Enough is Enough: Statement of the ACT Palestine forum on the Situation in Gaza

As Christians, we witness the ongoing barbarities in Gaza with heavy hearts.

The atrocities we see daily challenge international humanitarian law and our Christian principles of compassion, solidarity, dignity, respect, inclusion, and justice. It is unacceptable that faith-based and civil society organizations providing humanitarian assistance in Palestine face barriers to delivering life-saving assistance to those in desperate need. It is also unsufferable that many churches and people of faith remain silent and don’t denounce what is going on in Gaza. We must clearly state that “Enough is enough!” Denying millions of Palestinian people access to the essentials for their survival, is an outrage. Aid agencies report that half a million people in Gaza are on the brink of starvation, while the entire population of 2.3 million faces acute food shortages. Despite compelling evidence, the international community has yet to take decisive action to prevent the worst.

If not the institutions that bear a strong moral compass, like the churches, then who else will raise their voices to denounce these injustices against humanity? It is our collective responsibility to advocate for compassion, inclusion, and justice, based on our intrinsic moral responsibility. As Christians, we are obligated to manifest the interconnectedness of peace and security with our beliefs, in the context of our economic, social, and political life together. Our theological  positions should find pragmatic expression in our actions to denounce injustices and announce the Good News. The cries of present hardships in Gaza and the lack of political will to ensure long-lasting peace resonate in the heavens. The urgent calls for aid serve as a rebuke against any notion that our Christian and faith-based institutions bear no responsibility to advocate alongside those in distress. We must  champion peace and justice by using our influence, values, and moral authority to foster dialogue, reconciliation, and respect for human dignity among the conflicting parties. We must demand, as humanitarian faith-based organizations, to be able to deliver humanitarian assistance free from barriers.  We can use our platforms to advocate, as we know that our guidance can shape public opinion and encourage positive actions.

There is no peace without justice, nor justice without peace.

A superficial peace that ignores underlying injustices is fragile and unsustainable. True peace requires addressing the root causes of the conflict in Palestine, ensuring fairness, the application of international conventions and the upholding of human rights. Pursuing justice through violent means perpetuates cycles of revenge and conflict, therefore, justice must be pursued in ways that promote reconciliation, healing, and stability.

The disproportionate response by the Israeli armed forces to the massacre carried out by Hamas on October 7, 2023 has moved beyond what can reasonably be called “self-defense.” The right to self-defense has its limits in international law and in the principles we collectively depend on to enable humanitarian access and assistance. These have now been massively eroded.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), is currently analyzing South Africa’s genocide case against Israel. As faith-based organizations committed to international law we support the Court in its crucial and difficult work.  However, protecting civilians from the scourge of conflict and war crimes is everybody’s responsibility.

Religious leaders and actors have a significant responsibility in actively preventing atrocities. In line with the ACT Alliance engagement in the “Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that could lead to Atrocity Crimes”, and the promotion of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, we are called to work towards the prevention of atrocities and genocide.

We have a duty to speak out.

Therefore, we call on all ACT Alliance members and their related churches to proactively engage to stop the atrocities and promote peace and dignity for the people affected by the conflict. This includes:

  • Call for an immediate ceasefire to allow aid into Gaza, protect civilians, and uphold human rights;
  • Call on their government to take decisive action to prevent further suffering in Gaza and advocate for increased humanitarian assistance and support for the Gaza’s population, particularly for those on the brink of starvation, the sick and injured.
  • Call on churches and religious leaders to break their silence and speak out against the injustices in Gaza and to mobilize and support efforts for peace, justice, and humanitarian assistance;
  • Urge the conflicting parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian organizations to deliver life-saving assistance;.
  • Appeal to all parties involved in the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law and to prioritize the protection of civilians;
  • Call  for an immediate ceasefire and the reopening of a dialogue towards a lasting peace agreement;
  • Stress the significant responsibility of religious leaders in denouncing the risk factors of genocide and preventing atrocities;
  • Call on religious leaders to use their moral authority to advocate for peace, justice, and the protection of human rights in Gaza;
  • Support efforts towards accountability and justice through legal mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court.

