Alongside its medical projects, EMERGENCY has always been committed to promoting a message of peace and respect for human rights.
Only by clearly identifying the causes of war is it possible to discover the full extent of its horror and injustice. Only by denouncing such horrors and injustices can we convince the public of its inadequacy as an instrument for the resolution of conflicts, and of the need to overcome it. Awareness campaigns and the promotion of a culture of peace advanced EMERGENCY’s reputation. From its earliest years, the organisation has established a clear stance against landmines and war, helping to inform public opinion thanks to its first-hand experience in the field.
As the issues of war and migration are currently subject to manipulation and distortion, EMERGENCY made the decision to step up its commitment to discussing these topics. In 2018, we began advocacy on multiple levels to try and promote change in both public and institutional opinion.
We’ve made incredible progress in so many fields. We can create extraordinary things but we’re still not able to make one moral, ethical and logical reflection, namely that killing each other is an act of homicide and suicide that gets us nowhere. We’ve been seeing that for decades. And it’s tragic, because we’ve seen in history how what begins as a local war can become a regional war and then a world war. We’ve seen in history how a war that begins with conventional weapons can end in atomic bombs. It still surprises me, this acceptance of war as something inevitable.
The starting point for EMERGENCY’s advocacy is always observation and analysis of its work in the field: quantitative data collected in hospitals and across different projects, as well as qualitative elements – stories and direct experiences of conflict and poverty. These are the building blocks of our public campaigns.
This data is shared within the organisation’s decision-making bodies, and is subsequently reviewed alongside that of research institutes, other NGOs, and international bodies, including UN agencies, SIPRI, and ISTAT. Once assessed, and considering the broader political context, strategic activism priorities are determined: awareness campaigns and specific actions aimed at institutional audiences.
Once issues have been identified, the Communications Office has the task of framing the message, developing tools, and identifying promotion channels.
EMERGENCY’s communication is based on the principle that medical science must be available to all patients, on an equal basis and without discrimination.
THE MAIN TOPICS ADDRESSED DURING 2019:
On the instructions of the Board of Directors, EMERGENCY’s Executive Committee determines the advocacy work intended to address both Italian and international institutions, while the Field Operations Department (responsible for coordinating humanitarian projects) and the President oversee implementation..
March 2019 saw the formation of Tavolo Immigrazione e Salute, a network of charities working to ensure people in Italy, specifically migrants, have the right to treatment. EMERGENCY is part of the network, to which it brings its own experience in the field overcoming obstacles to treatment. It made an essential contribution by asking that EU citizens not registered with the national health service be put on Tavolo’s list of target people, which was changed as a result to take in immigrants in general. Tavolo’s work earned it a meeting with the president of the National Commission for the Right of Asylum, to whom it outlined the problems with immigrant reception and healthcare posed by the ‘Security’ decree (Legislative Decree 113/2018). The decree which went on to be approved and become Law 132/2018 on 1 December of the same year.
EMERGENCY was active in the EU on several fronts in 2019. In a year in which the European Parliament changed and new appointments were made to the European Commission, we made contact with the new leadership in Brussels to spread the founding values of our organisation and inform them about our work around the world. EMERGENCY took part in a range of conferences on healthcare in developing countries, such as ‘Working for a healthier future, promoting sustainable employment in the health sector in developing countries’, put on by Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, and meetings on immigration, like the 5th European Migration Forum in Brussels. We took advantage of the audience of EU decision makers to launch our report, ‘A Quiet Revolution. The EMERGENCY Anabah Maternity Centre and female empowerment’ in Brussels in 2019.
EMERGENCY focuses its communication and advocacy activities on four main themes:
RIGHT TO TREATMENT
Getting quality treatment should not be for the privileged few. It should be a right for all. International cooperation should be with a view to creating equal opportunities, without discrimination.
Health services around the world should be free, based on communities’ needs and in full step with medical research. Reaching universal health coverage (UHC) means strengthening inclusive, resilient health systems with second- and third-level facilities. That will guarantee satisfactory services, the spread of scientific knowledge and qualified training, fighting brain drain.
We are asking our political leaders, national and international, to give priority to investing, directing resources and academic research into the health sector, to take medical results into account. Reaching UHC is possible and essential if we want a peaceful, inclusive society where no one is left behind.
EMERGENCY’s statement on the High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage 2019.
ABOLITION OF WAR
In October 2019, Turkey once again attacked Kurdish militias in the Syrian region of Rojava. The bombing killed many civilians.
EMERGENCY condemned the operation, named ‘Peace Spring’ and asked the EU to work towards stopping the conflict and start negotiations with Turkey to get it to respect international human rights. We asked for an end to hostilities, respect for borders and the return of Kurdish issues to the global agenda.
EMERGENCY believes that nothing can overrule respect for international law and human rights. War, just like lethal illnesses, must be prevented and treated. Violence is not the cure. It does not treat the disease; it kills the patient.
In August 2019, EMERGENCY began working with Open Arms to provide medical aid and cultural mediation for immigrants on board this charity’s eponymous vessel.
We first set out together on Open Arms’ 65th mission, during which 107 people rescued from the sea were kept on board Open Arms for more than 20 days off the coast of Lampedusa. This led to an inquiry into whether the then Ministry of the Interior was guilty of kidnap.
‘The situation on the boat is a tragedy. Men, women and children have been living in tiny spaces for 15 days, scared and uncertain about what’s going to happen to them. In the last few days the situation has got worse, with people harming themselves and threatening to kill themselves, which makes the situation impossible to handle and puts the lives of the people on board in impending danger. We need to act in the next few hours. We’re asking for immediate authorisation to land at Lampedusa before the tragedies we’ve already seen multiply.’
Oscar Camps and Gino Strada, founders of Open Arms and EMERGENCY (joint press release of 16 August 2019)
EMERGENCY helped the National Commission for Development Cooperation’s working group on ‘Strategies and guidelines for Italian development cooperation’ draw up its three-yearly document on its plans and approach for 2019–2021.
EMERGENCY wanted to underline that strengthening only public, first-level facilities is not very efficient, given the lack of a reference system that can give patients whose illnesses are developing or worsening the treatment they need and therefore bring down death rates. Second- and third-level healthcare facilities, dealing as they do with more complex and intensive treatment, are both indispensable for complete patient management and an effective place for training medical workers, as they have more suitable numbers and types of cases.