Addressing the root causes of armed conflicts, natural disasters and emergencies, ensuring that no one is forcibly displaced, replacing a humanitarian top-down approach. These words of common sense were spoken by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, taking part as the President of aid agency Caritas Internationalis in a dedicated panel on confessional organizations during the World humanitarian summit (May 23-24) held in Istanbul on the initiative of the United Nations, attended by over 5 000 humanitarian, development and political stakeholders. In his speech, delivered on the same day, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, called upon world Countries “to stop relying on humanitarian solutions. Instead, solutions should be provided by investing in development, which is essential to a durable peace and security. Bulding long-lasting peace and security means pursuing integral human development whilst addressing the root causes of conflicts”, he said. At the end of the Angelus Prayer Pope Francis dedicated a special prayer to the positive outcome of the Summit. A record of 130 million people across the world currently need aid to survive.
What will be Caritas’ contribution to the Summit?
As Caritas operating at international level we are aware of the proportions and the gravity of this situation, which is often described in terms of numbers and statistics. But what Caritas truly does is to give a human face to this problem. This is our contribution.
What are you asking to representatives of the nations gathered here today?
First: to rediscover the human face of the problem, to go back to the human beings. Second: we call upon the international community – policymakers in particular – to address the root causes of conflicts and humanitarian emergencies. Third: to respect and comply with the principle of subsidiarity. Sometimes international humanitarian agencies tend to control humanitarian aids and impose a top-down approach. Caritas invests in local action. Our appeal to international agencies is to respect the wisdom, experience and knowledge of local cultural traditions and organizations.
Could you give a concrete example of what it means to respect the subsidiarity principle in the delivery of humanitarian aid?
In the Philippines, for example, there are at least fifteen typhoons a year. Although we have almost grown accustomed to this emergency, every typhoon or earthquake is different and destruction is beyond imagination. We are deeply moved by international solidarity and support. But sometimes it happens, as was the case of a small village in the island of Leyte, that when international agencies intervene to provide assistance, with unquestionable good will, that form of assistance is alien to the culture and daily life of poor local communities. It would suffice to ask a simple question to the local population: what do you need? This kind of communication is lacking. When delivering humanitarian support we must never forget that the recovery of human dignity is the primary need. We need to respect the wisdom contained in the traditions of the various peoples to ensure that the support we give them is appropriate to the different local cultural traditions.
Do humanitarian confessional organizations need more resources?
They do. We have also made appeals for greater economic support to ecclesial and local organizations. Some financial aid came through, but it’s not enough. More resources are needed to meet all needs at local level.
The situation of refugees is among the major humanitarian emergencies, “more than any time since the end of the Second World War”, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his opening remarks. What are Caritas’ requests to this regard?
We call upon government leaders to face with truthfulness the root causes of migrations, exerting political will at regional and international level alike. Unfortunately we are witnessing an unbalance in the amount of financial resources allocated to the purchase of weapons compared to those for humanitarian assistance. Instead, we need to invest in education, in peace-building, in development. Humanitarian assistance should not be given only after a conflict has broken out.
Europe is building walls, closing it borders, and rejecting migrants. What is your opinion?
It’s a very complicated situation. During informal meetings, I have heard many European citizens ask what has happened to European humaneness and human conscience. Do we see refugees as our brothers and sisters? What is human progress if it lacks fraternity and solidarity? These questions stand as an examination of conscience for us today.
What do you expect from the Summit?
We don’t expect a solution to all problems. However, the Summit is important for dialogue and mutual understanding. It’s a major step forward. Our wish is that the words may be acted upon.