Volunteers as a mobilizing force in disaster risk reduction processes

Voluntary service is one of the fundamental basis for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, and its role is decisive in achieving the objectives set out by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). As such, the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), together with White Helmets Argentina, promoted and organized a parallel session titled “Sendai Framework Inclusion of Volunteers in Social Mobilization for Disaster Risk Reduction”, as part of the events taking place during the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas (RP17) in Montreal, Canada. The Sendai Framework for DRR makes specific reference to the role of volunteers and voluntary organizations in its principles and priorities: as active actors, a pillar to better understand community risks and increase collaborative efforts.

The Framework highlights that to achieve this differentiating element that will allow for active participation of voluntary groups in the disaster risk reduction strategies and plans, it is necessary to ensure that they have adequate training, which is relevant at the national, regional and global levels.
The following presenters participated in the session: Walter Cotte, IFRC Americas Regional Director; Jean Pierre Tascherau, Director of Emergency Operations, Canadian Red Cross; Ambassador Alejandro Daneri, President of the White Helmets Argentina Commission; Kathleen Monpoint, Haiti Civil Protection, Debora Heckinson, Senior Vice-President of Customer Service and Marketing at Aviva; and Roger Zambrano, Operations Head, Ecuador Red Cross.
“As Red Cross we have about 700,000 volunteers in the region, however, there are millions of volunteers among the different organizations in the Americas. This network, we have to make it more interconnected and recognize that volunteers as humans who know and can measure risks and contribute in early action. It is also important to encourage the inclusion of volunteers as one of the foundations of the public response system and community awareness. As a Red Cross, we will continue to promote education and a culture of solidarity and mutual aid”, said Walter Cotte, Director for the Americas Region of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Roger Zambrano, from the Ecuador Red Cross, add, "for us volunteers have been key in the response to the earthquake last year. One of the ways to ensure the inclusion of volunteers was through technology, as we realized that most were between 18 and 35 years. On the other hand, the education and training of our volunteers is extremely important for the Ecuador Red Cross, in order to be able to positioning the response and prevention tools in the communities. Today, our goal is to influence the development of a public policy of volunteering. "
The people-centered approach, a central pillar of IFRC actions, requires the commitment and the strength of volunteers. This includes volunteers from the Red Cross Movement, but also all trained volunteers who are part of these communities and can become agents of change to promote risk reduction and support the processes that strengthen resilience.  

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