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Press Release: Christian Advocacy Network Mandates Continued Action on HIV and Hunger

26. August 2013

    Members of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) voted to continue campaigning together on the issues of HIV and AIDS and hunger at the EAA General Assembly held 22-25 August 2013 at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

    A new board of directors was also elected to govern the EAA over its next program cycle, 2014-2017.

    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a global network of 84 churches and Christian organizations committed to campaigning together on common concerns for justice and human dignity. EAA member organizations come from a wide range of church families (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Evangelical) and types of organization (international ecumenical organizations, church-based humanitarian relief and development agencies, church-based advocacy organizations, churches, national and regional councils of churches, religious orders, and other groups).

    HIV Aim is “Getting to Zero”

    The renewed focus on HIV and AIDS builds on the leadership EAA has provided over the last twelve years in the faith-based response to the pandemic. The resolution called on members to continue to seek to “eliminate stigma” and make a “significant contribution” to the global vision of “‘getting to zero’ - zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

    Speaking at a session devoted to a report on the state of the HIV response and the EAA’s Live the Promise Campaign, Dr Mariângela Simão, Director for Rights, Gender, Community Mobilization and Prevention, UNAIDS, called for continued strong engagement of the faith community, noting that “science indicates we can end AIDS, but science alone won’t solve it - we need to address also the critical enablers.”

    Speaking as “one of those people who has to live through the reality of living with HIV”, Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, Executive Director of INERELA+ (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV) thanked EAA for the progress she has personally seen since her positive diagnosis in 1999, yet challenged EAA members that “We need to stand with communities that are still at risk. We still need to advance human dignity…We need to stand in critical solidarity with communities vulnerable to HIV [and] promote messages that are against stigma and discrimination.”

    Sustainable Agricultural Practices and Support for Smallholders Key to Eradicating Hunger

    In selecting its second focus for joint campaigning, EAA members agreed to “work together on eradicating hunger, promoting adequate nutrition, and striving towards just and sustainable food systems, with a particular emphasis on sustainable agricultural practices and the situation of smallholder producers and their access to and control over natural resources such as land, water and seeds.”

    Dr David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Food Security and Nutrition, earlier addressed participants and noted the achievements in addressing the global food crisis in the last five years, including greater use of human rights frameworks, particularly the human right to food, as a basis of international policy and practice, an inclusive governance structure in the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), attention to nutrition, and to the importance of addressing issues affecting women as well as smallholder farmers who produce 70% of the world’s food.

    “Governments are beginning to get into these issues,” said Nabarro. “Why? Because of the voices of activists who are bringing these to the decision tables….It is because civil society, very much encouraged by people of faith, are holding governments accountable for ensuring food security.”

    Mr Martin Wolpold-Bosien, Right to Food Accountability Programme Coordinator, FIAN International Secretariat, also highlighted recent important achievements in the global strategic framework for the work of the CFS, but highlighted “one central challenge: implementation.”

    “We need to use it,” he said. “It was not easy to achieve [and] we need to work together on this.”

    Rev. Dr Tolbert Jallah, General Secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in Western Africa, exhorted action by people of faith: “God’s love for the poor does not imply acceptance of their situation.”

    New Board of Directors

    The newly elected board of directors will oversee a process of nomination and appointment for new campaign strategy groups.

    Elected members of the new board include:

    The board will also include a representative from each of the new strategy groups to be set up to guide the two campaigns over the next period. Also serving on the board as ex officio are the EAA Executive Director, Peter Prove and, as approved by this Assembly, a representative of the World Council of Churches.

    Advocacy Challenges Ahead

    Speakers earlier in the Assembly set the context for joint Christian advocacy on critical global issues.

    Ms Beris Gwynne, Partnership Leader for Global Accountability, World Vision International, reflected that “A lot of righteous anger has been replaced with complacency – doing good is a nice thing to do.” Noting that many non-governmental organizations are themselves now “part of the system”, she said, “If we have sunk so low to allow our political leaders to leave people in poverty… we really need to be challenging ourselves as members of the Christian community, as people of faith.”

    Mr Craig Mokhiber, Chief, Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also highlighted global inequalities and a “global failure to base public policy on human rights considerations”, and indicated that poverty – and justice – “are not accidents of nature, but are a policy choice”. The current trend towards austerity economics was just the latest manifestation of this, he observed.

    Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary, World YWCA, underlined the political challenges that remain, remarking that there is “an accountability crisis”: “It is not the absence of naming [what needs to be done], it is an absence of delivering on the commitments that exist.”

    The fundamental challenge of tackling apathy and greed were highlighted by Msgr Vitillo in the words of Pope Francis: “The culture of comfort … makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial … In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference.”

    But the many societal, political, and economic challenges are all the more reason to act together, and to seek justice and peace, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches said, “One of the contributions we as Christians bring is to be critical and hopeful at the same time."

    For more information contact: Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, +44 7821 860 723.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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