Statement: ACT Alliance calls for a reversal of the decision to halt funding to UNRWA

 

The decision by several key donor countries to halt funding to UNRWA, based on accusations made by the Israeli government of UNRWA staff involvement in a Hamas attack, is deeply concerning. The allegations over the involvement of some UNRWA staff in the 7 October attacks are very serious and must be thoroughly investigated. Anyone involved in acts of terror must be held accountable, it is however essential to adhere to evidence-based decision-making during this unprecedented humanitarian crisis and a volatile political situation. We encourage all key stakeholders to refrain from hasty decisions that impact millions of suffering civilians and to make a thorough and impartial assessment of these allegations before taking any drastic measure.

UNRWA plays a critical role in providing essential humanitarian support to Palestinian people, including food, medicine and shelter. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, rightly points out that the decision to suspend funding will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, further deteriorating the socio-economic conditions in the West Bank and neighboring countries.

Furthermore, the implications of this decision extend beyond the immediate humanitarian concerns, significantly impacting the broader political context, jeopardizing the prospects for lasting peace in the region.

Confronted with these formidable challenges, it is imperative for the international community to ensure the non-politicization of humanitarian aid. We challenge the decision of funding donors to penalize the humanitarian needs of millions of women, men and children to confront the alleged internal failures of a single institution.

ACT Alliance together with the ACT Palestine Forum, along with numerous faith-based and civil society organizations in Palestine and Israel, calls on all key donors who have cut funding to the UNRWA to promptly reconsider this decision.

These actions not only exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis but also cultivate a pervasive sense of injustice, hopelessness and suspicion towards humanitarian aid and humanitarian principles among the Palestinian population.

As part of the ACT Alliance, we join the multiple calls to governments to resume funding the UNRWA. It is essential to separate humanitarian aid from political considerations and work towards a resolution that not only addresses the needs of the affected population but also avoids exacerbating the already catastrophic situation.

By upholding the principles of impartiality and prioritizing the well-being of civilians, we can contribute to a more just response to the complex challenges faced by the Palestinian people.

Marking 75th Anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration

Gender Justice and Civic Space are two sides of the same Coin 

Roosa Rantala, Advisor for Human Rights and Advocacy, Felm 

Many of us know the background; the achievements regarding gender justice made over the decades have been driven back in many ways, from sexual and reproductive rights to the realization of the rights of sexual and gender minorities.  

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his worry that gender equality is 300 years away – and the target is growing more distant. Discriminatory actions hinder countries’ possibilities of achieving sustainable development goals: when the world is not on the right track to achieve gender equality, it becomes impossible to overcome other development challenges. 

Women are lead actors in enhancing positive development and sustainable peace, emphasised  UN special rapporteur Clément Nyaletsossi Voule in his video contribute to our Side Event for the 54th session of the Human Rights Council. The- Side Event was organized in cooperation with UN Women, UNFPA, Lutheran World Federation, ACT Alliance, the World Council of Churches and the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN. The organizers also included a large number of non-governmental organizations from around Europe: Act Church of Sweden, Bread for the World DanishChurchAid, Felm and Swiss Church Aid HEKS/EPER.   

All organizers had discovered through their own work that to achieve gender justice, the civic space should be secured and promoted. The Head of Human Rights and Development at the UN Women Geneva Office, Adriana Quiñones, gave the opening speech and aptly summed up that in fact the issues are two sides of the same coin: gender justice cannot be realized without civic space and vice versa. 

The side event attracted many participants, including 11 state representatives, who spoke loudly of the importance of the subject, and the reach of our networks. To fulfill gender justice and to promote women’s human rights, everyone from the private and public sector to states and civil society actors are needed, as the panelist jointly concluded. One of reasons emphasizing the need for collaborative measures is that the global anti-gender movement takes diverse forms in varying arenas, also within UN systems. 

The discussion revealed how, according to a survey carried out by DCA1, the online harassment of women is a significant human rights problem and a threat to democracy. Although the internet offers great opportunities for promoting women’s rights, at the same time women human rights defenders face serious harassment and threats, which in the worst case can silence the women completely. Paradoxically, the harassment tends to be worst when women human rights defenders have successfully promoted gender justice. 

And it doesn’t take long to destroy the progress made – as it happened in Brazil during a very short period. Attacks on gender justice made by those using the highest political power in the country put the persons promoting human rights in a risky position. After the distributive measures and change in political power, the society faces challenges to rebuild the dialogue and continue the development that had progressed in a good direction before the interruption. 

The discussion during the side event underlined that faith-based actors play a key role as promoters of gender justice. For example, religious actors and leaders have significant opportunities to raise awareness of online harassment and advocate for binding legislation to solve the problem and to replace the current dysfunctional ad hoc solutions of online platforms. UNFPA emphasized the significant role of faith-based organizations providing sexual and reproductive services. During the discussion, it was found that religious spaces are also potential places for having difficult conversations about, for example, toxic masculinity. 

The discussion also reminded us of the UN’s role in promoting and protecting civic space. Since CSO’s have only limited opportunities to participate in meetings in Geneva or New York, it would be worthwhile to explore online participation opportunities to a greater extent. If participation on the spot is possible, a larger number of CSO participants should be offered accreditations entitling them to participate in the dialogues. These methods would improve civil society actors’ possibilities to use UN mechanisms and form alliances with each other. 

The side event offered an excellent example of alliances and possibilities of cooperation. The topic of the side event touched many actors in many ways. After the one-hour event, the conversation continued lively during the coffee break. There are many reasons for this and one of the most important is money: inequality is expensive.

A World Bank study has estimated that for example limited education opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost between 15 trillion to 30 trillion US dollars to countries in loss of productivity and earnings. Educated women tend to be informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, are more likely to participate in formal labor market and earn higher incomes.  

The states simply cannot afford such a waste of money. Active promotion of gender justice and support for this work are key factors in solving all development challenges. 

Read the pledge that ACT members have submitted to promote civic space, counter backlashes on gender equality, and defend human rights, in national, regional, and global spaces.

Download the pledge

 

ACT Alliance’s statement on the war in Gaza and the violations of the humanitarian principle of the protection of civilians during armed conflict

The ACT Alliance expresses profound concern over the ongoing atrocities in Palestine and Israel, which have far-reaching consequences for the entire region and, indeed, the world. On October 7, 2023, Hamas killed 1200 and kidnapped hundreds of Israelis in a violent organized operation. As a reaction, the government of Israel has launched one of the most atrocious military attacks on Gaza, affecting its more than 2.2 million inhabitants.

According to UNHCR to date there are 1.7 million displaced men and women, boys and girls in Gaza. More than 14,800 men and women, boys and girls, journalists, doctors, humanitarians, and religious leaders, have been reported killed. Thousands of people are still missing, and more than 2000 are believed dead under the rubble.

The Israeli airstrikes severely damaged civilian infrastructures. This includes hospitals, places of worship, UN-led facilities, schools, and private residences. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Gaza Strip is wrestling with an intolerable situation exacerbated by airstrikes and a severe shortage of fuel, water, and food, alongside restricted access to medical facilities and supplies.

Violence has also erupted in the West Bank and southern Lebanon. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and more than 2500 have been arrested. Our members and UN- OCHA report that episodes of violence by settlers against Palestinians are on the rise and their human rights are being violated.

ACT Alliance, a global network of more than 150 faith-based organisations operating in more than 120 countries, call for an immediate ceasefire. We call on governments believing in humanitarian law and human rights, to uphold the rights of civilians enshrined In the Geneva Conventions.

We welcome the release of women, girls, men, and boys who were captured by Hamas, as well as the Palestinian children and women prisoners held by Israel. However, we stress the urgency of stopping all arbitrary and unlawful detentions. We call for the immediate release of all unlawfully detained individuals and urge the liberation of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.

