The White Helmets Comission

  • OAS-White Helmets Initiative Mandates

       The White Helmets Commission is an initiative of the Government of Argentina that enjoys institutional autonomy, is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is designed to act internationally. Its mission is to contribute to the reduction of hunger and poverty in line with the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN in Johannesburg in 2000, and respond with urgency to catastrophes and emergencies through the implementation of a cooperation model that works in the following areas: i) the strengthening of existing mitigation, prevention and response mechanisms in Latin American and Caribbean countries faced with disasters and emergencies, through the development and consolidation of humanitarian volunteering; ii) the strengthening of local volunteer organizations that fight against hunger and poverty, aim to mitigate and prevent disasters, and work towards reducing vulnerability, through training; and iii) the formation and consolidation of national volunteers in a regional manner with the Regional Network of Volunteers.

        The White Helmets Initiative challenges the welfare model, replacing it with a model featuring partnership and capacity building.

        The Plan of Action from the 1994 Summit of the Americas, under the heading “Eradicating Poverty and Discrimination in our Hemisphere”, specifically agreed to the creation and funding of volunteer corps (White Helmets) at the national and hemispheric levels, and invited PAHO, the OAS, and the IDB to participate and assist in training them. The White Helmets Initiative in turn promotes the creation of a regional network of volunteers located throughout OAS Member States at the disposal of any nation in the hemisphere in need of their assistance. In 1997 the General Assembly of the OAS approved the Implementation Plan of the White Helmets Initiative, and within the General Secretariat, the Special White Helmets Fund was established to receive donations from Member States, the International Community, Multilateral Organizations, and the Private Sector. In March 1998 an agreement between the GS/OAS and Argentina was signed detailing that Argentina would make an initial contribution of US$500,000.00 to be used for humanitarian aid efforts.

        In July of 1999, a technical cooperation agreement was signed between GS/OAS and the IDB for the development of the Volunteer for Humanitarian Assistance in Latin America Program for a total of US$750,000.00 in order to strengthen the Initiative and its Regional Network of Volunteers. As part of this agreement, thirty eight humanitarian assistance projects were executed in Latin America and the Caribbean: Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Trinidad y Tobago and Uruguay; eleven National Volunteer Corps formation Workshops were held: Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Trinidad y Tobago, and the Belize/Guatemala Adjacent Area; and three Hemispheric meetings took place: Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Panama. One hundred and fifteen expert volunteers participated in these activities, training 1,290 volunteers and technical cadres from thirteen countries. Today the Regional Humanitarian Volunteer Network has a database of volunteers from the sixteen countries that have designated National Focal Points to the Initiative: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad y Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

        The Assessment of the Technical Cooperation Agreement GS/OAS-IDB- Argentina White Helmets Commission highlights the progress in the regionalization of the intervention model proposed by the White Helmets Initiative, which is characterized by the participation of specialized volunteers at the national and regional levels in Latin America for Humanitarian Assistance and for the prevention of emergencies. The recognition achieved both at the national level and at the regional and international levels is evidenced in the agreements with regional and international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Executive Secretariat of the Ibero-American Summit (SEGIB), among others, and the designation of “White Helmets Focal Points” in sixteen countries of the region, including Argentina.

        In addition, the Final Evaluation Report of the Technical Cooperation Agreement GS/OAS-IDB- Argentina White Helmets Commission highlights the limited access to the Database of almost 2,750 volunteers, and the need to both incorporate more volunteers from countries beyond Argentina and expand access and operation, as defined by the OAS and the White Helmets as future steps to be taken.

        In line with the objectives of the OAS and the White Helmets, the report stresses the need to institutionalize the Initiative, currently under the auspices of Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, within a hemispheric, inter-governmental organism such as the OAS. The institutionalization of the Initiative within the GS/OAS strengthens its regional character.

        Similarly, both institutions jointly promote Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Risk Management through the development of a Regional Volunteer Corps in which volunteers from different countries may come together. To this end, technical specialists from the White Helmets Commission of Argentina and the OAS General Secretariat, through the Department of Sustainable Development and its Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change section, RISK-MACC, formulate projects and promote regional integration teams and working modalities.