In an exclusive interview during the launch of the Sino-Africa Red Cross and Red Crescent Forum, Zhao Baige laid out an ambitious blueprint for the charity, which is still rebuilding its image after it was called into question last year.
“In China, our humanitarian work has long focused mainly on disaster relief and emergency medical aid,” she said. “But we now have to continuously broaden our horizon, providing more kinds of services to better fulfill our mission.”
That mission, she added, is not simply to raise and distribute donations, but to protect people.
“Full recognition of the Red Cross mission helps us look for ways to address new challenges with today’s humanitarian movements,” Zhao said.
Non-traditional humanitarian issues include climate change, terrorism, food and water shortages, mass population migration, and a rising trend of globalization, she said, citing research by a China Red Cross think tank of experts on sociology, humanitarianism, ethics, medical science and law.
For instance, behind the migrant worker population of 221 million on the Chinese mainland that has formed in the past 30 years, there are tens of millions of children and old people left behind, she said. “They are among the most vulnerable groups and should be covered by our humanitarian efforts.”
Zhao has a reputation of always getting prepared to change and meet new challenges.
“Society will improve its ability to provide quality humanitarian and public services, which the (Chinese) government can purchase, and at the same time it must be a neutral, fair and independent organization,” Zhao said on Tuesday, World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which falls on May 8 to mark the birth of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross.
Before taking office at the society, Zhao served as deputy director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission and was committed to expanding the commission’s major tasks from mostly family planning to include aspects such as population management, early childhood education, and HIV/AIDS control and prevention.
It was always important to identify new challenges and seek new approaches to deal with an ever-changing reality, she said.
“China’s Red Cross has to transform its roles and functions, but that’s no easy job at all,” she conceded.
First, government awareness of and support for humanitarianism still need to be improved, she said.
Government investment accounts for about 28 percent of the total China Red Cross budget for humanitarian aid on the mainland, far lower than 70 percent in Britain and 80 percent in Canada, Red Cross statistics show.
She suggested the government should integrate the development of the Red Cross and humanitarian aid delivery into overall social development. Second, China’s accelerated development of the humanitarian movement in the past 30 years has led to various problems, she said.
By contrast, that development has had a history of more than 150 years in the West.