Op-Ed by Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President of the European Commission and Dr. Nazrin Shah, Sultan of Perak, Malaysia. The article was originally published in italian in L'Osservatore Romano
We live in a world which seems to be at war with itself: a piecemeal Third World War, in the words of Pope Francis, which is producing record numbers of victims from conflicts big and small. In our report “Too important to fail: addressing the humanitarian financing gap” we asked readers to imagine a country of 125 million citizens, the planet’s eleventh largest, made up entirely of people who are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Now imagine a country of 60 million citizens, the same size as Italy. That is the number of people who have been forced from their homes by conflicts – and the toll continues to rise. The frequency and severity of natural disasters is growing even faster: in the last decade more than a hundred thousand people a year have lost their lives because of them.
This is a time of extraordinary humanitarian needs and yet also a time of extraordinary generosity, with record sums of money being raised to help the frail and the suffering. But current trends in man-made and natural disasters mean that we cannot keep up with the demands for food, shelter, protection, medicines, clean water.
In the last year we have seen the victims of war arriving here in Europe in ever-increasing numbers. It is a crisis which cannot be ignored. It is no longer a problem for others. It is our problem as much as it is for other regions of the world. We need to do more and to do more better.
That is why the United Nations Secretary General asked us to come up with solutions to the problem of a growing gap between humanitarian needs and resources. And it is why we are grateful to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences of the Vaticanfor graciously granting us space and time to bring together a coalition of religious leaders and faith-based organisations with humanitarian aid donors, with the humanitarian organisations which use their money to such vital effect to save lives, and with civil society to highlight the funding emergency we are facing.
When we began our work last year our point of departure was that in today’s global economy of US$78 trillion it is unacceptable that anybody should die or live without dignity because we cannot find the resources required to help people in need. This is a message which carries with it the full burden of responsibility to uphold our common values of humanity. Here in Europe these values are at the very core of our identity, which we summarise in the single word “solidarity”.
We believe that solidarity is at the heart of what it means to be a member of the congregation of the ‘People of the Book’: Christians, Muslims and Jews – as well as those who follow other faiths or none - can all unite around the concept of universal solidarity. The simple act of helping a fellow human being, through a charitable donation or by doing them a good deed, is an expression of our common humanity.
There is a moral imperative on the more fortunate - those with greater wealth - to help the poor. In many faiths this has been codified and made part of our everyday lives through giving. In a world as wealthy as ours nobody should be left behind without a helping hand to raise them up and lift them out of poverty and oppression.
If we are to disaster-proof our world and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on schedule by 2030 we must start by helping the world’s most fragile and vulnerable communities. Ninety three per cent of people in extreme poverty live in countries which are either environmentally vulnerable or politically fragile or both.
Every single one of us can do something to help reduce human suffering. Leadership comes in many shapes and sizes. Pope Francis has already shown leadership on humanitarian issues. We welcome this opportunity to bring the voices of faith leaders together and speak as one.
Report of the High-Level Panel on Humantiarian Financing: Too important to fail - addressing the humanitarian financing gap