CHALLENGES FOR THE RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT IN STRENGTHENING
Organisers : International Federation, Sudanese Red Crescent,
Swiss Red Cross and Finnish Red Cross
Introduction -- This is a summary of the workshop held
as part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's 27th International Conference,
held in Geneva. Further information about individual contributions to the workshop
can be found in separate papers.
Professor Helmut Anheier, London School of Economics Professor
Anheier's presentation was based on a ten-year study of the non-profit sector
in 22 countries world-wide for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US. In
North America and Western Europe, employment in the non-profit sector is growing
rapidly, much faster than the underlying level of employment across all sectors.
This expansion is largely being fuelled by a large increase in the fee income
of non-profit organisations. The growth of fee income may fundamentally change
the nature of non-profit organisations. If the work of volunteers is given an
economic value, the study found that the value of volunteer work has remained
almost static over the last ten years. In comparison with the growth of the
sector, this indicates a declining level of volunteering. By contrast, in developing
and transitional economies, the third sector is much smaller. It faces problems
of legitimacy and recognition, and resource development.
Professor Kelevi Kivistö, President of the Finnish Red Cross Professor
Kivistö's presentation built on Professor Anheier's by attempting to describe
in more detail the nature of the third sector. He expanded on a description
of the third sector in different types of political economies. The trend towards
a more liberal type of society in social democratic countries is forcing the
third sector to take over what were formerly government responsibilities for
social and health care. Volunteering has also changed its nature. People wish
to make less commitment to a single organisation. In Finland people are more
reluctant to become members, and when they volunteer, they do so for shorter
periods. How should NGOs adapt and respond to these new demands?
Questions and Answers: Some key issues were raised by
questions from the audience. The third sector is diffuse and not defined clearly.
Is it possible to identify in which parts of the third sector volunteering has
increased or declined? In Denmark, there are increasing demands for volunteers
to become more 'professional'. This requires a greater investment in volunteers.
Is there any evidence to suggest that the quality of volunteer work is increasing?
The foregoing discussion does not seem relevant to some countries in which there
is both no government provision of health and social care services, and in which
there is no freedom to associate, preventing the formation of volunteer groups
and NGOs. The concept of volunteering in Africa is quite different to that in
Europe. Anyone who gives up their free time has to return to his or her family
with something to show for it, particularly when there is always work to do
in the household and on the land. The increasing 'professionalisation' of volunteers
is also being seen in Switzerland. Is it the duty of volunteer organisations
to refuse to take on the additional responsibilities being forced upon them
by a retreating state? Volunteering in the Sudan, Omer Osman, Secretary General
Sudanese Red Crescent Mr Osman gave a very interesting presentation about volunteering
in Sudanese society. In a country faced with many problems, both natural and
man-made, volunteering, in the form of 'nafir' is a well-established tradition.
'Nafir' is a Sudanese word describing self-help and community support both in
times of crisis, and for celebrations such as weddings. In the Sudanese Red
Crescent, volunteering follows the more structured and formal pattern common
in Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations around the world. A key issue raised
by Mr Osman's presentation is how formal and informal forms of volunteering
can be reconciled. Dr Nenad Javornik and Dr Slobodan Lang, Croatian Red Cross
Described the problems faced during a difficult ethnic conflict, and the role
of volunteers and civil society. During the Bosnian war, the people of the Balkans
faced extreme difficulties and hardship. Dr Lang appealed for specific actions
to strengthen civil society and reduce the impact and possibility of ethnic
conflict. Guido Münzel and Carinne Bachmann, Swiss Red Cross Mr Münzel and Ms
Bachmann described the process of preparing for the Swiss Red Cross contribution
to the International Year of Volunteers 2001. In Switzerland, about 24% of the
population engages in voluntary work of one form or another. Switzerland is,
however, facing similar problems to other developed countries, such as a fall
in volunteering, and changing values and motivations. International Year of
Volunteers is an opportunity to raise awareness and renew interest in volunteering.
To prepare, the Swiss Red Cross brought together people from several large volunteering
organisations and established a temporary organisation to co-ordinate the preparations
for IYV 2001.
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