CONFRONTING THE GLOBAL CRISIS OF TRUST
Suleymanieh, Zerinok. ICRC staff crosscheck a list of Syrian refugee families eligible for assistance before distributing aid.
Copyright ICRC - Photographer : KRZYSIEK, Pawel
Among the many ways of interpreting the political and economic volatility of the year so far, it is clear that global connectivity is part of both the cause and the solution. The lightning speed with which we can share information has made for a highly sensitive investment environment, in which markets react rapidly to events as they unfold. This changing global communications dynamic has given rise a new kind of entanglement; a complexity that is impacting how governments, organisations and markets make sense of the world.
"We are living in a world that is strongly connected and yet fragmented in increasingly meaningful ways; a world where trust is our rarest commodity." Yves Daccord, ICRC Director-General
We spoke to Yves Daccord*, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, to hear his thoughts on some of the geopolitical complexities that have driven the turbulence of recent years. In our conversation, he shared his unique view and made the case for a newer, more collaborative way of responding to crisis.
He began by outlining his concern: “We now live in a highly connected world – and, for all its advantages, this connectivity has given rise to complexities that we are only starting to understand. Technology has helped to bring us closer together, but this closeness has also brought our differences into sharp relief. Organisations such as ISIS reach millions of people merely because they have mastered the new tools of communication available to us all. So, as governments, organisations and individuals, our task is to master those tools while retaining our commitment to own values even as the modes and the language with which we communicate those values evolve. It’s a great challenge.”
Mr Daccord went on to discuss how the ICRC maintains its own commitment to engaging with all parties in a conflict, and how neutrality is the key to its ability to reach communities in crisis. However, while staying neutral, he also believes that full international convergence is necessary to respond to and resolve the new entangled nature of the crises the world faces. “A connected global response is vital, because the problems are themselves interconnected.”
From the effects of Saudi-Iranian tensions on the oil market to the migrant crisis in Europe, countries that may once have considered themselves physically far removed from problems in other parts of the world no longer have the option to maintain an attitude of distance. All aspects of our lives, including the communities in which we live and the markets in which we invest, are being meaningfully impacted by events that may have, only a few years ago, been considered too far removed to be a genuine concern.
Mr Daccord added: “The crisis unfolding in the Middle East is reshaping, not just the region itself, but also Europe. The relationship between the people of Europe and their governments, the very fabric of its communities, is being shifted by developments in Syria and elsewhere. European leaders have long been mistaken in believing that these kinds of conflicts can be contained. But what we see today with Syria is how rapidly problems can spread, and I think the speed at which this contagion has taken place has been a surprise to many. While we clearly live in a highly connected world, our responses today remain very fragmented. In so many ways, we are still a million miles away from each other.”
With any single crisis now capable of impacting more countries, more lives, more economies and markets than ever before, a collaborative and innovative strategy is now critical. However, Mr Daccord argued that in order for any collaboration to bear fruit, a new way of thinking is necessary. He returned to the issue of Syria: “We need to accept that merely taking in more and more refugees is not the answer. We must think strategically about how we can work with people within Syria to allow them to choose to stay in the country. This means that organisations such as my own need to maintain a strong presence of the ground, while also helping to provide the support by which investment can be channelled into infrastructure, such as water and sanitation systems. Most importantly, we can no longer wait until wars end before we can start doing this work. We must learn to work within war.”
As a result of this need, the ICRC believes that, despite the communications advances that have made the world feel like a much smaller place, proximity – in the traditional sense – remains as important today as it has ever been. The ICRC works hard to get as close to people affected by conflict as it can. Mr Daccord believes that being visible on the ground is also vital for building trust. “Similar to the banking sector, in my world, trust is key; but in the last few years, it has become an increasingly rare commodity. This makes our commitment to it even more critical. Trust, for us, is central to who we are.”
* Yves Daccord is Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, a post he has held since 2010. A former journalist, TV producer and international relations expert, his ICRC career has spanned more than two decades in a variety of posts and challenging contexts – including Israel and the Occupied Territories, Sudan, Yemen, Chechnya and Georgia. Prior to his appointment as Director-General, he held the posts of Head of Communication Division and Director of Communications. He assumed the chair of Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR) in January 2015. He holds a degree in political science. Born in 1964, Mr Daccord is married with three children.
Lombard Odier and the ICRC
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