COVID-19 has brought out the best of humanity. But also exposed a lot of hypocrisy about global health solidarity even as policies of national and sub-national selfishness have worsened inequalities. But in a tiny corner of India, the villagers didn’t lament their leaders nor their gods. They conquered the pandemic by taking matters into their own hands. Their lesson for the wider world is neither new nor complex. But easily overlooked in our sophisticated technocratic age. What can the world learn?
Mukesh Kapila – 31 August 2021 As Ethiopia’s civil war approaches its first deadly anniversary in November, there is, as yet, little prospect for peace. The underlying causes of the immediate conflict are bitterly contested and the essential conditions for solutions remain elusive. Geopolitical factors mean that the African Union and United Nations are paralysed,Continue reading “Health in the crosshairs of the Tigray conflict”
Experience shows there are no shortcuts, quick-fixes, avoiding tackling underlying causes and ignoring the bringing of justice and healing to end a war & sustain #peace. Also, while all wars eventually end, how long and viciously a war is fought has a direct bearing on the quality of peace that follows.
When #genocide acts are part of the warmaking, forging peace is substantially more difficult.
What are these and other lessons from war and peace around Africa and the world?
Will #Ethiopia #Tigray learn? And others engaged in endless conflicts in so many places.
Mukesh Kapila – 9 August 2021 The Ethiopian government has suspended the activities of three foreign humanitarian organisations which had been working in the Tigray region. Moina Spooner, from The Conversation Africa, asked Mukesh Kapila, a specialist in humanitarian affairs, to provide insights into the challenges humanitarian agencies face and what can be done to better support them.Continue reading “Comply or leave: the dilemma facing humanitarian agencies”
What is the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on what were once the universal and benign values of health? Our health is now a matter of national security and we are all conscripted as soldiers.
Today’s soldiers are smart. They launch missiles and drones from a safe distance behind computer screens. And when they are obliged to venture out, they are forewarned by intelligence and well protected by their armour.
In contrast, more and more civilian aid workers, protected by little more than their sense of righteousness, serve at chaotic frontlines, and are pressured to bear witness and provide succour…come what may. Unsurprisingly, some of them are bound to be harmed.
But it is not just being in the wrong place that puts humanitarian workers at risk.There is increasing mistrust of the humanitarian enterprise either because its practitioners are not so scrupulous nowadays or their efforts can be easily abused for other ends. Besides, in a world of impunity where bad behaviour is a norm and there is rarely any accountability for hurting aid worker, it is simple to target humanitarian access as part of warmaking tactics.
Could it be that it is not random bombs and bullets but the erosion and abuse of humanitarian principles (including by careless humanitarians themselves) that is killing more of them?
The silence of good men like the UN Secretary-General encourages despots and dictators and betrays the most desperate people on the plant. Why has Antonio Guterres degraded his high office by cancelling himself?
When the world is not able to travel, distances of the heart grow faster than bodily distances. And we understand less and less about places not visited. Terrible atrocities can then flourish so easily behind closed borders. Worst of all, as our worldview shrinks, we stop caring and growing ourselves. The sooner the world re-opens, the better for both our sanity and our common humanity.
Is genocide unfolding in Tigray? Against the Rohingya? Against Uyghurs? Does using the G word still have the moral authority to summon help? Have genocides ever been prevented? Before invoking ‘genocide’, what exactly is it? Is the Genocide Convention still stuck in the 1940s, while dictators and despots find ever more clever ways to get around the definition? Reflections here from my own personal journeys through genocide – some even as they were underway.
11 May 2021 – Mukesh Kapila Growing up in the famine-affected Indian state of Bihar in the 1960s, I recall my mother’s eulogy of gratitude to America for sending us food aid. But my childish mind translated the accompanying sense of national humiliation into a dislike of the foreign donor who I knew only from schoolContinue reading “Will Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce be good for philanthropy?”
When confronted by egregious human rights abuses, or war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide, does speaking up make any difference? Especially if words are not followed by action? There are at least four reasons why it is still crucial to speak out, and how doing so can be effective. Also what matters is the pedestal of the speaker. The higher that is, the greater their responsibility to speak out. Of course,the rhetoric-reality gap is often vast and it is easy to get cynical. But silence or ambivalence kill and destroy much more. So, speak up clearly and loudly to wake up even the dead.
With a multitude of Observance Days, Weeks, and Months, the calendar is cluttered with commemoration events. Why do we do that? Is that too much? Or are they useful micro reminders in our age of diminished attention spans on how we can do good – a day at a time?
