***The following post was was originially posted on The President’s Pages hosted by The Humanitarian Forum***
Every day, new questions arise for us to answer – us, our politicians, communities, and leaders. But the unanswered questions people have been raising for the last century remain. I’m wondering who will have the courage to put the answers on the table of humanity.
What is fuelling the flames of the world’s conflicts? Is it war lords and arms manufacturers? Or is it the international community? Who’s paying for the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Is it the Afghani and Iraqi people? The neighbouring countries and the region? Or is it the countries in the west – the taxpayers who are funding the defence budgets?
Is the solution to ideological, theological and cultural problems military action or security measures? What solution can we find on our humanitarian menu?
Many humanitarians adopt a ‘do no harm’ policy – but this can often mean inaction in the face of crisis. Does a ‘do no harm’ policy actually cause harm? Does it mean we fail to stop agressors and wrongdoers through not interfering? Indeed, should a ‘do no harm’ policy call our humanitarian neutrality and impartiality into question?
Who is responsible for the world now? Who is governing the world? And are the policies and actions of global government bodies upholding the rights of humanity and humanitarian principles or degrading them? Are our governments driven by the economy or by the needs of their people? We talk about respect, equality and fairness, but we need to believe in them, even if it means a material loss to ourselves.
Why is there so much conflict between different faiths and belief systems? Aren’t we ultimately all striving for the same goals? Can’t we make space for each others’ faith and beliefs? Are we trying to create a new global system to replace the existing one, or are we interested only in our own desires? The most precious being is the human being who is losing his or her life – millions every day. Who amongst us is responsible for the daily loss of innocent life?
HIV/AIDS has become not just a medical problem, but a social issue too. Is our policy just to live with it? Or to eradicate it, and how can we protect our children from contracting it?
What are the real causes of climate change? Is it our ignorance or our partners who share the planet – birds, animals, trees etc? Or is it the industrial drive which only serves its own interests?
Nobody knows how many billions or trillions of dollars are spent on curbing the newly created monster that is terrorism, but what is becoming all too clear is that we cannot meet the millennium development goals because we haven’t enough resources. But who’s deciding where resources are spent?
Are we fuelling conflict or are we diminishing its fire? What is our role as individuals leading governments and global institutions, when the plethora of conflicts is on the rise by the second? Can we really call natural disasters by that name, or are they at least to some degree man made? When it rains, are we a part of the flood, the tsunami, the hurricane? We need to redefine what we mean by natural disaster, by climate change, by global warming, and pollution. What are the root causes and where will it take us?
I don’t believe God makes people suffer. I believe that we need to take responsibility for our actions and inaction, and for the consequences: for conflict, for illness and hunger, for violence against women and abused and abandoned children. At the very beginning of the new millennium, we should have the courage to find real answers to these questions instead of fighting the fires that we ourselves have lit.
There are too many ‘why’s, ‘how’s ‘who’s. But while we’re looking at all these questions, we don’t pinpoint the real solutions– we need a champion who will say ‘I will’ or ‘we will’.
Are our Millenium Development Goals complete, fulfilling the needs, or do they need to be revised? Or is it our other goals which need revision: those more self-interested goals which do not look out into the world, but can’t see past our own advancement?
My last question is one that keeps many of us awake at night. What is the value of our life if we fail to value the lives of others? Valuing human life cannot be a passive activity. I wish one day that our subconscious will be more aware that ‘do no harm’ can be very harmful. ‘Do nothing’ does not reflect neutrality, but rather indifference to suffering and putting our interests in the security of the few before the survival of many. Humanity does not need a new religion or a new messiah, but it does need new believers in humanity. Let us all believe together in shared common humanitarian values that can save all of us before it’s too late for us and our children.