Inauguration Speech

From: “3rd World Meeting of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Youth” Solferino, Italy – 23 June 2009

On behalf of our International Movement, I have the pleasure to welcome you all today in Solferino at the third World Meeting of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Youth.
It has not been an easy task to first conceive and then plan this meeting. If we managed to do so, it has been thanks to the enthusiastic cooperation of so many young Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from different regions of the world, who have been working side by side for months, defeating the challenges and the skepticism of those who did not want this event to take place. To all of them go our sincere and warmest thanks.

Your trip to get here from any corner of the world has been a long one, for some of you even longer and difficult. But you are now finally in this place which is very particular and magic to all of us, not only for the beauties of its landscape and the warmth of its people, but mainly for having inspired, 150 years ago, the birth of our great Movement.

Henry Dunant was a genius, one of the few leaders who is remembered not for the number of territories he conquered or for the number of enemies he has killed or defeated, nor for having ruled with the unconditioned and irrational love and consensus of his subjects, but for having started a work that has changed in better the life of millions of human beings. A work that renovates and continues every day thanks to the contribution of all of us.

Latins were used to say “natura non facit saltus”, meaning that history continues progressively and not in jerks. But there are moments in which history seems to accelerate, and it is possible to distinguish “before” and “after” an event. Concerning natural disasters, in the last years, there has been a “before” and “after” the Tsunami. For what concerns Politics, there has been a “before” and “after” the fall of the Berlin Wall or a “before” and “after” 9-11.

In 1859 there has been a “before” the Solferino battle and “after” the Solferino battle, with the birth of the Red Cross. It has been difficult for Henry Dunant to convince others of his ideas, which were at least 50 to 100 years in advance in respect to his times.

Our “dear Enrico”, as we say, had to pay hard for his ideas. His personal history is emblematic of the high price those who oppose human evilness have to pay, sometimes even with their lives. It is emblematic of the price paid by those fighting against the condition of “homo homini lupus”, the opportunism of those who turn to the other side and pretend not to see the violence of men against other men; or against the mediocrity of those who do not put themselves at risk in order to improve other people’s quality of life. It is emblematic of the price paid by those fighting against hypocrisy, against violence covered by legality of those using rules and procedures in order to place their power before the one of other people; against the cynicism of those who are convinced that everything has to change in order for nothing to really change.

Burocrats have been persecuting Henry Dunant during his entire life, mainly not for the bankruptcy of his company, but for the revolutionary and destabilizing power of his ideas. Burocrats were also inside the Red Cross, which has eventually recognized the merits of his founder when he was old and not in the possibility to have his ideas prevailing on the power of bureaucracy.

This dialectic struggle between good and evil, action and routine, ideas and routine, structure and function, innovation and status quo is still present in our Movement. You have to be aware of it in order to act accordingly. In order to improve and evolve, the Movement needs your enthusiasm, your commitment, your action; in a single word, your leadership.

Being a leader means running risks. The risk of doing things that have not been done before, and that other people do not want. The risk to create links and bridges instead of hostility and walls. The risk to expose ourselves and to pay for our ideas, instead of getting passively used to the violence that spreads throughout the world.

Some years ago at the UNGASS, the UN Special Session on Aids in New York, I met Bernard Kouchner, current French Minister for Exterior, who had been a young ICRC delegate in Congo and who founded “Médecins sans fontières” as he was tired of the complexity and bureaucracy of the Red Cross. Kouchner told me “La Croix Rouge est vieille!” « The Red Cross is old ! ».

It is up to you to commit yourselves and fight to demonstrate that “the Red Cross is young”.
It is not an easy task, and you’ll have to unify your efforts to do so, creating a task-force, a network of inspired and committed youth at the local, national, regional and international level, able to act with fantasy and devotion in order to leave a positive footprint of your passage on the earth, helping vulnerable people in their daily struggle for life.

Life is a difficult exercise for anybody. For some of us it is so difficult to become unbearable, even impossible. We can all contribute to make this world a better world, starting to help those who struggle more in order to survive. We call these brothers and sisters of ours the most vulnerable ones, but we always have to remember that in just few minutes, any of us can become a vulnerable person, and this is a good reason why we do not have to discriminate or stigmatize anybody, but we do have to treat everybody as a peer, as a person in need, as tomorrow it could be any of us to be in the same penalizing conditions.

Renewing the Red Cross and opening it to the contribution of vulnerable people as an occasion for their self-help and redemption is not an easy task. Let me suggest it to you as the theme of these days, because you are not normal people, you are twice special people.

First of all because among all the options that can fascinate young people, you have chosen to become Redcrosser. Secondly because you have been selected for your merits among your Red Cross and Red Crescent fellows to represent your National Society.

You are leaders, and some among you will be called upon to take great responsibilities in the next years, within and outside our Movement. (Segue alla pagina successiva >>)