The closing speech – Pr. Jean-Jacques ELEDJAM
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have reached the end of two exceptional days of dialogue.
On behalf of everyone, I would like to thank every single Red Cross volunteer and worker who has worked for months organising this event. You have pulled it off magnificently. Allow us to give you a round of applause and welcome you on stage.
I would like to thank our partners, particularly Thymbuisness, Aesio, the City of Cannes, the Climate Centre, the Red Cross Foundation, the World Health Organisation and everyone else who has enabled us to organise this global conference.
On behalf of the French Red Cross, I would also like to thank the International Federation, the ICRC, the presidents of the various national organisations and the 60 countries represented here today. At a time when the world has never needed us more, events such as this one help to consolidate our movement.
And finally, I would like to thank all our speakers and attendees who have travelled from all five continents. We are honoured to welcome so many of you. We bring diverse cultures, backgrounds, professions and objectives to the table, but we have been able to form a community of operators committed to a single ideal, fighting a single fight.
I won’t repeat everything we have heard over the past 48 hours. Everything, or almost everything, has been covered, from threats to objectives, from the effects we can already see to those yet to come, and the solutions we need to implement.
None of us will have forgotten the moving address we heard yesterday from the President of the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society. This Pacific island nation’s very existence is threatened by climate change.
I would like us to be able to respond to this distress call with a message of hope.
We will spread the word long after these two days are over, and well beyond both the humanitarian field and our own movement.
Cet appel, nous allons le diffuser, nous allons le porter dans toutes les instances nationales et internationales, nous allons en faire la pierre angulaire de notre mobilisation pour que la santé des populations soit davantage prise en compte dans cette crise climatique qui ne fait que commencer.
We will pass it on, take it with us when we meet national and international authorities, and make it the cornerstone of our collective determination to ensure human health is given greater priority in a climate crisis which is only just beginning.
We have laid it out here, in the very place where our International Federation was founded, in Cannes, a world city in one of the areas of France that is worst affected by climate change.
100 years ago to the day, nations came together to find a response to the 20th century’s humanitarian challenges. Today, we must respond to those of the 21st century.
Our appeal is founded on the three fundamentals we have discussed over the last two days.
The first of these is adaptation, with particular reference to healthcare. As many of our speakers have reminded us, the international community has not paid enough attention to health as part of its response to climate change, and we need to make more effort to adapt.
We need to improve our knowledge and understanding if we want to have a more effective impact, strengthen our communities’ resilience, reduce risk levels and plan better for crises.
Planning better involves getting early warning systems in place globally and using data. We must develop our research as well as our efforts to raise awareness and train people, so that local operators can boost their skills and capacity.
In terms of funding, as it was said earlier: improving access to funding and increasing the proportion allocated to adaptation will be determining factors in building a world that is ready for climate crisis.
New funding channels based on forecasting and related planning methodologies should be developed so that we can optimise how we use existing resources.
Our second fundamental involves reinforcing social bonds.
Rejecting fatalism and refusing to accept human suffering are central to people’s resilience.
Climate change requires us to make solidarity, equity and justice the beating heart of our societies. Without these foundations, society will find no peace or resilience, because social bonds are our greatest resource for adaptation.
To make this a reality, we have to mobilise local communities, every last village, down to the weakest, the oldest, the most disabled or vulnerable people. We have to learn traditional skills and build on them so that we can meet challenges.
Young people have a very particular role to play. Just a few minutes ago, they demonstrated to us that they are leading the way in setting an example and formulating coherent strategies.
We will only be able to live up to expectations by getting everyone involved.
This will form the basis of our approach as a national Society when we present our appeal at the general assembly of the French Red Cross.
By the same token, I would like us all, collectively, to champion these issues at the international conference in December 2019 so that we can get as many nations and sister societies on board as possible.
However, above and beyond all this, our issue is one of humanity, our first priority and the third basis for our appeal.
Climate change threatens fundamental human rights, starting with the right to good health in all its dimensions, including food, psychological wellbeing and environmentally friendly farming.
Alongside the International Federation, it is now our duty to promote a new human right: the right to live in a healthy environment in the face of the consequences of climate change.
It is our duty to kick-start climate diplomacy which will put us in a position to help ensure human rights are integrated into our adaptation strategies.
This is what we once did with international humanitarian rights. We were able to make humanity a priority in conflict situations, which is to say those moments when it is under the greatest attack.
We are now required to do the same again as we come under threat from a danger that multiplies risk and vulnerability and that is causing and will cause so much suffering and loss of human life.
This right to health is, in actual fact, the right to “integral health”.
I say this because human health is intimately linked to the health of ecosystems, and we will not solve anything unless we protect the lungs of our planet.
Biodiversity and ecosystems are not just a health issue, however, there is also the issue of their beauty. Beauty should not be reserved only for people who can afford it. In fact, the reverse is true: beauty should be central to social justice.
I have said everything I wanted to say to conclude these two fascinating days we have spent together. They are the start of something, and they have given us the energy we need to fight this fight. We are not bringing this first ever humanitarian COP to a close, because its doesn’t stop here. It is part of a continuing, all-encompassing movement which we are all committed to, both individually and collectively.
Before we say goodbye, I would like to share a few words by the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who perished at sea just a few miles from where we are now. He wrote as a humanist, and these words come from ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’, a breathtaking memoir about friendship, solidarity and our shared humanity. “Being human means being responsible. It means feeling shame in the face of hardship which appears to be unrelated to ourselves. It means feeling that we are helping to build the world as we lay our own foundation stone.”
Thank you, and I wish you all very safe travels back to your own beautiful countries.
Professor Jean-Jacques Eledjam, President of the French Red Cross