At the turn of the millennium, on the eve of the year 2000, what did you wish for?

Myself, I am a man who has lived many lives on four continents. First as a villager, then political prisoner, diplomat, refugee and humanitarian. So my first wish was simple: to spend more time with family. My other wish: for health care to reach the sick, food to the hungry, education to children and opportunities to lead productive lives for all.

The global community, meanwhile, was formulating a bold wish for the future: the development of a better, more equitable world. Eventually this would be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

As the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – a network of 187 organizations serving vulnerable people in nearly every country in the world – I am humbled by the work of our 13 million volunteers and the knowledge that their work contributes to the MDGs every day.

Kenya Red Cross Society providing health care and food

Civil society organizations, such as the Kenya Red Cross Society, are crucial in providing health care and food. 

Kenya Red Cross Society

From initiatives such as food security programmes in Senegal to health education in Afghanistan to community resilience in the Philippines, Red Cross Red Crescent development programmes reach 150 million people each year - contributing to critical MDGs like eradicating hunger, improving maternal health, and increasing access to safe drinking water.

In 2015 the MDGs will be re-evaluated and governments and leaders will define the global development goals for 2016 and beyond. But governments and leaders must listen to their citizens in setting these goals. And that’s where you come in.

Development is a process that must be defined and implemented by the people themselves. The people that the Red Cross serves, its volunteers, their families and friends, all possess the voices that must be heard. Unequivocally, this means you.

I invite you to visit and tell us what is important to you for the future. Whether it’s increased access to health care, learning, climate change adaptation or other key issues, voice what you think the world’s most important development priorities should be. Your opinions will help form the basis of the Red Cross’ dialogue with the international community on how the post-MDGs should be shaped.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Use your voice. Visit

Bekele Geleta

Bekele Geleta

I personally know how it is to live in a time when global development goals were not yet in place.  Growing up in rural Ethiopia, my parents could not read but their work ethic and instinctive wisdom taught me to believe in a better future. Thanks to scholarships, I went to school and had opportunities that brought me here today.

When I worked for the Ethiopian Red Cross in the 1980s, the country faced one of its worst famines. More than 400,000 people perished. Imagine if the millennium development goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger had been in place. How many lives could have perhaps been saved?

As I said before, don’t wait until it’s too late. Use your voice on So that together we can create a better, more equitable future.

Bekele Geleta, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies