IFRC General Assembly and the Side Event

IFRC General Assembly and the Side Event

In December 2015, four years after a resolution on “preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents” was adopted, the 20th IFRC General Assembly was held. On the sidelines of the General Assembly, a side event about nuclear emergency preparedness took place and the efforts by the IFRC and National Societies and the accomplishments were introduced.

1. Overview of the IFRC General Assembly

A JRCS representative stating a comment the IFRC General Assembly
A JRCS representative stating a comment
at the IFRC General Assembly

The 20th General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC GA) was held in Geneva from December 4 to December 6, 2015. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 189 countries and regions participated in the IFRC GA. At the 2011 IFRC GA, which was held after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, a resolution on “preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents” was adopted. Since then, four years have passed. In the Report of the Secretary General prepared for the 2015 IFRC GA, the efforts and achievements regarding nuclear emergency preparedness were mentioned. For this part of the report, Mr. Satoshi Sugai, Deputy Director General, International Department of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) made a comment during the General Assembly about the efforts as stated below.

  • As the year 2016 will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the 5th anniversary of the TEPCO Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, I would like to say a few words, with reference to the Report of the Secretary General, Section 2: Achievements and challenges, page 12, Nuclear emergency preparedness.
  • The JRCS welcomes and appreciates the IFRC’s work that was conducted to develop the “Operational Guidelines on Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies” to follow up on the 2011 General Assembly decision 11/46.
  • The demand for electricity in the world is anticipated to increase as the world economy develops further. To meet this demand, the number of nuclear power plants that will be newly constructed in the world is also expected to increase greatly. This fact will naturally increase the probability of nuclear power plant accidents in the future, albeit infrequently. A nuclear disaster, once it happens, may develop into a large-scale disaster affecting neighboring countries beyond borders. Unfortunately, the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies including the JRCS are not sufficiently prepared to provide effective assistance to the population affected by radiation.
  • Based on the lessons learned from the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters, with the help of the newly developed IFRC’s Operational Guideline, each relevant Red Cross and Red Crescent National Society is expected to create its own contingency plan to cope with radiological and nuclear emergencies as well as to conduct sufficient training for the staff and volunteers.
  • The JRCS was totally unprepared and had a very bitter experience in Fukushima in 2011. Now we have developed our own contingency plan and training modules for radiological and nuclear emergencies, and started the training for our medical relief team members. We have also created a web-based digital archive system to share our good and bad practices both in Japanese and English with you. In cooperation with IFRC, we are firmly committed to utilizing our knowledge and experience to help interested National Societies to increase their capacity to cope with radiological and nuclear emergencies.

As well as the Report of the Secretary General, the interim review of Strategy 2020 and discussion of the draft budget and revision of the IFRC Constitution, etc. were made during the 2015 IFRC GA.

2. Overview of the side event

Prior to the IFRC GA, a side event entitled “Faster, Stronger, Better: Strengthening RCRC Emergency Response System - Are We Prepared for Emerging Risks? –“ took place on December 4, 2015 sponsored by the JRCS. The purpose of the side event was as follows:

  • To review the lessons learned from the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters and other recent large crises;
  • To introduce new global/regional/country level preparedness for such crises;
  • To introduce the accomplishments since the adoption of the IFRC Resolution 11/46.

This event was chaired by Dr. Saeed Elahi, Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent Society. At first, some high school and university students living in Fukushima and Tokyo from The Simplest NAIIC* made a presentation. Following that, panelists from Belarus Red Cross, JRCS, IFRC Secretariat and OCHA** gave a presentation, respectively, followed by a plenary discussion with the participants.

* The Simplest Explanation of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Report
** UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

 The video introduces the side event. (Duration: about 4 min.)
 Please click the link below.

The Digest video 

3. Presentation by The Simplest NAIIC

Workshop in Japan
Workshop in Japan
Presentation at the side event
Presentation at the side event

Background of the presentation:
The Simplest NAIIC was launched by adult members who engaged in the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission*** Report, for the purpose of explaining the report in a simple way to the public. The principle of The Simplest NAIIC project is neutrality, which is the same as one of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) fundamental principles. The starting point of the project’s student team (students from Fukushima and Tokyo) was to read the report and understand it. Now, they are creating forums to think about the social systems and sending their messages to the public in their own words.

