Forty years ago, in December 1980, when we clandestinely crossed the Afghan border to help the victims of a cruel war imposed on them, I never imagined that 40 years later I would write the preface to the book Aider plus loin by Pierre Brunet and Tugdual de Dieuleveult. This book – published by Éditions Autrement, with the support of Edouard Lagourgue, Frédéric Bos and other friends, and available in bookshops on September 30th – vividly recounts the humanitarian action of Solidarités International.
At the time, we did not take the easy way out. Crossing the border without a visa, acting at the risk of war and having no institutional funding for almost 10 years, when it was massively available in Pakistan for refugees. There was nobody on the other side of the border! We had to go, help them. That was the founding act.
Access to populations in danger is Solidarités International’s priority and is still its priority today. The book Aider plus loin (Helping further, not translated) illustrates the continuous link between past, present and future. It is a witness to this commitment that is still relevant today.
The editorial choice of the authors is a mirror of the identity of the association. It is the spirit of mission embodied by women and men committed to the field, crisis after crisis. Testimonies, analyses and perspectives complement each other. It is humanitarian action that has built Solidarités International, whose communication is at the service of its mission.
A fascinating book of testimonials and photos.
You will not get bored leafing through this book where photos and testimonials from the field alternate. It is lively, human, rhythmed, authentic and close to the people and communities at risk. It shows the incredible ability of humanitarians and populations to adapt to each situation: whether it is the Afghan people in resistance or abandoned Romanian orphans, the Rwandan genocide or Sarajevo surrounded and bombed, the earthquake in Haiti or the Ebola epidemic, Syria, Yemen or the Sahel among 46 countries of intervention.
The authors have structured the book in 4 decades, from the birth certificate in 1980 to this year 2020. These 4 stages intersect geopolitical and humanitarian periods with their share of conflicts and disasters that require country-specific relief.
Think of the East-West Cold War of the 1980s and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the USSR. From the Agenda for Peace of the United Nations Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, to the break-up of the Eastern bloc with its 10 years of war in the Balkans and tragedies such as the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Let it be the major disruption of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 with new wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether it is the Arab springs full of hope and misfortune of which Syria, Yemen or Libya are painful examples.
These humanitarians, actors of the relief effort, are in fact also alert to the challenges that are growing in large proportions and at a frenetic pace. They make the world more unpredictable and dangerous and, year after year, cause an ever-increasing number of internally displaced persons and refugees.
Humanitarian aid in the face of future crises.
There are many crises to come. Climate change and the destruction of the environment and biodiversity. Water scarcity and pollution, epidemics such as cholera, Ebola and Covid-19. Terrorism and war are returning as political tools. Isolationism or tensions caused by heads of state such as Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The questioning of multilateralism also caused by the excesses of globalism. Galloping demography and urbanisation.
In these contexts, the politicisation of aid is bound to reduce the space of access to populations in danger and increase insecurity for humanitarians. More than ever, in order to fulfill a difficult mission over time, the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity are the most faithful allies. This does not prevent us from being lucid about the causes of crises and their logic of exacerbation.
This 40-year history was not written in advance. It was built on boldness over time with a great sense of adaptation and the constant need to do more and better. Today, it is the Covid-19 virus and its consequences that we must fight by innovating, as we did in the spring with the humanitarian airlift to make up for the interruption in air transport.
Other risks are emerging, such as that of confrontation over access to resources or the threat of the internal breakdown of societies undermined by selfishness, mercantilism, consumerism and the lack of unity of peoples and nations.
I encourage you to read this book, offer it for the holidays and spread the word around you. It is a great and magnificent story that shows how solidarity can be the first response to suffering while carrying the hope of living. For this book is first and foremost a message of hope.