No “humanitarian pause”, unilateral “Safe zone” or partial truce are acceptable sustainable solutions. The only solution to this tragic war is a long-lasting ceasefire. Given the outrageous humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, more support to the civilian population needs to reach those in need. For this reason, we call on all governments to advocate for all borders to be open to humanitarian assistance operations. We stress that this is key for those requiring urgent medical assistance to be allowed to reach East Jerusalem’s medical facilities. Currently, more than 600 cancer patients cannot receive treatment, this includes paediatric patients.

We find solace in the solidarity shown by millions across the world to those affected by this war and we join those calls for justice.

We express our support and solidarity to our colleagues, our members and the ACT Palestine Forum who are on the frontlines of humanitarian relief operations and have lost family members, colleagues, homes, places of work and worship. We join our voices to the millions worldwide fervently calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the unlawful occupation of Palestine by Israel.

We call on the international community and all international relevant bodies to intervene immediately and to begin the necessary investigations to ensure that those responsible for any violation of international humanitarian law are held accountable. We also call on the international community and bodies to address the root causes of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and we urge all stakeholders to engage in a constructive and open dialogue to ensure that long-lasting seeds of peace are sown, based on international law and relevant UN resolutions.

Declaración de ACT Alliance sobre la guerra en Gaza y las violaciones del principio humanitario de protección de civiles durante conflictos armados

La Alianza ACT expresa profunda preocupación por las atrocidades en curso en Palestina e Israel, que tienen consecuencias de gran alcance para toda la región y, de hecho, para el mundo entero. El 7 de octubre de 2023, Hamas mató a 1200 personas y secuestró a cientos de israelíes en una violenta operación organizada. Como reacción, el gobierno de Israel lanzó uno de los ataques militares más atroces en Gaza, afectando a sus más de 2.2 millones de habitantes.

Según ACNUR, hasta la fecha hay 1.7 millones de hombres y mujeres, niños y niñas desplazados en Gaza. Más de 14,800 personas, incluyendo periodistas, médicos, humanitarios y líderes religiosos, han sido reportadas como fallecidas. Miles de personas aún están desaparecidas, y se cree que más de 2000 han muerto bajo los escombros.

Los ataques aéreos israelíes dañaron gravemente infraestructuras civiles, incluyendo hospitales, lugares de culto, instalaciones dirigidas por la ONU, escuelas y residencias privadas. Según la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS), la Franja de Gaza enfrenta una situación intolerable exacerbada por los ataques aéreos y una grave escasez de combustible, agua y alimentos, junto con un acceso restringido a instalaciones y suministros médicos.

La violencia también ha estallado en Cisjordania y el sur del Líbano. Cientos de palestinos han sido asesinados y más de 2500 han sido arrestados. Nuestros miembros y la ONU-OCHA informan que los episodios de violencia de colonos contra palestinos están en aumento y se están violando sus derechos humanos.

ACT Alliance, una red global de más de 150 organizaciones basadas en la fe que operan en más de 120 países, solicitan un alto el fuego inmediato. Instamos a los gobiernos que creen en el derecho humanitario y los derechos humanos a defender los derechos de los civiles consagrados en los Convenios de Ginebra.

Aplaudimos la liberación de mujeres, niñas, hombres y niños capturados por Hamas, así como de los niños y mujeres palestinos prisioneros de Israel. Sin embargo, enfatizamos la urgencia de detener todas las detenciones arbitrarias e ilegales. Pedimos la liberación inmediata de todas las personas detenidas ilegalmente y instamos a la liberación de todos los rehenes restantes en manos de Hamas.

Ninguna “pausa humanitaria”, “zona segura” unilateral o tregua parcial son soluciones sostenibles aceptables. La única solución para esta guerra trágica es un alto el fuego duradero. Dada la impactante situación humanitaria en la Franja de Gaza, es necesario que más apoyo llegue a la población civil que lo necesita. Por esta razón, instamos a todos los gobiernos a abogar por que todas las fronteras estén abiertas a las operaciones de asistencia humanitaria. Subrayamos que esto es crucial para que aquellos que necesitan asistencia médica urgente puedan llegar a las instalaciones médicas de Jerusalén Este. Actualmente, más de 600 pacientes de cáncer no pueden recibir tratamiento, incluidos los pacientes pediátricos.

