Preparing for greener Red Cross responses in the Americas

Anita Van Breda is the Senior Director of Environment and Disaster Management at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) USA. Evelyn Vallejo Salcedo is Protection, Gender, and Community Engagement Coordinator with the Canadian Red Cross and provided follow-up and coordination for WWF’s support. Through a partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, WWF has provided training and technical support on green recovery and reconstruction to the Red Crosses of Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica and Nicaragua. Anita and Evelyn took some time to answer a few questions about the initiative for us.

Red Cross Talks: What is the Green Recovery and Reconstruction Toolkit (GRRT)?

Anita: GRRT is a resource that supports the integration of environmentally responsible practices in to humanitarian action. It was developed following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in collaboration with the American Red Cross. When communities, including local Red Cross volunteers, respond to disasters and begin to rebuild, they have an important opportunity to restore communities in a more environmentally and socially responsible way. The GRRT toolkit can help them to do this more effectively by providing knowledge, tools, and training.
WWF Training in Dominican Republic
WWF Training in Dominican Republic

Red Cross Talks: Why do the WWF and Red Cross work together?

Anita: Having worked with the Red Cross for many years, we recognize it as a global actor in disaster response. Reducing risk for communities during disasters, one of the Red Cross’ main activities, has clear and direct links to the environment. We cannot create healthy, productive societies without a healthy, productive environment, so it is in the interest of humanitarian and environmental groups to work together. With increasing numbers of disasters around the world, organizations like ours will be working together on the ground more and more. We are happy for this opportunity to partner with Canadian Red Cross and look forward to future possibilities.

Evelyn: Environmental sustainability is a cross-cutting area of all of CRC’s programming. Especially within the five-year CERA initiative to strengthen the emergency preparedness and response capacity of five National Societies in the Americas -  Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and Dominican Republic - the project is committed to ensuring that environmental considerations are integrated into relevant implementation plans. This is why CRC approached WWF to provide orientation, training and technical assistance to the CERA National Societies on this topic.  

Red Cross Talks: How have the Canadian Red Cross and WWF promoted greener disaster response in the Americas?

Anita: WWF and the Canadian Red Cross partnered to offer reviews of strategic and operational documents and trainings to the Red Crosses of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica and Nicaragua. The training was based on the GRRT, but we tailored the two-day workshops based on the realities and priorities of each country. Different areas of focus included water and sanitation, livelihoods, risk reduction, and shelter.

Evelyn: In addition to the tailored trainings, the team also coordinated closely with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement’s Green Response Working Group, led by the Swedish Red Cross, which promotes emergency response operations that actively promote alternative, more environmentally beneficial actions.
 WWF Training in Honduras
WWF Training taking place in Honduras.

It is important to mention that CRC has expertise in environmental analysis, impact assessments, risk management and mitigation planning which help to ensure that the activities to strengthen emergency response will cause minimal environmental impacts. CRC is also co-leading the development and use of the Preparedness for Effective Response (PER) approach, which helps Red Crosses assess and plan areas to enhance within their response system, and continues to look for ways that green response can be integrated into this preparedness work.

Red Cross Talks: What has been the response from the National Societies? What are the next steps?

Evelyn: The response from each of the five National Societies has been overwhelmingly positive and many participants expressed interest in further learning opportunities including additional trainings and technical support. One of the participants from the Dominican Republic said that the “training will help [the Red Cross] to design projects that include green recovery and reconstruction to guarantee a long-term, healthy environment” and in Jamaica Red Cross they are creating now a technical group together with the Nature Conservancy and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to start conversations in order to mainstream environmental sustainability within emergency operations. While there is still a lot of work to be done, it is great to see the commitment and interest of our Red Cross colleagues in Central America and the Caribbean, and of course the support from Green Response Working Group.

In terms of next steps, all five National Societies that participated in the pilot now have access to follow up support from WWF’s technical experts. From this pilot, we learned a lot and received recommendations from both the WWF and participants on how to improve trainings and the implementation of Green Response initiatives in the future, including the importance of training people within the National Societies so that they can train their own staff and volunteers and to engage with local agencies, environmental organizations and DM national institutions to have a multi-sector and integrated approach needed to advance environmental mainstreaming in disaster management. The Canadian Red Cross will continue to explore opportunities to continue promoting Green Response with our sister Red Cross National Societies in the Americas and beyond.

Find more information about Red Cross initiatives to promote greener emergency responses.
Find more information about the GRRT.

With support from the Government of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross helps strengthen the capacity of partner National Societies in Central America and the Caribbean through the CERA initiative.
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