I would like to bring to you the voice of millions from my field of work -- 15 years ago, I founded Friendship starting with a French river-barge-turned-ship hospital, to serve some of the poorest and most climate impacted people on this planet. Today, through an unconventional integrated model for community development, we are directly serving over 500,000 people every month.
Bangladesh exemplifies the challenge and also the compelling emergency behind the motto of this forum: “Zero exclusion, zero carbon, zero poverty.” A country of a 1,000 rivers, a quarter the size of France, more than double the population with 180 million people, an average elevation of five metres above sea level, 30% of the people living below the poverty line, and over 10,000 people migrating daily -- the changing climate and its effects are already their reality.
To acquire positive impacts of the sustainable development goals, we need to have conscience-driven actions to ensure the survival of people at risk.
And I am scared.
As a leader of an organisation bringing adaptation solutions to over 6 million people annually, I realise “convergence,” of both actors and actions, is key. I observed that working with preconceived project designs planned by funding organisations does not truly work with sustainable impacts -- neither does working in isolation.
Sustainable adaptation means doing the right thing at the right time, in the right amount, and very importantly, in the right way: Convergence is solidarity.
I realised this and four years after founding Friendship, I founded Friendship International in Luxembourg, and expanded this range of partnership to other countries. We needed to change the mindset and build inter-dependence in a new social paradigm: Bringing together the entire variety of actors this forum aims to federate, converge towards a common or coherent approach and action.
We need to prioritise three key factors: Strengthening resilience of affected human beings, ensuring it is done by nurturing their self-respect, dignity, and hope -- and doing so through cooperation.
For in those individuals, having barely a meal a day, I see incredible courage, resilience, and dignity. We need to ensure our approach to help preserves and nurtures their resilience and dignity, the two of the most important change-makers. Otherwise we take away more than what we give to them -- then we take away their power to survive.
We cannot do so properly without cooperation, understanding, humility, respect, sharing of best practices, trust, and faith between the actors.
As NGOs we can inspire, observe, show non-conventional ways of working, and raise questions -- but to make long-term changes, it needs political will, conscience-driven decisions, and cooperation with the corporate sector. On this journey, COP21 has been and the World Humanitarian Summit will be important milestones.
Adaptation solutions exist. Even for one of the poorest countries in the world such as Bangladesh, we can be partners and have convergence of the true kind. Speaking of humanity, we must not forget that each individual matters, for it is the individual falling victim to man’s needed progress and mankind’s greed.
The urgency in humanitarian crisis is real, responsibility needs to be realistically shared above individual and political agendas. We cannot lose faith in the goodness and power of humanity.
And for that power to be harnessed, we need to come together. We need faith and cooperation for our future.