Advocacy is Re-active while “forcing” us because problems or issues are already there. Then we use advocacy to respond, seeking to address or reducing their impact.
The best Re-active Advocacies are those brought about by reality strengths who “are forced” to act together because no one can avoid them, because they go beyond individuals, organizations and even states’ power. Covid-19’s pandemic is surely one of the most strong reality strengths.
Any advocacy should have the poor and marginalized at its centre and carried out For, With, By the poor and marginalized. We can see, therefore, as a “gift” coming from actual human suffering advocacy blossoming everywhere on behalf of the neglected and discarded parts of our global society.
On March 23rd, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for a global ceasefire. He urged all parties in conflict to lay down arms and allow war-torn countries to fight the common enemy instead, namely the corona-virus pandemic. He renewed his call on April 2 because “The worst is yet to come. The Covid-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict,” and “the fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.”
Echoing his words, Pope Francis sent a message in a live streamed address from Rome to a quarantined world (See the videoed address here) saying, “I join all those that have listened to this appeal and I invite all to follow it up, putting an end to all forms of warlike hostility, fostering the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, openness to diplomacy and attention to those that find themselves in a situation of greatest vulnerability.”
We need, ” to reinforce fraternal bonds”, he went on, hoping that the Covid-19 may awaken ” in nations’ leaders and other parties involved a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries” through the “joint commitment against the pandemic. Conflicts aren’t resolved through war! It’s necessary to overcome antagonisms and oppositions through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”
Covid-19 “knows no borders.” Consequently, Pope Francis went on advocating also for those whose housing makes them susceptible to risk, such as nursing homes and shared houses, barracks, overcrowded prisons, and the homeless. He asked authorities “to be sensitive to this problem and to take the necessary measures” to avoid further tragedies.
Such as a pandemic of good-will, everywhere during the corona-virus crisis, there is unfolding a wide range of advocacy initiatives both through actions and appeals. Young people organize teams to bring treatments and food to old people. In a rapidly changing life in New York City (NYC), to help connect community members in food need, the Hunter College NYC created COVID-19 NYC Food Resource Guides.
The NYC Department of Health, using the 2018 Community Health Profiles of already organized 59 community districts of its neighborhoods, sends out guide lines and zip codes containing over fifty measures, health statistics, and information related to food access within the community, such as meals for students and seniors, delivery services for people with disabilities, and resources for immigrants.
On April 5, the Nuclear Disarmament Task Force at the Unitarian Church of All Souls, the All Souls Peace and Justice Task Force both of NYC, and the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security organized via Zoom an advocacy meeting asking to Move the Money – from Threatening the Planet with Nuclear Weapons to Defending it Against Catastrophic Climate Change. Resources needed to avert climate disaster should not be squandered on nuclear weapons, is the appeal, since any use of nuclear weapons would be suicidal.
Advice to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, proclaimed and even imposed everywhere and from every social entity, it is not, nevertheless, of much help to homeless New Yorkers. Even if they’re in a shelter, they are particularly vulnerable to a widespread health crisis. They are more likely to contract the virus: the close proximity to one another in the shelters, the lack of access to soap and hand sanitizer for the unsheltered, the challenges in obtaining medical care expose them to the virus, and therefore to get sicker or die.
Many of them can have already been infected and become all the more threatening for people with or without permanent homes. New York City, with its more than 60,000 homeless people in shelters and thousands on the street, released guidance for homeless shelter operators on the best practices for cleaning facilities and dispatched outreach teams to inform the city’s homeless about COVID-19. The city has also set up a system to send meals to those in quarantine in response to their lack of funds or access to food at grocery stores (Read more here).
Hopefully these experiences of Re-active advocacy through concrete actions and appeals to address the main social issues and problems, would open the mind, hearts and way of public authorities and world-wide organizations to Pro-Active advocacy for these same peoples when the virus emergency ends. You can support this advocacy campaign here https://www.avaaz.org/campaign/en/global_ceasefire_3bshare/
John Paul Pezzi, mccj
VIVAT International NGO
with consultative special status at UN