“Protections for civilians must be earnestly enforced”
Widespread violent conflicts, forced displacement, natural disasters, and epidemics - the global community is struggling to find solutions to the most pressing humanitarian issues facing our world today. With respect to these challenges, our President, Thierry de Beaumont-Beynac, Secretary General, Ingo Radtke, and Vice Secretary General, Sid Johann Peruvemba explain in an interview how Malteser International is positioning itself for the future.
If you could make a wish what changes would you like to see in the world by the year 2030?
de Beaumont-Beynac: I wish there would be fewer people suffering from the consequences of wars, diseases, and hunger. Regarding our work at Malteser International, we want to continue to help people in need and alleviate suffering around the world – our goal is to leave the people with whom we work better off than when we met them.
Peruvemba: I hope for swift and sustainable political resolutions to the many conflicts we face today. Humanitarian aid should not have to replace political will. Violent conflicts and wars are the main causes of suffering in many regions where we work. As always, the most vulnerable and innocent bear the most brunt of these conflicts. Protections for civilians must be earnestly enforced! I also hope that in the future we will see the gap between rich countries of the Global North and the poor countries of the Global South reduced – not only in terms of their still enormous economic differences, but also in terms of their ideas and moral standards.
Radtke: With regard to the worldwide refugee situation, my wish is that by 2030 nobody is forced to leave their homeland – for any reason! If, however, this is the situation, I hope that host countries have reasonable conditions in place for hosting refugees.
". . . the most vulnerable and innocent bear the most brunt of these conflicts.
Protections for civilians must be earnestly enforced!”
Last year, we saw the violent battles for Aleppo and Mosul, a severe food crisis in Africa, and the mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar. 2017 was another year in which millions of people suffered under the most abject conditions. At the moment, there does not seem to be much progress. Is there any reason for hope going forward?
Peruvemba: Politically, we are hardly seeing any movement. Current efforts seem rather trite and ineffectual. I don’t think diplomacy has been applied effectively.
de Beaumont-Beynac: Looking at the overall situation, the development is actually positive on the whole. Since 1990, the number of people living in absolute poverty has been cut in half. The number of people suffering from starvation has also significantly gone down during this period. Although this number rose again last year due to the severe hunger crisis in Africa, the trend continues to move in a positive direction.
Peruvemba: Particularly in Asia, many countries that used to be classic beneficiaries of aid are now economically able to stand on their own two feet. We are increasingly closing down our project locations because we recognize that our work is no longer needed or has been taken over by local institutions. This is the case in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Many African countries have also shown positive development. Globally, we are witnessing a growing middle class, which on one hand is a blessing, but on the other brings about new conflicts over resource distribution and environmental challenges.
Radtke: When we look at the refugee crisis, we are seeing very good approaches in certain project countries. Turkey, for example, has an excellent refugee support system. In Uganda and Lebanon, great efforts are being made to suitably accommodate refugees, and to give them future prospects. These countries have created framework conditions for our work through which we can satisfactorily and effectively bring help to people who have been displaced.
More political solutions, less displacement, or a change in Malteser International’s direction for the future – what would have to take place in order to be one step closer to realizing your wishes?
Peruvemba: There has to be a paradigm shift in politics, an then a return to more decisive action. We have to ask ourselves: Who is currently obstructing the establishment and implementation of peaceful solutions? I see this as a social and moral project for the protection of the world’s civilian population. We need two specific things: suspension of the right to veto within the UN Security Council in the case of significant war crimes, and a new peace movement that encompasses all sectors of society.
Radtke: While our long-term goal in the face of global refugee emergencies is to help eradicate the root causes of displacement, in the first instance, we strive to enable people lead a life with health and dignity through our work. For us, dignity here means giving people freedom of choice. This approach is exemplified in our cash distribution measures that allow people to decide for themselves how to spend their money. This also means that we have to involve affected people much earlier in the planning phase of our programs and – most importantly – during brainstorming.
de Beaumont-Beynac: At the organizational level, we need to reinvent ourselves to face the future and this means that we need to ensure that we continue to deliver high-quality aid, while optimizing our structures and creating a broad financial base for the future. Monitoring and evaluation are key components of our project cycle management, and there is a continuous need for optimization in the collection of reliable data. It is also important for us to establish learning procedures within our organization in order to process the acquired information and improve future projects using these findings.
How does Malteser International plan to position itself for the future in terms of structural developments?
de Beaumont-Beynac: An important aspect is the expansion of our emergency relief capacities. By the end of 2018, we plan to have our Emergency Medical Team (EMT) certified by the World Health Organization. This team of health professionals (doctors, paramedics, logistics specialists) will be deployable within 72 hours in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, where they must be able to treat at least 100 patients per day. The Emergency Medical Team will also be required to provide all materials for the treatment of patients for the full duration of an emergency intervention. The EMT will enable us to respond swiftly and efficiently in the critical first hours and days after a disaster.
Peruvemba: If our work is to become more people-oriented, then greater decentralization of aid is imperative. This does not mean simply investing more money in local structures, but rather shifting decision-making processes to include communities in regions where we work, allowing these communities to decide what they need to meet their needs and accepting these decisions even if we have a difference of opinion. Finally, we have to think beyond the concept of aid as we know it. In the future, we will look to strengthen partnerships with local youth organizations and social enterprises.
A greater number of local structures also implies less control from headquarters. How do we ensure a continued high standard of quality within our projects?
Peruvemba: We are committed to a high level of transparency, and have pledged to meet various international quality standards. Internal controlling systems such as regular project monitoring and stringent evaluations ensure our programs adhere to these standards. Additionally, our internal audit department inspects all areas of our work around the world. The department ensures compliance with the directives applicable to our work as well as to the established internal control and risk management systems. We must continue to meet the requirements and standards of our institutional donors toward our projects. Private donors also have a legitimate interest in knowing what is done with their donations.
de Beaumont-Beynac: Over the past year, we initiated a comprehensive process to evaluate our projects according to the principles of the Core Humanitarian Standard. It clearly highlights our strengths, for example, regarding the involvement of local actors. However, we need to include beneficiaries of our work even more effectively within our planning. These additional control mechanisms are very important for the continuous development of our programs.
Radtke: It is also important to us that our employees worldwide not only internalize the various methods and standards but also embody our values. We are a Catholic relief agency that has committed itself not only to the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, and independence, but above all to Christian values of charity and neighborly love. It is important that our employees feel comfortable with these values and that they are clearly reflected in their work.
- Interview taken from the Malteser International Annual Report 2017