TEDxRC² - Multiplying the power of humanity

Article by Diego Beamonte, traduction française Kate O'Dwyer, traducción española Ana Beltrán
12 December 2011

On 27th November 2011, a typically fresh autumn evening in Geneva, as most people finished their batches of hot chestnuts and early holiday shopping, a large group of people met next to the river in atypical fashion. Contrary to most assemblies happening in the westernmost city in Switzerland, this one would not attempt to resolve an issue or impart resolutions on far away causes.

The Bâtiment des Forces Motrices (BFM), an iconic structure in the Geneva landscape, was host to close to 500 guests. The event title, TEDx RC² -- Multiplying the Power of Humanity reveals more than what the eye can see; despite the uncanny resemblance to those dreaded equations of our early academic years. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a set of global conferences aimed at disseminating “ideas worth spreading” owned by Sapling, a non-profit foundation. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. In this case, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement was the organizer of the event, thus RC².

The Red Cross, innovative as always, broadcasted the conference live on their website, in quest of delivering the speeches of their inspirational guests to all corners of the world, from the United Sates to Indonesia. ICVolunteers played a key role in this aspect of the conference by recruiting and coordinating the interpreters who amplified the message conveyed by the presenters. Ana Beltran, a member of the ICV team, tirelessly sought for interpreters during the weeks prior to the conference, gathering a team of six who would translate from English into French, Spanish and Arabic. The Red Cross, as well as the interpreting team can be proud of their triumph, as the broadcast had audiences following them around the world and in places as far as Gaza.

The role of ICV was not limited to interpreting, as the theme of the conference was further enhanced by the use of social media. Ten dedicated, tech-savvy, individuals relayed the most stirring moments of the evening on their Twitter, Facebook and even the Chinese popular site RenRen.

Needless to say, the speakers delivered an outstanding performance, relaying stories from the four corners of the world. Each different experience in conflict management, disaster relief and humanitarian response was a story worth hearing, but together they stirred a sense of willingness to change. The mood was very much changed by the touching tale of the orthopedic program in Afghanistan, as told by the head of the program, Alberto Cairo. His selfless commitment to his patients and to anyone he had the chance to help is an admirable personality trait, which many governments and organizations should aspire to.

However, the theme of the night was not about helping everyone who comes knocking, but about making use of the resources available to help all of those who can be helped, and doing it right. The organizations who deal with humanitarian crises must have a clearly defined mission and rigorous neutrality, as argued by Fiona Terry, a well-known author and long-time relief worker.

Just as the TEDxRC² multiplied the power of its speakers by using the latest available communication technologies, so should crisis response teams. Paul Conneally and Heather Blanchard explored the gateways for those caught in the most precarious situations to cry for help through social networking tools, and the manners in which we can reply and spread their SOS.

Not all the guests were speakers, as the musical talents of Seckou Keita were on display towards the end of the evening. A mellow and moving solo performance on his kora was followed by an upbeat duet with his younger sister Binta Suso. The last speaker of the night was Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian Foreign Minister. He stirred up the debate by asking whether we should negotiate and hold talks with terrorists and those who violate our rights and fundamental morals. However, his opinion was decisive, “dialogue is not easy, but it is fundamental for progress.”

The night was capped off with a wonderful reception provided by Mövenpick, during which the speakers, attendees and volunteers were able to discuss the themes of the night and exchange opinions, ideas and contact information. Many events will follow this one, as TED continues to spread ideas that are worth it, and the Red Cross carries on its endless mission. ICVolunteers will keep on increasing the availability of information and tools to those who need it, so that their power may also be multiplied.

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