The following story was written by Lena Kang, Knowledge Management Intern, GDPC, based from an interview with Wendy Ward, International Policy & Relations Sr. Advocacy and Policy Program Officer at the American Red Cross.
Humanitarian diplomacy in disaster preparedness plays a key role in bringing critical issues to the forefront of the humanitarian agenda. Through advocacy, communication, and negotiation, humanitarian diplomacy aims to persuade and influence key decision-makers to act in the interest of vulnerable populations. For Wendy Ward, advocating for these issues on Capitol Hill constitutes a large part of her work at the American Red Cross (ARC) National Headquarters in Washington, DC. As the International Policy & Relations (IPR) Sr. Advocacy and Policy Program Officer, Wendy developed and implements International Services’ advocacy plan to educate policymakers to strengthen international humanitarian assistance for people who are vulnerable to natural and manmade disasters, and health crises.
More generally, the IPR team works to develop and advocate around the International Services positions on humanitarian issues, as well as strengthen ARC’s engagement in the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) global network. Wendy states that the ARC’s status as an auxiliary to the US government “provides an opportunity for the organization to engage in humanitarian diplomacy in a way that is unique among NGOs in the domestic community.” In addition, ARC’s membership in InterAction, a large consortium of national and international NGOs in DC, allows for a stronger voice to carry through in its advocacy work. At the same time, “the American Red Cross is hands-deep in local communities around the world through its partnerships with National Societies, which provide access and opportunities to participate in research and evidence-gathering,” both of which are crucial components of effective advocacy before decision-makers.
Research and evidence-gathering
Through the RCRC network’s deep reach in local communities, Wendy states that the IFRC is seeking ways to collect evidence and research what happens in these situations “in order to further augment strategies that are taking place to prevent, mitigate, and respond to GBV.” Such initiatives will allow National Societies to address and invest in local needs characterized by long-term development and low-visibility. Recognizing the importance of gendered perspectives in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and armed conflict, the RCRC Movement has incorporated gender as a thematic focus for the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which will be held in December 2015 in Geneva.
In addition, the IFRC and National Societies have laid out the IFRC Strategic Framework on Gender and Diversity Issues 2013–2020, which complements the IFRC Strategy on Violence Prevention, Mitigation and Response 2010–2020. One of the outcomes that form the basis for operationalizing the IFRC gender framework includes the “systematic incorporation of gender and diversity in all programs, services and tools (covering the full management cycle from assessment to planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting)” (3). Lastly, research and evidence-gathering feeds into RCRC’s overall work of advocacy and humanitarian diplomacy by meeting the demand for evidence among decision-makers at all levels.