Last year, the student team gave a special presentation at the Third Reference Group Meeting on Radiological & Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, which was held in Fukushima, and presented what the students from Fukushima and Tokyo felt, and asked the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement to take specific measures and leadership for nuclear disaster preparedness.

There were positive feedbacks on the presentation from the meeting participants. Mr. Konoe, President of the IFRC and the JRCS, also strongly hoped that the student team would appeal about the current situation of Fukushima and make suggestions for the future to the international community at the 20th IFRC General Assembly. Based on that, the team’s seven core members from Fukushima and Tokyo prepared for the side event. In December, three members representing the team visited Geneva and made the presentation at the side event in front of about 130 people who were part of the participants in the IFRC General Assembly.

*** A commission appointed by the National Diet of Japan which is the supreme body of the state power (December 8, 2011 – July 5, 2012).

Summary of the presentation:
The Choice is Ours![PDF]

There was fear and confusion in Fukushima when the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident occurred following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

In contrast, the situation in Tokyo area was quite different. It seemed that the people were living their ordinary lives and intentionally avoided thinking about the impacts of the accident.

The situation inspired us to think that the young generation needed to do something. That started our student organization “The High School Student Team of The Simplest NAIIC” (High School Student Team).

We, the three of the team members, are here today to share what we have learnt from our experiences in Fukushima.

First, please watch two videos about the Fukushima nuclear accident, which were made by The Simplest NAIIC. (Clicking the links below goes to The Simplest NAIIC website.)
(Video 1: What is the NAIIC?)
(Video 2: Was the nuclear accident preventable?)

The National Diet of Japan Commission Report tells that the accident could have been prevented. So why did it happen? To find out the reason, we had a role-play session to find out how different people from different parties would think and act. For example, they are victims, nuclear power plant operators, and government officials. As a result, we reached one conclusion: People are hesitant to reveal their real intentions because people, including us, start to think about something by prioritizing benefits of their organizations and being stuck in their positions and responsibilities.

How can we overcome this situation? We now believe that “dialogue” can be a clue of this problem. The “dialogue” means here to have a conversation to exchange your honest opinions with each other regardless of your positions or roles. We have held many workshops by inviting many people. We realized that we gradually changed better through the dialogue process. We gradually overcome our fears and resentments from the disaster by opening minds and sharing our thoughts with others.

It is by no means easy to speak honestly. However, we will keep studying and learning, believing that these findings will be of help when another disaster happens in other parts of the world.

Dear our friends from the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, let’s make a difference, as your slogan is telling you. “Our World, Your Move”. The choice is ours.

Reflection of the presentation:
At the end of December 2015, The Simplest NAIIC members who prepared the presentation held a report meeting about the side event held in Geneva. They reflected on the preparation process of the presentation. They also looked back on their experience of dialogue workshops that The Simplest NAIIC had organized as part of their activities. The meeting also offered an opportunity for reflection of their various other experiences as well as their findings in Geneva. For the reflection report contributed by The Simplest NAIIC, please click here [PDF].

4. Panelist presentations


The side event chair, Dr. Saeed Elahi, Chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, started the event. He had joined the Reference Group Meeting on CBRN Emergency Preparedness held in Fukushima and Berlin.

Prior to the presentations, the chair made remarks that CBRN emergencies are caused by human errors, external attacks and natural disasters, etc. He went on to state that it is necessary to protect many people in the event of an emergency and therefore faster, stronger and better response will be required.

The first presentation was made by The Simplest NAIIC, followed by Belarus Red Cross Society, Japanese Red Cross Society, IFRC and United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). After the presentations, there was a plenary discussion.

Presentation by Viktor Kolbanov, Secretary General, Belarus Red Cross
Presentation materials of the Belarus RC [PDF]
Mr. Kolbanov spoke about the damage and current situation in Belarus from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident.

CHARP (Chernobyl Humanitarian Assistance and Rehabilitation Program) started in 1990 in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia supported by the IFRC. This programme provided children aged 14 or younger at the time of the accident with thyroid cancer screening, conducted examinations of other cancers and raised awareness for disease prevention. Thanks to these activities, health effects have been much reduced. In addition to these services, the program created special teams for psychological care and provided foods and supplies to the people living in the contaminated areas. To promote diagnosis for the residents living far away from urban areas, MDL (Mobile Diagnostic Laboratory) was used. The CHARP has made a significant outcome, but the scale of the programme has been reduced due to lack of financial and other resources.

