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Live from the SDG Media Zone: An Interview with Dr Jemilah Mahmood

+SocialGood Leader and Managing Partner, Mission & Co, Shariha Khalid Erichsen interviewed Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under Secretary General, Partnerships, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

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Shariha: Good morning! We’re here at the SDG Media Zone and I’m very happy to be speaking to Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, the Under Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC. Dr. Jemilah, thank you for joining us for this chat. We’d love to learn more about the work of the IFRC and how you’re pushing innovation through humanitarian action.

Dr. Jemilah: IFRC is a membership organization with 190 national societies around the world. We know that the change in the world right now is so rapid and the best way we can understand what is needed; and what is required; and what can be done in communities is really through our local volunteers and also local branches of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent societies around the world.

So one of the things we have really focused a lot on is innovation. Innovation is often sort of equated to technology and so forth but sometimes local innovation is just as important. This is what communities need if they are asked to constantly be able to meet the needs of people who are victims in crisis or who have been left out of development.

So we have a number of programs that we run for example; Global Innovation Accelerators, where we get young people to be trained by top innovators so that they can go back to their communities and actually try to look into innovating within their communities.

Basically, how do you get an innovation culture into an organization because it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Really every time we do something we do think about is there a way we could do something better.

One area that we’re getting a lot of press on is innovative financing, where we are looking at the usual things like bank investments and possibly a few humanitarian bonds and so forth.

My own thinking around the Sustainable Development Goals is that there’s a huge gap in financing. There’s no way with the current financing that we will be able to be meet the goals. We need to explore how we can bring in different financial streams and not to bring them only to international organizations but also to local people and to make sure they actually work for people.

Shariha: That’s really amazing how you’re mobilizing action on the ground and working with the local communities around the world while at the same time looking at a whole of society approach across the continuum of where help could come from. How can people get involved at a country level? How can the private sector jump on board? How can they be part of this humanitarian action?

Dr. Jemilah: I think the most important thing we realize at the Red Cross is that whether you are in a crisis effected country or not, it’s a changing world. Whether it’s climate change or conflict or one of the many other changes, pandemics and so forth … It’s going to affect you, even if you’re not in an affected country.

I think it’s really important everyone tries to understand this. My call is for everyone. We have 190 and next year 191 national societies. Support your local Red Cross or Red Crescent. See how, for example, you can bring in not just resources in terms of finance but also ideas.

How do you help your chapter or your national society to become better organizations? Our partnerships don’t extend just within the Red Cross family but outside to the private sector and so forth. We can only achieve things if we do them together, if we recognize that we live in an era of disputed networks and that the only way forward really is partnership.

Shariha: Thank you so much Dr. Jemilah for joining us.

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