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2 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 2 July, 2018 03:16:47 AM

ICRC chief for medium, long-term preparations

Purpose of my visit is to understand what a big challenge it is and how ICRC can further contribute to help
ICRC chief for medium, long-term preparations
International Committee of Red Cross President Peter Maurer (right) smiles at a little boy during his visit the Rohingyas ghettos to see the plight firsthand in Cox’s Bazar yesterday. Independent Photo

The president of the International Committee of Red Cross, Peter Maurer, yesterday ruled out any quick solution to the ongoing Rohingya crisis, rather placing emphasis on medium and long term preparations to face the problem. In an exclusive interview with The Independent during a visit to the coastal district housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, he unequivocally stated that this is a huge crisis and it is not going away soon.

About the funding, the ICRC president said money is never enough in this type of crisis, and stressed the need for mobilising the international community in this regard. He also said that the Rohingyas are facing a ‘lose-lose’ situation on both the sides of the border.

Likening the crisis to some of the world’s worst crises, he added that there is always a scope for improvement to be made by the international community in terms of its efforts to do more to solve the problem.

“Today’s massive displacement from Myanmar is a big challenge for the ICRC, therefore, with other organisations in the international community, we’re trying to contribute to mitigating the impact on Bangladesh of this crisis,” said the ICRC president.

Painting a grim picture about the plight of the Rohingyas, he said that the purpose of his visit is about really understanding what a big challenge it is and how ICRC can further contribute to help mitigate the effects of the crisis.

When asked how big the challenge is, Maurer replied, “Well, it’s a huge challenge. If I look at our budget for the crisis overall, this is now one of our ten largest operations worldwide. So, this crisis is comparable to, in terms of our budget, the war in Syria, in South Sudan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Somalia, in Afghanistan. So, it’s a huge crisis.”

“We are certainly determined to be active in Myanmar as well as in Bangladesh to help both sides of the border…On the Bangladeshi side, to mitigate the effect of the displacement, on the Myanmar side to create a condition conducive for return,” he said.

To a question, the ICRC chief said he hopes his organisation will be able to attract Rohingyas to return to their homes through improving the conditions.

As asked if money is a problem, Maurer said, “Well, money is always a problem. Money is always too little too late. But, at the present moment I think it is important to mobilise the international community and to look at the crisis as an only short term emergency which will not go away tomorrow. This

is a crisis which is so big that it will preoccupy us also in the medium and long term.”

“And, therefore, money is an issue and I am glad that the UN secretary-general and the president of the World Bank are here because I think it is important to raise the attention of the international community that the crisis will not be over tomorrow and we have to invest more,” he said.

When asked if he got a message from his meetings with Myanmar president and state counsellor that they are cordial to take back their people, the ICRC chief said that because of the reactions of the international community there is much more awareness now in the political body of Myanmar and that there is now at least a readiness to work on the issue.

“I got a clear signal from the president and the state counsellor that they are committed to working with Bangladesh in order to allow conditions to be created for a safe, informed and voluntary return,” he said.

“In that sense I think there is a political will. Nobody underestimates the challenges and the challenges are material. We have to create conditions which will allow people to go home again and to have economic activities. Everybody knows that it needs political leadership because this is also an issue which goes far beyond humanitarian organisations,” he added.

To a question on the issue of citizenship for the Rohingyas, Maurer avoided a direct reply saying that at least these people should be given equal right in participating in economic and social affairs. When asked if the international community is doing enough, he said, “Look, never in such a crisis, the response is enough. It’s always too little and it always can be improved.”

This is why he is happy because of the presence of leaders of so many organisations in Bangladesh in the weekend, he added, hoping that more can be mobilised and done.

Earlier, after visiting a Rohingya settlement in Chakmarkul in Teknaf, the ICRC president gave a description of destruction in Rakhine, and said, “When I went through this camp here this morning, it struck me how much it is a lose-lose situation on both sides of the border. People lost their lives and livelihoods by the violence and they have come here and we can provide them the most necessary goods. But, it’s not a normal life as you lose somehow from all the sides.”

To a question on lose-lose situation, he explained, “I was speaking from the perspective of the people I met... In Myanmar and on this side of this border...And, I listened to these people I thought it’s a lose-lose. Whether there is a political consideration to mitigate the lose-lose, that’s not for me to judge.”

“Where will it end? I don’t know,” he said, adding, “I suspect what I saw this morning and what I have seen for last couple of days in Myanmar -- we are in medium and long terms, and not for the short term. As everybody sees this is still an emergency operation where we support lives of people with emergency goods, distribute foods, we fix waters, we bring emergency medicines -- these are humanitarian emergency. Over time, this will not remain as an emergency. We need to see how we have to stabilize livelihoods of people and medium and long-term situation, and find a situation of dignity wherever they are. We hope that with good humanitarian works we can create conditions in which people can decide and I think the best imaginable end point is when people can freely decide where they can settle, have sustainable lives, livelihoods, jobs and activities that allow them again to feed families and live together.”

To another query, Maurer said that the ICRC has been able to get a satisfactory reply from the Myanmar government about the renewal of licence to operate in Rakhine.

Following the visit of the settlement in Cox’s Bazar, the ICRC president attended a meeting of the host community that suffered a lot due to the presence of the Rohingyas. He listened to them and thanked them for their generosity. Maurer also assured help for the mitigation of the sufferings of the host community. The ICRC president left for Dhaka in the afternoon.




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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