In the past week, I have contributed to more than six position papers relating to covid-19 and its impacts on humanitarian action and international development. A seventh paper is on its way.
While different in focus, what these positions have in common is a call for the European Union to maintain solidarity with those who will suffer most from the immediate and long-term impacts that covid-19 will have on our way of living – or surviving. These are positions that EU-CORD fully supports. As a network of Christian organisations, our notion of solidarity is, however, more than just a ‘value’. The injunction to advocate; stand alongside, and support those in need – without partiality – is at the heart of the Christian gospel.
What do I see as the main threads arising from all the positions and statements? To support those who need it most wherever they are – sharing knowledge and resources, to use common goods to tackle a common problem.
- Covid-19 impacts are going to be long-term and complex. Short term responses will address the immediate needs but recovering from the current social, political and economic shocks will require an integrated long-term approach that will build long-term resilience in a way that is sustainable for people and planet.
- To support those who need it most wherever they are – sharing knowledge and resources, to use common goods to tackle a common problem.
- To ensure that in a rush to respond to people’s needs, we don’t forget to uphold people’s rights and human dignity. We don’t succeed if we emerge from this as more repressed societies and widening of gaps between ‘them’ and ‘us.’
- To support civil society as first responders and actors of long-term change. We don’t appreciate the role that civil society organisations play in the fabric of society until it is no longer there. Organisations require funding to implement programmes and other forms of support to manage the organisational impact that covid-19 may have on long-term viability.
- We need to take time to reflect and learn. The single biggest threat that we continue to face as a planet is the climate crisis. We have found that change is possible, and we can adjust to new ways of doing things. The air is cleaner and nature more adventurous. There is hope if we choose it.
EU-CORD is Europe’s largest network of independent Christian relief and development organisations. In addition to direct implementation, our members work with and through religious communities and local actors across the world. The need to engage with faith leaders was well articulated during the 2015 Ebola crisis and is drawn on in response to this pandemic. To give just three examples of actions being taken:
- Medair is training and equipping staff in the health facilities we are supporting to identify suspected cases, safely isolate patients, and temporarily care for and refer people showing symptoms to specialised testing and treatment centres. Medair’s community health workers and volunteers are also providing critical information to communities on prevention and encouraging people with symptoms to seek care early.
- The Pentecostal World Movement visible in the network through Fida and PMU has shared information and resources in multiple languages to churches and denominations in more than 100 countries, representing around 140 million members
- Child rights organisation Help a Child has opened a corona emergency fund to support vulnerable children and their families through combating malnutrition, hygiene education, and improving access to health care.
How we respond to the challenges triggered by covid-19 will be a defining moment for our sector, bringing into sharp exposure our collective strengths and weaknesses. If this can feel overwhelming, then to paraphrase Bishop Oscar Romera, it helps now and again to take a long view.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation
in realising that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
He also says at ‘No statement says all that could be said‘ so here are some of the positions we’re supporting.
Covid-19 and disability inclusion
Covid-19 and international development
Role of Faith Actors