Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hans Hoegh, Henrik Beer's successor

Hans Høegh, former secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has died at the age of 84. With a lifetime of humanitarian activity at local, national and international levels, he should be recognized as one of our most active and enthusiastic promoters of Red Cross and Red Crescent principles and values.

When Henrik Beer retired in 1982, Hans took over the reins of the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (LORCS) from him.

Beginning in 1957, he managed many humanitarian projects for the Norwegian Red Cross. In the late 60’s, as Chairman of Norwegian Red Cross Youth, he initiated a campaign in which school children were encouraged to sell their drawings to family and friends. The money was used to create three Red Cross ‘camp schools’ in Norway which integrated disabled children with non-disabled. Mr Høegh’s purpose was to show that all people are equal. He was elected President of the Norwegian Red Cross in 1975, a post which he held for the next six years. During this time he worked closely with the LORCS secretariat and was a close friend and advisor of henrik Beer. As a young desk officer in Geneva I remember frequent visits by Hans and his secreatry general, Matt Hakkonsen.

He was Secretary General of the IFRC from 1982 to 1988. His legacy includes grouping relief and development specialists in common geographical departments. He is largely responsible for the introduction of computerized accounting, the establishment of a training unit, and the development of a much-improved pension scheme for staff.

His major initiative as secretary general was in the field of community health, with a focus on saving millions of children from fatal diarrhoeal disease. In partnership with WHO and UNICEF, he created a programme called Child Alive to spread messages on breastfeeding, good nutrition, personal hygiene, immunization and oral rehydration therapy. “Diarrhoea is so mundane, so familiar, so universal, that it is hard for many people to recognize it as the killer it is when it teams up with malnutrition and childhood diseases,” he told the League’s General Assembly in October 1983.

From 1988 to 1993 Hans Høegh served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Promotion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons.

His last humanitarian project was the creation of A Better Life Foundation in 2000. Its aim is to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people: the disabled, the elderly, the homeless and the marginalized. The Foundation also provides schooling for disabled children and runs community health programmes.
So another great Red Cross leader passes on and his deeds will remembered alongside of those of Henrik Beer.
Funeral services will be held on Monday 8 November, in Norway. The IFRC will send condolences to Mr. Høegh’s family and to the Norwegian Red Cross.

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