AN OPINION PIECE by Alexandre Giraud, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL General Director.
For over 40 years now, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been fighting every day in order to reach and help people affected by wars, epidemics and natural disasters.
A constant fight which is THE absolute precondition to deliver by hand a dignified and vital aid to men, women and children often finding themselves off the radar, far from political and media attention… The distance that separates us from them, in today’s superconnected and mobile world, is however quite relative. The obstacles we need to overcome in order to reach them are, on the other hand, very real.
The latest campaign we have launched is about travel destinations. It uses pictures and video footage taken on our intervention sites, and is another way to bring closer to our screens and our minds these millions of human beings. After 2018, a year that saw charities – and especially organizations working abroad – witness a severe decrease in donations, we felt we had to, as a field humanitarian actor, reassert once again a value dear to our hearts. All the more because our NGO carries its name: solidarity. A value that knows no borders.
This campaign is also a reminder of our raison d’être; of what has been driving us for almost 40 years, going where the needs are the most desperate despite all the obstacles faced every day by our teams: insecurity, logistical, administrative, financial constraints … And worse than anything else, indifference.
A reason to exist which can be summarized by the motto we have been using for 40 years: ‘’The first response to human suffering must be solidarity’’.
‘’Humanitarian workers inevitably find themselves forced to negociate in practice what may never be negociated in principle’’
Reaching for those who need the most to be helped, in order to respond to their distress and allowing them to access a humanitarian aid on which depends their health and survival, requires precise know-how, rare skills, constant integrity, ever-increasing financial means, commitment and relentless determination.
However, for the past years, field NGOs like ours have been alerting the media and governments at an alarming record-breaking rate facing the deterioration of humanitarian access conditions in South Sudan, CAR, DR Congo, Nigeria, Syria, au Yemen, Burma …
Meanwhile, when international relief is barely managing to cover existing needs, (especially during emergencies), the latter have been steadily increasing. The main culprit is climate change, which has been generating more and more crisis situations as well as population displacements of a never-before seen magnitude.
Humanitarians by principle(s)
Meanwhile also, most conflicts faced by the world have sadly been taking place without any respect for the most elementary international humanitarian rights rules. Too often, belligerent parties show little consideration for civil populations. Women, men, children are attacked, stigmatized and targeted instead of being spared and protected. Their right to receive aid is violated. The legitimacy of humanitarian organizations to hep them is challenged. The latter are alternatively assumed to being partial, accused of meddling or suspected to follow, through their assistance, hidden agendas. Their national and international teams also find themselves blocked, threatened, targeted.
But for almost 40 years, it has been on the sole basis of the human humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, in addition to the moral obligation to act – which is called the Humanitarian Principle – that SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has founded its action. To tirelessly explain and assert our solidarity within these complex contextual backgrounds has become THE absolute prerequisite to explain our presence. This equally applies to epicenter crises for global geopolitical tensions and to the ones forgotten by the rest of the world.
Every day, in each of our mission and when with the people we help, these founding principles are questioned each and every time they are implemented. Dilemmas are gotten through without any concession; consequences of our actions are analyzed. How can we make sure we are delivering impartial aid to those who need it the most, despite the fact we sometimes are denied access to vast territory areas? Is it possible to explain our neutrality principles, when community tensions are destructive? How can we remain independent from one or several states’ foreign policies in some regions, when our very funding is in majority public-sourced? How can we maintain our humanity, when insecurity is keeping us away from some populations we are helping?
To those questions, which might seem unsolvable, our local and international teams find pragmatic and daily answers. The integrity, tenacity, honesty and humility with which they tackle increasingly complexified situations in which our solidarity has become more vital than ever, honor them. Thank you to them, who remain ‘‘humanitarian by principle(s) ’’ and whose only compass is their fellow humans’ needs.
Needs as an only compass
Lastly, and meanwhile still, notable political and social changes taking place at global level have impacted the landscape, the culture and the environment of the humanitarian sector, which has found itself exposed to increased public scrutiny, to skepticism, even to suspicion.
While most NGOs have become increasingly averse to managing more complex risk levels in certain specific situations, some others have been focusing on their own institutional growth and survival, instead of reaching their objectives: delivering efficient humanitarian relief to those who need it the most.
As a field and frontline humanitarian actor, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL cannot but redouble its efforts to highlight its humanitarian action vision. To be guided by no other consideration but the one of existing needs. To go where the needs are the most severe. To hand-deliver aid. To maintain the communities at the center of their work, as aid actors and not only beneficiaries.
This is why, in France, in Europe and worldwide, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL also strives to gather around itself organizations that share its values and principles: to put their resources in common, to jointly implement their operations and to help making the voice of those they help being heard. Because, as our signature reminds, we must always take aid further.
On display this summer in France, in travel locations, such as train stations
On digital display, on French travel sites, social networks…
Photos: © Felipe Dana/AP/SIPA – Vincent Tremeau / SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL