As we at Lutheran World Relief anticipate the tremendous humanitarian challenges we might face in the coming year, a quote from Desmond Tutu comes to mind: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”
The world is trying to cope with what the U.N. is calling the highest levels of displacement on record, much of it fueled by conflict in Syria and Iraq. Off and on civil war threatens to intensify in South Sudan, which will impact and possibly draw in neighboring countries. Around the world we are seeing blatant disregard for international humanitarian law, with the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals, schools and other civilian targets, chemical warfare, and the use of food as a weapon. And we will continue to witness the effects of climate change, through unpredictable weather patterns, which wreak havoc with the harvests that are the lifeline of the rural poor.
Overall, these climate and conflict-driven crises are triggering simultaneous emergencies that are taxing the efforts of humanitarian agencies. Indeed more than three-quarters of people living in extreme poverty are in countries that are environmentally or politically fragile, or both.
LWR’s Early Warning Forecast singles out seven continuing or potential hot spots that may require humanitarian — and in some cases diplomatic — action in the next year.
As an organization that draws inspiration from our faith, we always embrace and maintain hope. We can clearly see that significant progress is being made in reducing global suffering and poverty. As measured by the Millennium Development Goals, the number of people living in extreme poverty and under-age-5 mortality has fallen by more than half. Continuing that work, the world community has adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals that are truly aspirational, including reaching a statistical “zero” on extreme poverty, preventable child deaths and other targets.
That’s why we round out our list of humanitarian hot spots with signs of hope. For example, the power of information communications technology is feeding a rapid growth of the private sector and entrepreneurship in Africa, as well as in other parts of the developing world. This is helping us to reach a group — that has not reaped — many benefits from globalization, namely poor farmers, by helping them to be more productive, and gain access to more profitable local and export markets.
We are making real progress in reducing global poverty and now is not the time to turn inward or retreat. The international community must continue to engage, to fund humanitarian response and development, and to support the local communities bearing the brunt of these crises. Our commitment to long-term sustainable development, and the tangible results we are seeing, will sustain our hope.
Ambassador Daniel Speckhard President and CEO