Since nuclear power plants are still operating around the border of Belarus, there are still risks. Mr. Kolbanov said that the Belarus Red Cross hopes to strengthen its response capacity for possible severe nuclear accidents with the support from partners in terms of education for volunteers and provision of necessary equipment and materials.

Presentation by Satoshi Sugai, Deputy Director General, International Department, Japanese Red Cross Society
Presentation materials of the JRCS [PDF]
Mr. Sugai shared the work done by the JRCS in cooperation with the IFRC and the challenges that the JRCS are still facing. He said that the JRCS was not sufficiently prepared when the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident occurred and therefore took the actions such as: development of JRCS guidelines entitled “Nuclear Disaster Guidelines for Preparedness, Response and Recovery”, set-up of the Digital Archives by the JRCS Red Cross Nuclear Disaster Resource Center and introduction of its own training modules for its staff and volunteers to provide activities safely in a radiological situation.

Some of the challenges he mentioned were: constant renewing of staff and volunteers’ knowledge on radiation and nuclear disasters; risk communication with affected populations about safety and risk of radiation levels; and relocation of healthcare facilities in the event of a nuclear accident. He also spoke about the JRCS’s goal, which is to integrate radiological and nuclear response preparedness into its general disaster management system so that it can always be operational.

Presentation by Simon Eccleshall, Head, Disaster and Crisis Management Department, IFRC
Mr. Eccleshall said that the key question debated in the side event session was: “Are we (the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement) prepared for technological disasters and emerging threats?” He also mentioned that the connectivity between preparedness, response and recovery for these types of disasters must be thought about when talking about responding. He went on saying that building resilience, strengthening communities, and preparedness is a key intervention where Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers can make a difference.

Mr. Eccleshall summarized the accomplishments that the IFRC has made since a resolution on "preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents" was adopted at the 2011 IFRC General Assembly. The accomplishments included the guidelines for radiological and nuclear emergencies and an e-learning tool for capacity building.

Presentation by Rene Nijenhuis, Inter-Cluster Coordination Section, United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mr. Nijenhuis shared three key messages with the side event participants based on the extensive experience of OCHA working together with the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) to deal with environmental emergencies:
(1) Coordination is critical in CBRN and technological hazards. Over the last 20-30 years, many specialized tools and services have been developed for all types of emergencies. A lot of them have been intervened and supported globally by different frameworks. This leads to gaps that need to be addressed and stepped in for coordination.
(2) More investment on preparedness is needed. In risk assessment, we tend to forget unthinkable events. However, if the emerging risks do occur, the impacts are so great that we need an entire system change and more attention to these low probability but high-impact events.
(3) A stronger partnership is needed. In general, humanitarian assistance has a very low awareness in chemical, biological and nuclear events. However, all of these events will have serious humanitarian implications such as displacement and need for medical treatment, food, drinking water and shelter. At the same time, we need to know where it is safe to go and what is safe to do. A stronger partnership will be needed between the technological domains and the humanitarian domains.


5. Plenary discussion

Plenary discussion
Plenary discussion

At the plenary discussion following the presentations, the chair asked some questions to the floor.

Q1. As we have heard of new Sendai Framework, the disaster risk reduction will apply to the risk of small-scale and large-scale, frequent and infrequent, sudden and slow-onset disasters caused by natural or man-made hazards, as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks. How will we, as RC Movement, contribute to the new DRR (disaster risk reduction) framework in the context of ecological hazards?

Q2. Where do you see the role of your National Society in the context of technological hazards/CBRN risks? How do you think that we should prepare for the humanitarian impact of such kind of risks as RC movement?

The following comments were made from the floor regarding the importance and necessity of addressing preparedness for and response to CBRN emergencies including nuclear disasters:

  • How should the RC Movement prepare for CBRN emergencies and build the capabilities to handle these emergencies? How should we cooperate with national governments?
  • The safety (radiation exposure level standard during relief activities) for staff and volunteers of each National Society should be discussed in a preparedness phase, as was presented by the JRCS. It will be too late to discuss it after a disaster occurs, because the safety of the staff and volunteers will involve the acceptance and recognition of the RCRC relief activities by society and survivors in the event of a disaster.
  • What kind of CBRN emergencies should we respond to? Since the Red Cross should always be close to communities, should we think about preparing for smaller disasters targeted for a large population instead of arranging a high resource relief team?

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