Friday, July 07, 2006

Mini Red Cross Lesson

The mini lesson I said I would write about in the above post. I hope my sisters read this too. Only because one of them is sitting next to me while I write and wants me to read everything out to her so that she doesn't have to. Too bad lazy. Start reading.

The Red Cross started with the ICRC, which is the International Committee of the Red Cross. They started work in war and conflict situations and have a constant battle trying to keep their position neutral. They need permission from both sides of a conflict in order to work in that conflict. That is different from the UN and is in fact a very unique factor of the ICRC. I love them even though I think there are issues. They are one of the only and were the first organizations that were let into GITMO to work with the prisoners. OK, so after ICRC, the other big RC organization is the IFRC. International Federation of the Red Cross, Red Crescent. They are the umbrella organization for all the National Societies that are out there, which when I last checked was 191. We might be up to 193 with the Palestinians and Israeli’s being recognized which was a very political issue. I will get into why that was political later. It is the basic issue why anything having to do with Palestine is political. Recognizing Palestine as a state is a sticky situation.

Under IFRC, you have National Societies, like the American Red Cross, Saudi Red Crescent, etc. A PNS, which is what I was in Sri Lanka, is a participating National Society and that is what you are called when not working in your own country, but in another.

The National Societies have some basic rules governing them, the most basic of them being, they serve as the auxiliary of the government (which complicates the neutrality part which is why National Societies are now under IFRC and not ICRC), there can be only one National Society in the country (hence the Israel and Palestine complication, which by the way, along with the emblem issue for the Israeli’s stopped American funding for the ICRC and IFRC because of Jewish lobbying for a bit, which sucked) and when you are working in another country as a PNS, you are hosts of the National Society and therefore, ALL your programming goes through them and you can be kicked out at any time, (the problems of the Red Cross in SL stem from this basic rule).

I like the RC overall. I like the idea. Even though you feel like you work for an international organization, in theory, you are not. You are working under the National Society and therefore are supposed to be pretty grass roots and are working as an NGO. When you have a good National Society, as is the case in many Latin American countries, I have heard, it is almost magical to see programming happen.

Perhaps someday I too will see that happen. Didn’t happen last time for sure.

I didn’t realize before I joined the Red Cross just how big it really is and how it operates. How political and bureaucratic it is. I didn’t know it was a “Movement”. That takes a while getting used to and since, as much as I will protest to the contrary, it is political and such, I love learning how to manipulate, exploit and work with the system.

Check out the site, www.ifrc.org to get more info. They have job listings there as well for those who are looking. And you can read about Henri Dunant who I heard SO MUCH about that I just cannot write about him anymore.

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