August 12, 2020

Covid-19 and future challenges for diplomacy

By H.E. Baron Albrecht von Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

For over 900 years, the Sovereign Order of Malta has turned its gaze to those most in need and brought them help, following the Christian principles that constitute its main trait. Its mission has been expressed over the centuries during wars, famine, natural disasters, migrations, but also during periods of peace, with daily assistance to the weakest, in the developing world as well as in the wealthiest societies. Present in over 120 countries, the Order of Malta is a centuries-old oak tree. Thanks to its deep roots in the fertile humus of voluntary work, the Order is able to use the strength of its diplomacy trunk and cover with its rich foliage the most marginalized sections of society.

The importance of the diplomatic network that has been laboriously woven over the years with 110 countries is put into evidence by the dramatic situation brought about today by Covid-19. The Sovereign Order of Malta’s ambassadors – deployed in many countries around the world, and its representatives at the UN, the EU and other international organisations – are permanently engaged in what is known as “Humanitarian Diplomacy”. They are committed to raising awareness about problems, risks and threats in the humanitarian field among the public and decision-makers.

This pandemic, which suddenly reminded us of the power of nature, is forcing us to consider the challenges we will face in the near future, all of them inextricably linked: poverty, health challenges, diseases, migrations. We affirm, with ever greater conviction, that the only weapon in our hands is solidarity, on a social, political and economic level.

The government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, as well as our entities and embassies, have all mobilized to deal with the emergency, first of all by training medical and non medical staff to guarantee assistance in safe conditions. Our programs have been reinforced to respond to the enormous pressure on the national health systems; support has been provided to hospitals, health centres, ambulance services and, at the same time, assistance has been increased to the care system for the elderly and disabled, many of whom suffer isolation, and to other groups such as migrants and the homeless.

The Order’s scope of action in Europe was already fully operational throughout the continent. Now our greatest concern is mainly towards Africa, the Middle East, South-East Asia and South America, fragile areas where the contagion of Covid-19 could have unimaginable consequences.

The Order of Malta is already present in many of these realities and now it is promoting a new strategy of prevention and risk reduction through the development of interactions on several levels, becoming an advocate of various projects: among them, the Doctors to Doctors program, which aims to share the best practices to stop the spread of Covid-19. The initiative creates an online platform for the exchange of knowledge between Order of Malta experts in Europe and those facing Covid-19 in Middle East countries.

I conclude by expressing a wish for a movement of global solidarity, the only road to overcoming this dramatic emergency.

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