Joining hands, helping all

James Kon

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is over 160-years-old, having first started with the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC was born with the idea that there should be rules regulating warfare and that there should be a specific service created in each country to support civilians and wounded military personnel in the case of conflict and man-made or natural disasters.

After the opening of the Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society academy and headquarters, Deputy Head of ICRC Kuala Lumpur Regional Delegation Zurab Burduli highlighted the independence and impartiality of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

He shared that Red Cross and Red Crescent have no religious meaning, noting that the Red Cross was created by the Swiss with the colour of the Swiss flag. “There is absolutely no religious connotation. Otherwise it would defeat the core value which is neutrality and independence as well as impartiality.

“In this movement, we work together in various situations such as if there is violence in the country, it’s the committee who takes the lead together with the national society to support the government within the country.”

Ahmad Sami speaks with Haji Muhammad Suhaimi bin Haji Ibrahim and Zurab Burduli. PHOTO: JAMES KON

Citing an example, he said, “In the Nepal earthquake, there is a Nepalese national society that has a huge network within the country and actively responds to disaster.

“There were many national societies from Germany to Timor-Leste wanting to help. This can create a mess, so the federation had to coordinate who has what strength to help.”

The National Society Development Coordinator of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Ahmad Sami highlighted that one of the roles of the federation is to support national societies to further develop.

He said the federation would like to develop the capacity of national societies to be able to absorb the support from outside.

For Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), he said that it ,”Is always developing its capacity in terms of volunteer mobilisation and youth development. They have a huge focus in these areas.

“Last year in the regional conference, Brunei representatives agreed to host the youth development agenda for Southeast Asian countries and this year the BDRCS committed to host the ASEAN Red Crescent Youth Conference involving 12 national societies. The conference was planned in February but due to COVID-19, we are forced to postpone the conference and review the date.

“BDRCS is taking a leadership role, not only in the national society but also outside within the international and regional settings to develop the capacity of youth volunteers.”

In terms of climate change issues, Ahmad Sami said, “The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement recognised climate change is a big issue. Last year, we had the Red Cross and Red Crescent general assembly in Geneva and a resolution was adopted to support climate change issues and to build more capacity as well as awareness on climate change. The resolution was adopted and the 198 national societies globally joined hands to raise awareness and reduce disaster risk.

They are contributing to regional and sub-regional dialogues, enhancing the importance on the impact of climate change for leaders to support this issue.”

Zurab Burduli added, “As we work in complex situations like man-made disasters and conflicts, climate change aggravated the situation and consequences.

“People try to escape hostile situations and they may go to places where the impact of climate change has taken place such as drought and flooding. The situation becomes more difficult and complex to manage.”

On capacity building, Ahmad Sami highlighted, “For BDRCS, we provide disaster response training, preparedness, first aid and youth development. We supported them in the development of a strategic plan by helping to analyse the current situation, identify the vulnerability and what can be done.”

He affirmed that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is a global movement which BDRCS is a part of.

“They can contribute their technical skills to other societies when they are in need. So we need to build this capacity to be ready in times of disaster or conflict.

“The resources can be mobilised and we can speak the same language.”

Zurab Burduli continued, “The Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society is keen to develop the capacity on international humanitarian role so we are discussing the avenue for that. We don’t have to wait for a disaster to strike. It’s good to be prepared. We work with any country with an approach that is as local as possible, with as little intervention as necessary. We are not here all the time. It’s the national society who is the key and main player to respond.”

President of BDRCS Haji Muhammad Suhaimi bin Haji Ibrahim explained that the BDRCS is not a non-government organisation (NGO) and instead has a special role in accordance with the Constitution of Brunei Darussalam.

“We are a parliamentarian organisation with the constitution signed by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam,” said the president.

“We are part of international organisations like ICRC and IFRC. Our expertise is on humanitarian assistance guided by the two international organisations.”

He said that with the BDRCS’ new office, “We can focus and plan for training as well as move forward to cater to public needs.

“We are committed. It’s a start to let the public know what our roles are. People know of our existence but we need to stay relevant so they will continue to recognise our roles in the country.

“We are the only national society made up of volunteers and we don’t have any staff.

“We are one of the pioneering associations in Brunei started in 1948. This year, we are celebrating our 72nd anniversary.

“The BDRCS is in the final stage of revising its constitution that was sent to IFRC and ICRC as well as the joint commission to be in line with international requirements and local context. Hopefully by this year we can endorse it,” he added.

There are currently 1,000 volunteers and 1,200 school members of the BDRCS in the Sultanate.