At a time when millions of people worldwide are affected by natural disasters and humanitarian crises, the rote of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (JFRC) is increasingly important. Appointed as Secretary General of the organisation in 2008, 69-year-old Bekele Geieta grew up in Ethiopia and has a dramatic story of his own. He spent five years, between 1978 and 1982, as a political prisoner in his home country. Subsequently, he joined the Ethiopian Red Cross. When the political climate became unstable in Ethiopia again, he fled to Canada to protect his family. There, he joined the Canadian Red Cross, where he oversaw Canada's response to the disasters in Burma and China, ant/recovery efforts in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami. He was also Head of the Red Cross Africa department, Deputy Head of the Red Cross delegation to the United Nations in New York, and Head of the organisation's regional delegation in Bangkok, Thailand. Prior to the IFRC's participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Geleta spoke to us about his experiences.
Why are you participating in the 2012 WEF?
The IFRC has a long-standing relationship with the WEE It's really important that the humanitarian sector engages with global policy and decision makers, and the WEF provides a good opportunity for us to build partnerships and advocate on behalf of the people we are helping in communities across the world. The open dialogue and debates that take place at WEF events are extremely informative--people see the world differently, so it's important that organisations such as the IFRC seize the opportunity to influence thinking and decision-making at the global level.
In your opinion, what is the significance of the WEF in today's world of uncertainty and change? What difference can it make?
I would like to think that it helps to bridge the gap between people at grass-root level--many of whom have been left behind through reasons of poverty, disaster or conflict--and the people who have the power to make decisions affecting their lives. We live in an interconnected, interdependent world and people from all walks of life are demanding the right to be heard. The WEF is an ideal forum for that. The centres of power are really shifting, and there is essentially no single power base in the world now. The participation of the world's young leaders and innovators in the WEF provides a good opportunity for the next...