The ICDO has a new Secretary General

After experiencing some turbulence, the International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO), to which we devoted an article in our edition of last December, has given itself a new Secretary General in the person of Ms. Mariatou Yap. We thank her for having received us at the headquarters of the Organization.

As a preamble, let us recall that the ICDO is an intergovernmental organization whose objective is to contribute to the development by States of structures ensuring the protection and assistance of populations as well as the protection of property and the environment in the face of natural or man-made disasters. This involves strengthening national capacities, training, audits and advice, technical assistance and the implementation of humanitarian projects.

To date, the ICPO has 59 member states, 16 observer members (including Switzerland) and 23 affiliate members. The General Assembly, made up of all member states, is its supreme body and the Executive Council (25 states) implements the decisions of the Assembly. The Permanent Secretariat, based in Lancy (Geneva), is responsible for the technical and administrative management of the Organization.

Director of Civil Protection of Cameroon, Mariatou Yap was elected - thanks to exemplary preparation and with the support of the President of the Republic Paul Biya - on October 14, 2020, at the end of the 24th session of the General Assembly of the OIPC, facing a Lebanese competitor. She succeeds Russian Vladimir Kuvshinov, who resigned. During her six-year mandate, she will be expected to implement her action plan focused on the rehabilitation, revitalization and revalorization of the Organization. Brief overview ... after an essential clarification. While we are talking more about civil security here and “Civil Protection” is known as a specific training dedicated to this task, civil protection in member countries must be understood as the set of tasks dedicated to protection and safety. assistance of people and goods. These are often devolved to the fire brigade, military obedience or not.

Taking over such a planetary position at short notice, especially from a foreign country, must be a tough challenge …

Yes and no. Yes, because I take my functions at a time when the image of the ICDO is the subject of certain controversies, consequence of the inadequacy of its texts, very old, with the current context on the one hand and, on the one hand, on the other hand, with a high number of observer members, some of whom have been observers for several years, including states in the European region where the ICDO has its headquarters. All things that will require reforms and lobbying actions.

No, because I have worked with this Organization for a long time. That said, my basic training as a scientist (geology), my quality as a teacher, the 16 years spent in the Civil Defense Department before taking the reins in 2016 are an asset for me. In this role I was called upon in particular to ensure the general organization of civil protection throughout the national territory in conjunction with the administrations concerned, to carry out studies on protection measures in peacetime and in times of war. war, to prepare training courses, to coordinate the resources deployed in the service of civil defense. I was also responsible for maintaining relations with international civil defense organizations such as the ICDO, which was a useful springboard to my current role.

What are the main challenges for your future action?

After a somewhat murky period, it is time to put things back in place, to establish a climate of trust and sharing by convincing all member countries that the Permanent Secretariat is really at their service. This is absolutely necessary if we want to continue certain reforms undertaken by consolidating them and validating the steps taken. This challenge requires a sensitivity making it possible to perceive the particularities and needs of the interlocutors in order to better support them, because while there are expectations and tasks common to all countries, there are also very large disparities from one country to another. the other and the functioning of civil protection bodies often depends on local realities. Making local authorities aware of certain risks and certain shortcomings is also part of our mission.

And the essential tasks?

They obviously fit into the Organization's primary role, namely to strengthen the systems and capacities that exist in all member countries. In many countries, these mechanisms, the planning, the very awareness of the risk are notoriously insufficient in view of the situation and this strengthening requires precisely support, collaboration with other nations, while respecting the choices of both parties. other; because there is obviously not a universal "model" in the matter, especially as the conditions and needs may be different from one country to another, as already said. It is also necessary to ensure awareness of the risks of populations or of certain categories thereof at various levels, such as municipalities or schools.

Does the period we are living in have an impact on the functioning of civil protection?

In countries where civil protection is already well operational, it can perform additional tasks in response to the health situation, tasks which tend to further enhance its vocation and its actors. Elsewhere, the health situation can significantly complicate matters in the face of "classic" risks, especially if local authorities are not fully aware of the shortcomings of their systems.

Something to add?

I would like to stress my desire to create a systematic and permanent dialogue with the civil security officials of the Member States and to promote mutual aid. And this is not just a strictly material issue, as the sharing of knowledge and skills also contributes to capacity building in member states. Switzerland, which houses us here in Geneva, also gives an example with the regular supply of various materials and on-site supervision. We also want the observer states to become full members for a stronger ICPO.

By way of conclusion, we will allow the author of these lines to say that, if Madame Yap has clearly shown her desire to listen to her interlocutors, she has demonstrated this availability by receiving us and answering our questions directly. The UGPS wishes him every success in his new and ambitious task.


Didier Fleck


Source: Geneva Union of Security Partners