Reflexiones de Pax (1951-1976)

[Articulos Individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Invierno 2020 se publican dos veces blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

El hombre de Pax “es un obrero cristiano pacifista a favor de otros en el nombre de Cristo…. En su mejor momento, se olvida de sí mismo, pensando solo en los demás…
El hombre de Pax no construye puentes de entendimiento y buena voluntad entre los pueblos y comuniones dando conferencias o predicando, sino a través de demostraciones prácticas, a través del trabajo físico duro.

—Peter Dyck, “Pax Bridge Builders,” Euro-Pax News, agosto 1959.

Todos los trabajadores que han pasado dos o más años trabajando en un área de necesidad y con personas en una tierra y cultura diferentes no regresarán igual que antes. Para muchos de ellos, esta es una escuela de ‘golpes duros’….
De esta escuela, inevitablemente, va a salir algún hombre bien temperado y probado, en quien la Iglesia puede buscar liderazgo en el futuro.

—Harry Martens

Inaugurado en 1951, el programa Pax del CCM proporcionó diversas oportunidades de servicio para cientos de hombres jóvenes (y algunas mujeres jóvenes) en muchos contextos de todo el mundo, incluyendo proyectos de ayuda y reconstrucción después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial en Europa, asistencia humanitaria a personas refugiadas palestinas en la Ribera Occidental controlada por Jordania, la construcción de una carretera a través de la región del Chaco en Paraguay y el trabajo de desarrollo comunitario en Grecia, Bolivia y Congo. Los últimos trabajadores de Pax concluyeron su servicio en 1976. Para la mayoría de los trabajadores de Pax, su participación en Pax cumplía con las obligaciones de servicio alternativo a través del programa I-W de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, el CCM buscó que el programa Pax no fuera solo una alternativa al servicio militar, un programa para “cristianos reclutados”, sino una forma proactiva de testimonio cristiano de paz con “voluntarios dispuestos a ir la segunda milla”. Los extractos de los informes, boletines y actas de conferencia de Pax abajo destacadas ofrecen ventanas a los gozos, desafíos y motivaciones de los hombres y mujeres que sirvieron con Pax. Estas reflexiones e informes extraídos muestran a los trabajadores de Pax evaluando sus esfuerzos como testigos cristianos, como una forma proactiva de no resistencia, como una forma alternativa de servicio a los Estados Unidos y como una contribución a los esfuerzos anticomunistas. Las “matronas” de Pax, que formaron hogares fuera del hogar para los “chicos” de Pax, reflexionan sobre cómo su trabajo de cocinar, limpiar y remendar la ropa ofreció un testimonio cristiano, a pesar de que estas mujeres de Pax también estaban empujando más allá las expectativas de género para el servicio. Finalmente, estas reflexiones muestran a los trabajadores de Pax entendiendo su servicio como una forma de educación transformadora, una “escuela de golpes duros” que abrió nuevos entendimientos y pasiones por el servicio cristiano.

Pax como servicio cristiano

El hombre de Pax “es un obrero cristiano pacifista a favor de otros en el nombre de Cristo…. En su mejor momento, se olvida de sí mismo, pensando solo en los demás…
El hombre de Pax no construye puentes de entendimiento y buena voluntad entre los pueblos y comuniones dando conferencias o predicando, sino a través de demostraciones prácticas, a través del trabajo físico duro.
—Peter Dyck, “Pax Bridge Builders,” Euro-Pax News, agosto 1959.

Desde que estoy en Pax, siento que mi crecimiento y desarrollo como cristiano se ha incrementado enormemente, a través del compañerismo con jóvenes de la misma fe y al conversar sobre la Biblia con ellos. A través de estas conversaciones aprendemos a conocer mejor a nuestro Señor. Que el Señor nos bendiga mientras cada uno de nosotros trabaja en sus viñedos.—Richard Lambright, “Informe de actividad”, Tsakones, Grecia, 7 de marzo de 1956.

Le Fever, un hombre Pax, trabaja en un proyecto de vivienda en Bielefeld, Alemania en 1957. El programa Pax del CCM funcionó principalmente como una opción de servicio alternativa para los objetores de conciencia reclutados en el servicio militar de EE. UU. de 1951 hasta 1975. Algunos hombres de Canadá también participaron, a pesar de que en Canadá no existía el reclutamiento forzado. (Foto del CCM).

Para mí, Pax fue lo último en servicio. Por supuesto, significó sacrificio, al menos en nombre, como perder dos años de ingresos, vender un lindo Ford del 41 y dejar amigos y familiares. Pero sabía que valdría la pena. Las oportunidades para la aventura, aprender nuevos idiomas y aprender sobre personas de otras culturas, y ver el histórico ‘Viejo Mundo’ fueron privilegios que incluso los líderes del programa reconocieron y nos otorgaron. Entonces, ¿por qué no ir? …Pero aún había una razón más profunda por la que elegí a Pax, un motivo muy básico… Este era el deseo de devolver el amor de Dios haciendo algo constructivo por otra persona. Pax me brindó esta oportunidad.
—David Burkholder, “Why a Man Goes Pax”, Youth’s Christian Companion, 16 de septiembre de 1962.