Encontramos consuelo en la solidaridad mostrada por millones en todo el mundo hacia los afectados por esta guerra y nos unimos a esos llamados a la justicia.

Expresamos nuestro apoyo y solidaridad a nuestros colegas, miembros y al Foro de Palestina de ACT que están en la primera línea de las operaciones de ayuda humanitaria y han perdido familiares, colegas, hogares, lugares de trabajo y culto. Unimos nuestras voces a las de millones en todo el mundo que claman fervientemente por un alto el fuego inmediato y el fin de la ocupación ilegal de Palestina por parte de Israel.

Instamos a la comunidad internacional y a todos los organismos internacionales pertinentes a intervenir de inmediato y comenzar las investigaciones necesarias para asegurar que quienes sean responsables de cualquier violación del derecho internacional humanitario rindan cuentas. También instamos a la comunidad internacional y a los organismos a abordar las causas fundamentales del conflicto israelí-palestino y urgimos a todas las partes interesadas a participar en un diálogo constructivo y abierto para garantizar que se siembren semillas de paz duraderas, basadas en el derecho internacional y las resoluciones pertinentes de la ONU.

Déclaration de l’ACT Alliance sur la guerre à Gaza et les violations du principe humanitaire de protection des civils pendant les conflits armés

L’ACT Alliance exprime une profonde préoccupation face aux atrocités en cours en Palestine et en Israël, qui ont des conséquences considérables pour toute la région et, en effet, pour le monde entier. Le 7 octobre 2023, le Hamas a tué 1200 personnes et kidnappé des centaines d’Israéliens lors d’une opération violente et organisée. En réaction, le gouvernement d’Israël a lancé l’une des attaques militaires les plus atroces contre Gaza, affectant ses plus de 2,2 millions d’habitants.

Selon le HCR, à ce jour, 1,7 million d’hommes et de femmes, de garçons et de filles sont déplacés à Gaza. Plus de 14 800 hommes et femmes, garçons et filles, journalistes, médecins, humanitaires et leaders religieux ont été signalés comme tués. Des milliers de personnes sont toujours portées disparues, et plus de 2000 sont présumées mortes sous les décombres.

Les frappes aériennes israéliennes ont gravement endommagé les infrastructures civiles, y compris les hôpitaux, les lieux de culte, les installations dirigées par l’ONU, les écoles et les résidences privées. Selon l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS), la bande de Gaza est confrontée à une situation intolérable exacerbée par les frappes aériennes et une pénurie grave de carburant, d’eau et de nourriture, ainsi qu’un accès restreint aux installations médicales et aux fournitures.

La violence a également éclaté en Cisjordanie et dans le sud du Liban. Des centaines de Palestiniens ont été tués et plus de 2500 ont été arrêtés. Nos membres et l’ONU-OCHA rapportent que les épisodes de violence des colons contre les Palestiniens sont en augmentation et que leurs droits humains sont violés.

L’ACT Alliance, un réseau mondial de plus de 145 organisations confessionnelles opérant dans plus de 120 pays, appellent à un cessez-le-feu immédiat. Nous demandons aux gouvernements qui croient en le droit humanitaire et les droits de l’homme de défendre les droits des civils consacrés dans les Conventions de Genève.

Nous saluons la libération des femmes, des filles, des hommes et des garçons capturés par le Hamas, ainsi que des enfants palestiniens et des femmes détenus par Israël. Cependant, nous soulignons l’urgence d’arrêter toutes les détentions arbitraires et illégales. Nous appelons à la libération immédiate de toutes les personnes détenues illégalement et exhortons à la libération de tous les otages restants détenus par le Hamas.