Humanitarian business is booming worldwide as disasters, conflicts, and crises reach record levels. So, the appointment of the world’s chief humanitarian officer by the United Nations Secretary-General is of crucial interest to all who care about humanity. What type of person should fill this mandate?
Universal coverage with COVID-19 vaccination is essential to control the pandemic and sustain recovery. What current issues will determine our success? Will the post COVID-19 world be a better one?
Internet shutdowns and censorship diminish scope for meaningful conversations. A world muted in this way is a dangerous one
The old Silk Roads went everywhere but today’s version – the Belt and Road – leads only to Beijing Those seeking quick no-questions-asked prosperity by rushing along it should open their eyes wider, the closer they get to the destination. They should also expect the ride to get more bumpy.
Are you an optimist or pessimist? Who copes better during these troubled times and contributes more usefully to humanity?
Hindsight 2020 and Foresight 2021 are much the same. This critical “review of reviews” analyses the true state of the world at the end of this tumultuous year and posits that the next year will be much the same. Can #COVID19 be fully blamed for all the world’s afflictions? Before the pandemic the world was already crumbling fast and progress on all fronts of development, environment, health, humanitarian and human rights had faltered or regressed. To make future progress self and collective delusions have to be torn away to grip the sad realties most people are mired in and the tough challenges we face
How to give thanks for all that we have the good fortune to enjoy is a complex business and how do we do this in the COVID-19 era? Thanksgivings from around the world give us a clue on the art and science of doing it right.
Three cheers for the new Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. Because an unequal world where some are allowed to retain offensive nuclear capabilities while others can’t acquire them, is unfair and bound to be inherently unstable.
18 October 2020 – Mukesh Kapila The recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the World Food Programme (WFP) triggered mixed reactions. WFP’s humanitarian efforts certainly deserve applause. At the same time, questions arise. Do already privileged organisations doing their mandated jobs need such affirmation? More fundamentally, should humanitarian and peace efforts be confounded?Continue reading “Peace continues to elude the Nobel Prize”
Reflections on the millionth death from #COVID-19.
25 September 2020 – Mukesh Kapila Today, during the General Assembly marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights organises a high-level event on participation as a human right when tackling global challenges. A recent seminar by PlatformA and the Parliamentary Assembly of the MediterraneanContinue reading “Trading-off human rights with public health in the name of COVID-19”
Will the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response restore the world’s trust in the fractured post COVID-19 global health system?
17 September 2020 – Mukesh Kapila Some ten months after the first case was reported from Wuhan and, as the world COVID-19 meter clicks on relentlessly towards 30 million confirmed SARS-COV-2 infections, the Independent Panel For Pandemic Preparedness and Response meets for the first time today. It’s leisurely gestation has not matched the rapid evolutionContinue reading “Will the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response restore the world’s trust in the fractured post COVID-19 global health system?”
1 July 2017 – Mukesh Kapila Dr Tedros should steer clear of vertical disease programmes pushed by donors, be prepared for his authority to be questioned, and tighten the purse strings The first ever African director general of the World Health Organisation assumes office on Saturday. The election of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, or as he isContinue reading “Six jobs the new World Health Organisation leader should prioritise”
9 May 2017 – Mukesh Kapila Medical science has never been so productive and yet health inequalities have never been wider – more of the same is not an option Does it matter who heads the World Health Organization (WHO)? Yes, say West Africans badly let down by WHO’s feeble response to the Ebola epidemic. Yes, say Darfuris, whoseContinue reading “We need a revolution in mindsets at the top of the World Health Organization”
12 January 2017 – Mukesh Kapila It’s time to end this cruel roulette over the life and death of people in need and tighten our definition of humanitarianism. Are humanitarians demanding too much? The latest catalogue of human misery seeks $22.2bn for 92.8 million people in 33 countries. This consolidated humanitarian appeal for 2017 is the largest-everContinue reading “Humanitarians need to do less to do more”
9 August 2016 – Mukesh Kapila The much hyped, first-ever World Humanitarian Summit has come and gone. Convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, 9000 participants from 173 countries assembled in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016. They included 55 heads of state and government, and hundreds of civil society, NGO, academic, and private sector organizations. Issuing aContinue reading “If We Fail in Health We Fail Overall”
7 May 2016 – Jakaya Kikwete & Mukesh Kapila The first ever World Humanitarian Summit will be convened in Istanbul by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 23-24 May 2016. This comes with the recognition that the world’s response to humanitarian crises is itself in crisis, as conflicts seem to go on for ever, record numbers ofContinue reading “Global Health: Our Moral Compass in a World of Crisis”