Los hombres PAX deben estar impregnados con la verdad de que, en primer lugar, son personas de Servicio Voluntario. No son‘cristianos reclutados’, sino más bien ‘voluntarios dispuestos a ir la segunda milla’. …PAX no debería ser dos años que superar, sino dos años llenos de oportunidades y trabajo desafiante. El compañero PAX debe crecer internamente y contribuir positivamente durante estos dos años.
“Sugerencias de operación de Pax”.

Pax como servicio alternativo al país

Ser un patriota significa contribuir lo mejor que podamos al bienestar de nuestra nación y esta es nuestra posición activa de paz en lugar de tomar las armas.
—Omar Lapp, Backnang, Alemania, 13 de agosto de 1955.

[Los europeos] se dan cuenta de que estamos aquí para ayudarlos a vivir mejor, pero al mismo tiempo se dan cuenta de que estamos aquí en lugar de estar en una división de las fuerzas armadas. Podríamos hacer bien en preguntarnos si estaríamos haciendo este tipo de servicio si no fuera parte de nuestro requisito para con el gobierno de los Estados Unidos.
—Robert Beyeler a Robert Good, “Informe de actividad”, 28 de mayo de 1960.

Soy un hombre Pax porque creo que Cristo estaba diciendo la verdad cuando propuso que amar a tus enemigos y bendecir a quienes te maldicen es el camino de Dios. Creo que el amor de Cristo es práctico. Este amor no solo puede hacer milagros en el corazón de un individuo. Es la respuesta a la sospecha, al miedo y a la desconfianza que generalmente termina en violencia.

—Jim Juhnke

Estas pequeñas aldeas en las montañas [de Grecia] siempre han sido un terreno fértil y una tierra de nadie para las facciones que participan en la guerra civil. Los rebeldes comunistas encontraron seguridad en las montañas sobre las aldeas y continuaron recibiendo refuerzos de simpatizantes comunistas ubicados al otro lado de la frontera de Yugoslavia a menos de 10 millas de distancia. La ideología comunista recibió seguidores de las filas de los pobres agricultores refugiados debido a su bajo nivel de vida. La necesidad de eliminar las causas del comunismo es uno de los mayores desafíos que enfrenta el cristianismo en la actualidad. Eliminar las causas de la guerra presenta una gran oportunidad para nuestro testimonio de paz. —Dwight Wiebe, “Status of Pax Greece 1955”.

Creo que este es el momento para que el mundo cristiano demuestre el amor de Dios en contraste con el miedo comunista. Esta es una oportunidad real para nosotros como Iglesia Menonita para ayudar a satisfacer físicamente las necesidades de nuestro prójimo, pero también ministrar a su necesidad espiritual al dar testimonio del amor de Cristo.
—Arthur Driedger en un hogar para refugiados húngaros en Klosterneuburg- Weidling, Austria

Pax como testimonio de paz

Hablamos con soltura del amor de Dios. Imprimimos, “En Dios confiamos” en nuestras monedas. Pero no confiamos en Dios. Confiamos en ametralladoras, misiles balísticos y bombas H. Confiamos en los 40 mil millones de dólares que damos cada año para la defensa. Creemos que si no fuera por nuestros ejércitos, las fuerzas del mal se apoderarían de las principales partes del mundo. Entonces pagamos nuestros impuestos y nos escondemos detrás de la débil protección que pueden comprar. …Soy un hombre Pax porque creo que Cristo estaba diciendo la verdad cuando propuso que amar a tus enemigos y bendecir a quienes te maldicen es el camino de Dios. Creo que el amor de Cristo es práctico. Este amor no solo puede hacer milagros en el corazón de un individuo. Es la respuesta a la sospecha, al miedo y a la desconfianza que generalmente termina en violencia.
—Jim Juhnke, “A Paxer´s Testimony”, 11 de mayo de 1959.

¿Cuál es el papel y responsabilidad del cristiano en este asunto bastante confuso de la construcción de la paz? Una cosa debe estar clara: para los cristianos, la paz no es un negocio sino una vida cristiana. No es un movimiento, sino obediencia, no una estrategia, sino discipulado, no una posición, sino una Persona. Pax no es simplemente otro movimiento o manifestación por la paz. Los hombres Pax son ejemplos vivos de paz, que demuestran el amor de Dios en el corazón y en la vida. Un programa de servicio cristiano como Pax es una respuesta natural al amor de Dios ante la necesidad humana. Somos pacificadores porque somos Sus hijos.
—Roy Kauffman, “Pax Men as Peacemakers”.

Seguimos pensando que es un milagro que se estén construyendo puentes sobre los escombros y ruinas de una tierra a otra, y que podamos unir manos. Y estas manos no están vacías, sino llenas; la gente se está ayudando mutuamente y el pasado difícil y cruel se está olvidando lentamente. Estamos especialmente contentos de descubrir que los niños, que han sufrido más que las personas mayores, reciben una consideración especial por parte de los Amigos estadounidenses — otra muestra de una relación humana nueva y sincera.
—Carta del alcalde de Wedel, Alemania, a la oficina del CCM en Frankfurt/Main, 4 de enero de 1955.

