A duty to care
Helping the IFRC care for volunteers stricken by COVID-19
Our Riyadh office set a high bar with its debut officewide pro bono project, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. The work supported our longtime pro bono client the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) with a legal review and analysis of how volunteers are protected by national laws and regulations in the countries in which the IFRC operates. The research feeds into the IFRC’s efforts to support its National Societies in fulfilling their duty of care for volunteers who fall ill from COVID-19.
An officewide, cross-border project
The Riyadh partners wanted to promote a culture of pro bono work in the Riyadh office, and partner Alec Johnson had the idea to have the whole office involved in a large-scale project. This work with the IFRC was the perfect project to kickstart the initiative. Since this was a cross-border project, the Riyadh team overseeing it needed to tap into our Firm’s global network to complete some of the research requiring different jurisdictional knowledge and language skills. Taking place at the start of a strict lockdown period in Saudi Arabia, the project also created a sense of togetherness and collaboration within the team in Riyadh, which was now working remotely.
Research in 37 countries
Responding to the IFRC’s requirements, the Riyadh team designed a questionnaire template and then took ownership of the research required on law and regulations relating to volunteers—both those specific to the IFRC National Societies and those general in nature—in 37 countries. The research considered the definition and legal status of volunteers, benefits and restrictions applied and how volunteers are legally protected with regard to healthcare and life insurance. It also included the relevant laws and regulations for quick reference.
The IFRC has used our research to target its advocacy for volunteers
The IFRC is using the research in two ways. It has already used it to identify gaps in volunteer protection and target its advocacy efforts to boost medical support for volunteers during the pandemic. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are often on the front lines: driving ambulances; doing outreach in remote areas; reducing social isolation during lockdown; and delivering food and medicine to marginalized members of society. In the long term, the IFRC will develop technical guidance and recommendations for their National Societies to advocate for stronger laws in their countries, benchmarked against international best practices.
“As always, White & Case has the willingness and ability to jump in quickly and do large volumes of high-quality work at speed,” said Isabelle Granger, Legislative Advocacy Coordinator at IFRC. “This was especially important in the early days of the pandemic when we needed to very quickly ensure we were doing everything possible to support our National Societies and their volunteers.”
Team-building benefits for our people during a difficult time
“I knew this would be a great project for the Riyadh office,” said Alec Johnson. “Like our Firm, IFRC is truly a global organization, and its values fit nicely with our own. I was really impressed by how quickly everyone in the office came together, meeting virtually in small groups and sharing articles and websites they found useful. It was also a good opportunity for people to work with others in the office and the Firm with whom they don’t usually work.”
“I am incredibly proud of the way the Riyadh team rose to this challenge. I believe it will set the standard for us, and perhaps also for other offices in the region, going forward,” said Doug Peel, Office Executive Partner in Riyadh and Head of the Middle East for the Firm. “The project spurred a lot of creative, lateral thinking by the team, who needed to get accurate information from multiple jurisdictions, and they lit up the Firm’s and their personal networks to get that done.”
This project was completed by a team of seven partners and 20 associates and trainees, and made the Riyadh office one of our top-performing offices for pro bono participation.
White & Case practices in cooperation with The Law Office of Megren M. Al-Shaalan in Saudi Arabia.