(Vatican Radio) One of the main goals at the heart of the first ever UN World Humanitarian Summit that has just wrapped up in Istanbul is to reaffirm the principles at the heart of humanitarian action: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
These principles are also at the heart of the mission of the Sovereign Order of Malta invited by the United Nations to participate in the consultations that gave life to the Summit and then to participate in the Summit itself.
Albrecht Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Order of Malta, has been working for over a year with the preparatory committees of the Summit. In Istanbul he has been present at many of the Summit meetings and roundtables with a series of concrete commitments including the continuation of provision of first aid to migrants on board the Italian Naval ships in the Mediterranean and using its diplomatic network to provide support in implementing humanitarian aid and to promote dialogue.
Speaking to Vatican Radio on the last day of the event, Albrecht Boeselager said it is too early to judge the outcome of the Summit: “it has to be judged later by the action taken by the different players in the humanitarian field”:
Boeselager says he believes the summit itself was a timely initiative as humanitarian issues are increasing at this time. He points out that “many questions are being raised, respect for humanitarian law is declining and a greater solidarity between nations is urgently requested”
The Grand Chancellor says he is particularly concerned about the declining respect in the world for humanitarian law and for the fundamental principles upheld in the Geneva conventions.
“That’s why – he says – preparing for the Summit the Order of Malta took the initiative of drawing the attention of the nations and the UN to the great importance of religious communities and the humanitarian values embedded in religion and asked for more consideration for the potential of religious communities for humanitarian aid and humanitarian action”.
He expressed satisfaction for the fact that this perspective became an issue at the Summit with a series of dedicated events dealing with the specific question.
Boeselager also expressed satisfaction with the fact that the papers drawn up by the preparatory group in which the Order had a decisive influence have been passed and will be published.
Asked what are the main obstacles and problems between the actors involved in providing humanitarian assistance – States, NGOS and other organizations - that prevent a unified and more effective approach and action, Boeselager said there are a lot of challenges and problems.
“I already mentioned the disregard for humanitarian principles: this has to do with the changing scenarios of armed conflicts. Less international conflicts between countries and regular armies but so- called ‘asymmetric conflicts’ where armies, armed groups and terrorists are fighting. They have not signed the humanitarian conventions and their fighters are not educated about humanitarian principles” he said.
He points out that another obstacle in the path of organizing and delivering aid in a harmonious and integrated way is the fact that even some States do not always show respect for these principles:
“We have seen the bombing of hospitals, attacks on humanitarian helpers and also means of modern warfare like drones are very questionable, and also the tendency in the West to accept what are euphemistically called ‘collateral damages’ which strike civilians” he said.
Another problem, according to Boeselager, especially regarding the migration and refugee question is an increasing “popularism and isolationism which lead to a declining solidarity between different nations and impede a coherent strategic action which is needed to deal with the problems”.
Regarding Pope Francis’ message to the summit on the opening day, Boeselager says it was a strong one containing many significant messages:
“I think one of the strongest messages is that more has to be done to prevent conflicts, to go to tackle the root causes for conflicts, and that’s certainly true. Many of these conflicts we are observing now have roots which go back for many years. The other message which is coherent with so many other messages the Pope has delivered regards the interests of businesses, financial interests, personal political influence that lead to the disregard of humanitarian principles and the real interests of mankind” he said.
“I think the Holy Father is one of the few, if not the only remaining moral authority that really has a real impact on the world and so cannot be underestimated.”
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