Intercoll, questions for social movements : Humanitarian disasters, climate victimes and our international solidarity

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Contribution written for the “Wall of Questions” of the new website Intercoll.

QUESTION 1: HUMANITARIAN DISASTERS, CLIMATE VICTIMS AND OUR INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

We are living a time of humanitarian disasters with multiple causes: geopolitical war, tear of social ties consumed by the neoliberal order, global ecological crisis ... But the social and progressive movements have since long abandoned the field of “assistance” to parastatal institutions, to development NGOs providing funding and to large specialized associations that have for many a “competitive market”, although others are doing an excellent job in supporting concrete projects or intervening on the field in difficult or dangerous conditions (as Médecins sans frontières – Doctors without borders ...).

Our small association began to mobilize in this area after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, first by supporting the call launched by Via Campesina, then by organizing ourselves initiatives towards Asian countries hit by disaster where we had activists contacts: mainly Pakistan, the Philippines, Japan, Bangladesh ... Despite very limited resources, we could verify that the financial assistance “from movement to movement” was very effective, both for emergency than for the reconstruction phase – and that it allowed to think the aid policy based on the needs of the poor and to strengthen the capacity of grassroots organizations to defend them, while otherwise inequalities intensify.

We were led to work sustainably with networks intervening after climate disasters, such as Mihands coalition in the Philippines, in response to the super typhoon Haiyan (2013). We learned a lot from their experience in a country where such disasters follow one after the other, taking a growing scale. In a way, a new social environment appeared that perpetuates and that has its own characteristics. The trauma experienced during such a disaster is very deep, the conditions of social réactivisation are very specific, the transition from emergency aid to a self-organization for a reconstruction on new bases (most favorable to poor people) very delicate. We consider it important that the lessons from these experiences “limits” are collectivized, with the help of movements of the victims themselves.

We are talking here about victims more than refugees, since much of the affected population has no option but to stay where she lived - to sink into a deep misery or rebuild on the spot. Moreover, as we know, in case of humanitarian disasters (regardless of origin), the majority of IDPs do not leave their country or is found in neighboring states. Generally speaking, only a minority become international refugees - but, the case of Syria shows it! - it gets to the point where the minority can become a majority. We are facing challenges that are beyond us, but which we must face. We need to be able to coordinate the action, to harmonize claims between movements acting in the countries of departure, in transit and in host countries. We are far from that.

All humanitarian disasters are asking us common issues, but also specific issues according to their origins (war, “natural” disaster ...) or the regional and international context.

We are convinced that the social and progressive movements must now design the area called “humanitarian” as a specific field for their international solidarity, adopt a policy of aid and collaborate more broadly in concrete campaigns, including financial . We have done so in the past, for example with Solidaires Unions in the Japanese case. We would like to do it much more.

While participating to an effort of general reflection, we would like to work more precisely, with others, to the issue of climate victims. To forge permanent ties, collectivize experiences, be more effective - and introduce this dimension in forums or other national and international progressive arenas.

Pierre Rousset
ESSF