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martedì, Luglio 23, 2024

Rocca (IFRC): “Pandemic and climate change our priorities”

ROME, OCTOBER 18 – Francesco Rocca has been, since November 2017, the President of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC), the most important humanitarian organisation in the world, and the President of the national division of the Italian Red Cross – since 2013. A lawyer by training, Rocca focused his activities, both professionally and personally, to social activism and volunteering, which led to the role he has nowadays. Interviewed by Onuitalia, President Rocca describes the current situation of the Federation and its future challenges, starting from the participation as special observer to the COP26 in November.

President Rocca, what are the priorities and the most important challenges of the Federation, both geographically and on a thematic level, in the short and long run?

The priority of the Federation is to offer support to civil society, regardless of the geographical framework, the matter or the timing. That being said, the two main challenges the Federation is facing are the pandemic and climate change. It is important to notice that these two challenges are quite intertwined, and that their impact intersects in certain areas, worsening and further complicating humanitarian relief operations. We have various missions, and they they are equally relevant, but the Federation is currently active in Afghanistan, because of the recent change of government, in Lebanon, that has been for a long time troubled by instability and poverty, and in Ethiopia, distressed by an extremely serious humanitarian crisis.

Climate change is for sure a priority; so, what are the expectations and the requests of the Federation for the next COP26? The core part of these last meeting between the parties seemed to be the financial component of contrasting climate change, more than the systemic change.

The Federation has very high hopes for the next Conference, even though the expectations are held back by the reality of what happened after the other Conferences, when the States parties never really pursued their commitments. The situation is serious, we need a change of pace and concrete actions to counteract the effects of climate change. What I mean is that the financial part and systemic actions must go hand in hand. Surely, it’s great that the most advanced States undertake and discuss how to help finance the more fragile and developmental States in the process of ecological transition, but they should also really act on these matters.

Source: IFRC Twitter

The Federation is the world leader in human relief operations, on a local and on the field level, but in certain contexts climate change has a devastating impact, hardly reversible, and that translates in massive migrations – together with what all brings along. In this case, can the protection of climate refugees’ rights be an alternative to local humanitarian relief?

In my opinion, these are not alternatives, and one does not exclude the other. I’d rather say that they are both equally necessary. Unfortunately, right now national laws do not protect climate refugees as they do with the more “traditional” refugees. Luckily, this is slowly changing, and the recognition of the climate refugee status could really make a difference for the millions of people that are forced to leave their beloved countries – in many cases just to survive. On climate change, the real issue is the reluctance of the States to really be committed and to implement those commitments: that’s why the protection is not yet included in any convention. And that’s why, even more, the local humanitarian relief is so crucial, without undermining the importance of official recognition of the climate refugee status by States.

Keeping on with the legislative field, what are the main problems that the Federation faces in the field of international humanitarian law during international and non-international conflicts?

The challenges are many, but a very serious problem remains that of denied access to certain realities. From our point of view, this is an expression of a lack of multilateral instruments to implement international humanitarian law. Some situations are not penetrable because sanctions for those who violate the law are not implemented. There are many reasons and they are always linked to the reluctance of the States, but as long as these instruments are missing the humanitarian support operations of the Federation during conflicts will not be able to express itself at its best, and certain areas, in particular where ethnic and internal conflicts are taking place, will not be accessible.

Lastly: we live in the information, and consequently misinformation, era, how does this affect the Federation’s agenda, and which instruments does it employ in order to safeguard accurate information?

Accurate information has always been one of the main objectives of the Federation, and for us two main components are required in order to guarantee it. The first one is good practices, and the second the scientific community’s support for these practices. No mission of the Federation presumes to impose or teach absolute truth, but our modus operandi is based on simple and direct messages in order to persuade the civil population to do the right thing, always having in mind the two afore mentioned components. The first case in which the Federation focused and operationalised accurate information was the Ebola epidemic, and the reassuring results made accurate information a central part of the humanitarian relief operations’ practices, as exemplified by the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the following vaccination campaign.

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