Linking diplomacy with aid to reach people in need
The diplomatic relations which the Sovereign Order of Malta enjoys with 106 countries and the European Union, its permanent observer status at the United Nations and international Cooperation Agreements concluded with over 50 states, exist to facilitate its humanitarian activities, and allow unrestricted and protected access especially in crisis regions. The Order’s diplomatic network strengthens its relationships with the governments of the countries in which it operates. This network allows its medical programmes to be integrated into national and regional healthcare systems and to facilitate the importing of healthcare equipment to reach people in need as quickly as possible. An example is Myanmar, where the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, Malteser International, has been allowed to operate since 2001 when it was still extremely difficult for foreign relief organisations to work in the country. Malteser International was one of the very few international organisations able to start an immediate relief operation after cyclone Nargis hit the country in 2008, channelling international aid into affected regions. Due to its status as a neutral, apolitical and independent institution, its humanitarian role and ongoing activities in 120 countries, the Sovereign Order of Malta is able to intervene as a mediator in disputes.
World Humanitarian Summit
Assisting the victims of armed conflict is a topic of great concern for the Order of Malta and it was at the centre of a symposium organised in May 2015 at the United Nations in Geneva, in view of the World Humanitarian Summit, to take place in May 2016 in Istanbul. The Symposium ‘Religions together for humanitarian action: reaching out to victims of armed conflict; the special role of faith-based actors’ explored the relation between religion and conflict and the role of faith- based organisations in conflict areas; a theme which the Order of Malta continues to expand upon in the lead up to the Summit.