Aucune “pause humanitaire”, “zone sûre” unilatérale ou trêve partielle n’est une solution durable acceptable. La seule solution à cette guerre tragique est un cessez-le-feu durable. Étant donné la situation humanitaire scandaleuse dans la bande de Gaza, un soutien accru à la population civile doit atteindre ceux qui en ont besoin. Pour cette raison, nous appelons tous les gouvernements à plaider pour que toutes les frontières soient ouvertes aux opérations d’aide humanitaire. Nous soulignons que cela est essentiel pour permettre aux personnes ayant besoin d’une assistance médicale urgente d’atteindre les installations médicales de Jérusalem-Est. Actuellement, plus de 600 patients atteints de cancer ne peuvent pas recevoir de traitement, y compris les patients pédiatriques.

Nous trouvons du réconfort dans la solidarité manifestée par des millions de personnes dans le monde envers ceux touchés par cette guerre, et nous nous joignons à ces appels à la justice.

Nous exprimons notre soutien et notre solidarité à nos collègues, membres et au Forum de Palestine de l’ACT qui sont en première ligne des opérations de secours humanitaires et ont perdu des membres de leur famille, des collègues, des foyers, des lieux de travail et de culte. Nous unissons nos voix à celles de millions de personnes dans le monde entier appelant avec ferveur à un cessez-le-feu immédiat et à la fin de l’occupation illégale de la Palestine par Israël.

Nous exhortons la communauté internationale et tous les organismes internationaux pertinents à intervenir immédiatement et à entreprendre les enquêtes nécessaires pour s’assurer que les responsables de toute violation du droit international humanitaire soient tenus pour responsables. Nous appelons également la communauté internationale et les organismes à aborder les causes profondes du conflit israélo-palestinien et nous exhortons toutes les parties prenantes à s’engager dans un dialogue constructif et ouvert pour garantir que des graines de paix durables soient semées, basées sur le droit international et les résolutions pertinentes de l’ONU.

ACT Palestine Forum’s statement on the situation in Gaza

The ACT Palestine Forum is appalled, and grief-stricken by the unacceptable attacks being committed against unarmed civilians.  

We condemn all violations of international law committed by both sides of the conflict and we deplore the attack that targeted innocent Palestinian civilians seeking refuge in the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on October 17th. An attack on a hospital is a grave and unacceptable violation of International Humanitarian Law and must not be tolerated by the international community. Initial reports by the Palestinian Ministry of Health spoke of more than 500 casualties, including patients, medical personnel, and individuals seeking shelter at the hospital. It is even more heartbreaking that a significant number of the casualties were women and children.

The ACT Palestine Forum expresses deep concern for the loss of innocent lives and the extensive destruction of vital civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, mosques, churches, and private homes. We call on all governments to promptly demand and implement a humanitarian ceasefire and put an end to the conflict in Gaza.

Any attack on civilians is not justified under any circumstance, we also demand accountability. The protection of civilians and the adherence to international humanitarian law (IHL) must be upheld in any conflict. Those who are currently targeting civilians must be held accountable.

The current escalation of violence is intolerable and shows no concern or respect for human life. Thousands of women and men, girls and boys, have been killed on both sides of this conflict so far, and many more have been injured. In Palestine, those injured cannot access proper care, they lack medicines, water, and food. The blocking of humanitarian aid must be revoked, and civilians must be assisted.

The ACT Palestine Forum appeals to the global community to commit to addressing the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while upholding the principles of international humanitarian law and human rights. The ACT Palestine Forums’ mission is to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation, alleviate human suffering, and emphasize the urgent need for an immediate and peaceful resolution to this conflict.

The ACT Palestine Forum urges all members of the ACT Alliance to stand in solidarity with us and join in the call for a three-day period of mourning. The situation is deeply distressing; a mourning period would allow us to honor the victims and express our empathy and concern for those affected. During these challenging times, we must come together to remember and pay our respects to the victims of these attacks and their families. We continue to pray for justice and peace.

ACT Global Advocacy: for a future where everyone thrives

“We bring members in the Global South to speak to the UN in New York and at other global forums. Equipping them to tell their own powerful stories is a central part of our advocacy work,” says Alison Kelly, right, with ACT members at the United Nations in New York. PHOTO: Simon Chambers/ACT.

