The
Future
of
Human
itarian
Aid
#HuCo2019
Vienna
29/03/2019
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If I had three wishes … by Harry Eyres

Whether we like it or not, the US remains the richest and most powerful country on earth and the one many look to for leadership in the pursuance of broadly humanitarian goals. America’s recent turn away from international treaties and even from the idea of a rules-based international order, initiated by an amoral President who openly praises authoritarian leaders and violent thuggery, is arguably the biggest crisis facing international humanitarians. My first wish is for a decisive rejection of Trumpian brutality, amorality and nativism in the forthcoming mid-term elections.

My second wish concerns climate change. Climate change is already exacerbating humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East (according to some studies, climate change was a major factor in the Syrian Civil War) to Bangladesh, where rising sea levels have displaced millions. Here it is a matter of political leaders, pressurised by informed citizens, “putting their money where their mouth is” and taking decisive actions, rather than making pious statements (or even impious ones, in the case of Trump).

My final wish is related to my own sphere, that of the media. Reporting on humanitarian crises is essential for public awareness. Unfortunately, journalists are facing unprecedented difficulties and dangers in the pursuit of vital stories. The protections previously accorded to journalists by most countries in the world have been gravely weakened, as we have seen in the beheadings of journalists by Isis, the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow, the killing of the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin in Homs, allegedly at the behest of the Assad regime, and most recently the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and many other cases. The leaders of the “free world”, if they really do believe in freedom starting with freedom of expression and speech, need to condemn these acts far more forcefully and concertedly.

 

Harry Eyres, journalist, writer, poet