By Joseph Donnelly, Head of Caritas Delegation at UN headquarters in New York
Ten years ago 189 Member States found themselves seized at the United Nations turn of the century meetings. Seized by the vast, grave social and economic needs, and injustices, around the world.
In a somewhat surprising, resounding manner they seemed to use their national and global power to speak truth, to state details, to the world and each other. They made promises and investments which invited all peoples and all governments into their Millennium Declaration agenda.
It was a unique moment, a promising momentum. They said it. They signed it. They shared it. They did it! What a way to embrace the 21st Century. Beyond predictable rhetoric, hopes were ignited. We chased that flame!
Some would say: They made the deal. They sold their story. The wide-lens picture perfect landscape for global cooperation and deliberate human development implementation was set, fixed, targeted.
Indeed, it was! Indeed, it’s still in place – but surrounded now by even greater grave needs, made more complex by the last few years of major economic, food, fuel, violent and humanitarian crises across the continents. Uniting a world in need with genuinely desperate pleas to eradicate extreme poverty, to feed hungry children and adults, so many, especially women and girls, without adequate education, health, shelter.
Indeed – the message has gone round the globe, gathering the devastation, holding the hopelessness. We know what a dangerous thing it is to hold out hope to those too willing to hold on, to believe again. It’s an intense moral challenge, demanding an ethics of compassion, justice and mutual accountability.
With billions of human beings in need, real people in real places – this massive reality is overwhelming. We must face this scandalous crisis together. We cannot afford to be overwhelmed by the numbers as far too many say. We are speaking of human beings - sisters, brothers, children, elderly, vulnerable people.
We are holding onto hearts, minds, talents, families, cultures, communities, lands, rights and much more. They belong to us as much as we must belong to them. So – the crisis is absolutely about our common humanity. It’s true – if we are not part of the solution right now, then we are part of the sad problem of isolation, indifference, permitting survival vs. developing existence, health, decent lives wrapped with natural dignity – and more.
When the Millennium Declaration was being fleshed out into concrete goals with human objectives, smart people went forward with an invigorated determination to do something, to make differences, to recognize communities and persons in need – from utterly remote hidden corners of the earth to teeming cities on the edges of the globe. The overall goal was to greatly reduce human suffering everywhere in the world by 2015. However, the overriding challenge inherent in all the good talk, bold pledges and planned financial investments was partnership – with those in need, those with local accountability, those with international responsibilities.
Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were identified as a common denominator to achieve the something more, sooner rather than later, to energise the working together, to manage resources more carefully, transparently. Sadly, even while this was a necessary recipe for the living, human beings have continued to suffer, to starve, to bleed, to thirst, to die - one by one, too often barely noticed – into the hundreds of thousands, millions of innocent people. The bell tolls for us – as much as for them.
Naturally, we know so well, there have been countless meetings, conferences, programmes, rallies, letters, analysis, statistical reports, celebrations even, across the last ten years from 2000 to 2010.
If would be wrong to suggest, though many understandably think it, that nothing has been done, that nothing has been tried, that nothing has changed. That’s simply not true.
What is absolutely true is that the staggering slow progress toward aid/development effectiveness has meant that much too little is changing at such a slow pace that more good lives are sure to be lost in the next five years if something more is not done right now. If we want to end poverty now we can do it today, and again tomorrow. We can plan for the next five years, but that will be useless if we do not act together today. Everyone of us now. Every hand is a help. Every foot covers another mile. Every voice counts!
Caritas voices against poverty clamour with distinct caring relationships between individuals and communities everywhere we are. As Caritas we walk with others. We wilfully accompany our neighbours, each other. We serve based on need and in absolute recognition of the dignity God plants in every human being.
Nothing more is required than to be human. The more human we are together, the greater abundance we share and multiply – not simply in corn and rice or water and trees – but in respect, human rights, protection for each other and this sacred earth.
The more we work together for the greater good of all – the more boldly does our shared commitment communicate real truth, real power and unconditional justice across every border and bias. The more we ‘Stand Up’ to demand change – the moreour voices confirm that “We Are Caritas” - we are the change we seek for all. Nothing less!