effectiveness being one of them. But as we approach Rio plus 20 and peer over the horizon beyond 2015, we must go beyond cobbled-together compromises. This is because our world is changing so fast, and people - everywhere - need new hope and want a sharp vision. This calls for a new development model or paradigm - at the heart of which are communities.

In conclusion, if Paris was known for bringing governments together on the agenda of aid effectiveness, and Accra is remembered for including civil society in the dialogue, then could we aspire that Busan will be celebrated for allowing the voices of people and communities to be heard so as to shape the decisions that ultimately have a powerful effect on the lives and well being of the most vulnerable and poor people on our shared planet?

Thank you.

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