We spoke with Alison Kelly (UK) the ACT Alliance Representative to the United Nations, based in New York, and Dr. Marianna Leite (Brazil), ACT Alliance’s Global Advocacy and Development Policy Manager about their goals and hopes for ACT’s global advocacy work. 

By engaging in effective advocacy at local, national, regional and global levels, ACT Alliance contributes to positive and sustainable change in the lives of people affected by poverty and injustice.  ACT’s advocacy work is faith- and rights-based, grounded in evidence and rooted in the experience of forums and members.

Q: Why is advocacy important for ACT Alliance? 

“I think everyone should carve out at least ten percent of their time to think about advocacy,” says Dr. Marianna Leite, ACT’s Global Advocacy and Development Policy Manager.

Marianna Leite (M): It’s our responsibility to fundamentally change how things are now and envisage a future where everyone and the planet thrives. Policy and advocacy are deeply connected to humanitarian and development work. There is also a theological aspect to it – really believing in our prophetic voice and raising a faith voice and the voices of the communities we serve.  

Alison Kelly (A): There’s an increasing sense of urgency.  With climate now being seen as an existential issue, there’s an urgency to advocate for transformational change.  

M: We need to make some waves – positive waves of change. ACT has a role both in attending to urgent needs and striving for everyone to be able to enjoy basic rights in future.  

A: Transformation also means switching our thinking. The economy is a human system that should work for people and the planet. Our advocacy strategy is solutions focused. That’s really important. We know what works from our members’ experience in their communities.   

M: And we are all advocates.  We all try to influence each other; it’s part of being human. One of the things we say in the ACT Advocacy Academy is that advocacy can be as big as your creativity can reach.  

A: It’s opening the discussion. Advocacy can be local, it can be behind the scenes, it can be private; there are all these different mechanisms.  

M: Informal and silent advocacy can be much more impactful than any visible external advocacy. It is crucial for members to consider when to say yes or no to advocacy and to do a risk analysis. 

Q: What are the challenges and opportunities facing ACT’s global advocacy programme?  

M: A major challenge is the toxic anti-NGO or anti-civil action narrative that now permeates society.  Governments are cutting funding for the lifesaving work we do. The same negative undertone comes from fundamentalist groups that are backtracking hard won human rights. It’s hard to avert more damage because a narrative has a life of its own. Yet this is also an opportunity for ACT.  We are a faith actor promoting human rights as part of a transformative approach to sustainable development. We can push back against the pushbacks. ACT is unapologetic about our support to International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and their principles. 

A: We speak to the moral and ethical dimension of issues, and we have the technical expertise to be credible. Holding faith and rights together gives us a strong platform.  

M: How to maintain hope is also part of our role as faith actors. We can hope for a better future, and we can be the change that we want to see in the world. I see that as part of ACT being prophetic. 

Recent global advocacy initiatives

Addressing COVID vaccine inequity 

By early 2022, it was clear that global COVID-19 vaccine distribution was not as rapid as the virus’ mutation and spread. Most doses of the vaccines were acquired by and administered in developed countries. The most vulnerable people, especially in developing nations, were yet again left behind. 

ACT responded by continuing to advocate for vaccine equity and addressing vaccine hesitancy. We published resources and hosted regional workshops on Vaccine Equity and Hesitancy in the Africa and Asia Pacific regions. ACT called on governments to support the creation of a binding treaty on pandemic preparedness. ACT’s General Secretary, as a civil society representative to the COVAX facility, pushed funders to make sure that vaccines reach those in developing nations.  

New Advocacy Package 

Developed over three years with ACT’s advocacy and policy reference group, an approvals process for all documents produced under the ACT banner was piloted in 2022.  Created for forums and all groups of ACT Alliance members that want to do joint advocacy, it is part of a new advocacy package meant to ensure that ACT always speaks with one united voice with coherent and mutually reinforcing language. Member suggestions led to adjustments and user-friendly resources and design templates along with a forum-centred advocacy guidance, all part of the final package to be launched in 2023.  

This interview appears in the ACT Alliance Annual Report 2022, available in English, French and Spanish.