1 January 2016 – Mukesh Kapila On the 27th of January 1945 Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. That is why today is designated Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations to recall the Nazi-perpetrated genocide that killed some 6 million Jews, 1 million Roma, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men. We also remember today the victimsContinue reading “Remembering Darfur: The World’s Longest Running Genocide”
5 February 2015 – Mukesh Kapila The first General Assembly of the United Nations – born out of the horrors of the Second World War – met in January 1946 in London’s Central Hall at Westminster. After being welcomed by British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to “this ancient home of liberty and order”, the UN’s first sessionContinue reading “Remembering through Your Gut”
18 January 2015 – Mukesh Kapila Martha is my guardian angel: her job is to keep me safe. She giggles as she dresses me. It takes a good 20 minutes, as I am not known for my physical coordination skills. Boots, two layers of gloves, impermeable gown, mask, goggles, and helmet: the outfit costs $100,Continue reading “Love in the Time of Ebola”
8 January 2015 – Mukesh Kapila Two-year old Emile, otherwise known by the undignified label ‘patient zero’, succumbed to Ebola in the small village of Meliandou in Guinea in December 2013 and then so did his sister, mother, and grandmother. Neighbours who came for the funerals helped spread it through traditional, but now unsafe, burialContinue reading “Where Chlorine Is Your Best Friend”
26 December 2014 – Mukesh Kapila Ten years ago, the Indian Ocean Tsunami was triggered by one of the largest-ever earthquakes. With a mind-boggling magnitude 9.1-9.3 on the Richter scale, it lasted for a record ten minutes and literally shook the world: vertical earth movements of 1 centimetre or more were recorded on the oppositeContinue reading “Shall Not Perish: Remembering the Indian Ocean Tsunami”
23 December 2014 – Mukesh Kapila Zambia is getting to grips with its AIDS crisis thanks to the millions of dollars in donor aid allowing the country to make anti-retroviral treatment universally available. But these precious drugs can often stay in hospitals and clinics while most of the population is scattered across a vast landscapeContinue reading “How Mary Saves the World – One Life at a Time”
10 November 2014 – Mukesh Kapila The people who suffer most are often the most generous. I experienced this as I sat in my Landcruiser marooned in the sea of mud on what passed as the main highway in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. The tractor accompanying us – precisely for such eventuality – hadContinue reading “Generous Hearts and Stubborn Minds”
26 October 2014 – Mukesh Kapila “senseless act of kindness’’ which took me to its author Vasily Grossman and his magisterial novel: Life and Fate. This is a near-forgotten jewel of Russian literature. His translator Robert Chandler provides this introduction, quoting from Grossman himself: “We would do well to remember every time we hear promises of a newContinue reading “In Celebration of Senseless Acts of Kindness”
24 May 2014 – Mukesh Kapila The world’s newest country – the Republic of South Sudan – is fighting to survive. As a refugee put it: “Does my country still exist if we are all dead or have fled?” To give urgent life support to South Sudan was the aim of the donor conference convenedContinue reading “South Sudan: Struggling to Stay Alive”
15 May 2014 – Mukesh Kapila This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The theme of the official commemorations – Kwibuka20 – asks the world to stand against genocide in three ways : To remember by honouring the memory of those who died and offering support to those who survived To uniteContinue reading “Lessons from a Personal Journey through the Genocide in Rwanda”
8 May 2014 – Mukesh Kapila Letter to Henry Dunant, father of the Red Cross, born 8 May 1828, died 30 Oct 1910 Dear Henry, We commemorate your birthday today – 8 May – as World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. If you were alive now, you would be 186 years old. But you areContinue reading “Whither humanitarianism? Reflections on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day”
21 March 2012 – Mukesh Kapila My warnings about Darfur were ignored – concerted international action is needed to save Sudan’s Nuba from the same fate. As the engines of the Sudanese Antonov bomber grew louder, everyone started running for their lives: mothers shouting for their children, the little ones screaming in fear. As theContinue reading “Is Sudan committing another genocide – against the Nuba people?”
2 August 2011 – Mukesh Kapila As the MDG 2015 deadline looms closer, could we not aspire to do more, do better and reach further, by shaping a new development model for post-2015? What would that be and what should the next generation of development goals look like? Does anyone still remember the excitement ofContinue reading “Rethinking progress: A new development paradigm and goals for critical global challenges”
8 January 2003 – Mukesh Kapila One aspect of recent, and possible future wars, is the debate on money. How much will it cost? Where will the money come from? In the humanitarian world there is no such process. Of all the major public endeavors — war, welfare, science and so on — the financingContinue reading “Everywhere : Time for a humanitarian compact”