Mujeres en Pax

Respira allí un hombre PAX
con el alma tan muerta,
Quien nunca a sí mismo ha dicho:
¡Las matronas fueron hechas en el cielo!

“Un tributo a nuestras matronas”, hombre Pax anónimo

A los chicos les gusta mucha variedad en sus comidas y son sorprendentemente aventureros en su alimentación. Les gusta una casa limpia, pero también una que sea habitable… Aunque se dan cuenta de que la matrona nunca podrá caber en los zapatos de sus madres, siempre quieren un hogar lejos del hogar. Espero haber podido darles uno.
—Joyce Shutt, matrona en Enkenbach, Alemania, “Reflections of a PAX Matron”.

J. Lester Yoder, hombre Pax, de Belleville, Pennsylvania, le muestra un cerdo a un granjero griego en 1962. El programa de agricultura del CCM introdujo cerdos de raza pura a los agricultores en Grecia a fines de la década de 1950, y los trabajadores de Pax brindaron capacitación y orientación sobre la cría de cerdos. Los participantes del programa debían construir un albergue para cerdos y un recinto resistente para calificar para el programa. (Foto del CCM / V. Cross).

Por la noche me retiro a mi habitación y reflexiono sobre los acontecimientos del día. Sí, he estado ocupada. No se han desperdiciado muchos minutos. Sin embargo, no me siento satisfecha y no puedo evitar preguntarme: ¿hay realmente un propósito por el cual estar aquí? Es cierto que a los muchachos les gusta venir por una comida sustanciosa después de un día de duro trabajo, pero ¿será que hacer comidas y limpiar pisos son mi único propósito para estar aquí? Me gusta pensar que no. De ser así, estos dos años serían una pérdida de tiempo y esfuerzo. Entonces mis pensamientos se alejan del trabajo de mi día y empiezo a pensar en los compañeros. Están aquí porque creen que el mal en este mundo nunca se puede corregir con la fuerza y el derramamiento de sangre. Están aquí no solo porque no creen en la guerra, sino porque creen en la paz. Están aquí porque conocen a un Salvador que nos enseña a amar a todos las personas y hacerles el bien. Entonces me pregunto: ¿Cuál es mi propósito por el cual estoy aquí? Mis pensamientos se vuelven más firmes y empiezo a ver y comprender el propósito. Estoy aquí porque creo como lo hacen los muchachos. Entonces, si puedo hacer algo para fortalecer esa creencia, hacer que su estadía sea más placentera, ayudarlos en su esfuerzo por construir un poco del reino de los cielos aquí en la tierra, sentiré que mi tiempo ha ha valido la pena.
—Anne Driedger, matrona de Pax en Bechterdissen bei Bielefeld, This is Not a Dream!” European Relief Notes, enero de 1956.

Debo dominar el arte de decir cosas agradables, no debo esperar demasiado de mi prójimo, debo hacer que mi trabajo sea amable y agradable, debo ayudar a los miserables, simpatizar con los tristes y nunca olvidar que una palabra amable, una sonrisa o una acción amorosa cuesta poco pero son tesoros para los demás. No es solo mi deber, sino más bien mi privilegio ser y hacer estas cosas, revelando a los demás que la no resistencia es significativa para mí y con la ayuda de Dios la vivo a diario.
—Tina Warkentin, “What Non-Resistance Means to Me.” 10 de febrero de 1959.

El Servicio Voluntario del CCM en Corea requiere “algo de glamour, algo de ampliación de experiencia, algo de aprendizaje nuevo y mucha dedicación y trabajo duro”.
—Lydia Schlabach, enfermera en Seúl, Corea, 1962.

Nuestros compañeros hacen un trabajo maravilloso en la construcción de nuevas casas, pero ¿no han oído hablar de las chicas del CCM que ayudan a las chicas de la aldea a construir y reparar su ropa?. Los granjeros de Pax ayudan a los granjeros de la aldea a mezclar alimentos y hacer silos, mientras que las damas de Pax ayudan a las amas de casa de la aldea a familiarizarse con nuevas recetas. Así como los hombres conversan sobre problemas personales con los hombres, las mujeres conversan preocupaciones personales con las mujeres.
—Lois Martin, matrona de Pax en Grecia, 1962.

Pax como escuela transformadora

El trabajador de Pax, Joe Haines, lleva a Ibrahim, uno de los niños más pequeños
en el Orfanato y escuela de Hebrón, Ribera Occidental en Después de que Joe Haines completara su asignación de Pax en el Orfanato de Hebrón, se convirtió en supervisor del programa de educación del CCM en la Ribera Occidental controlada por Jordania en (Foto del CCM / Ernest
Lehman).

No hace falta decir que todos los trabajadores que han pasado dos o más años trabajando en un área de necesidad y con personas en una tierra y cultura diferente no regresarán igual que antes. Para muchos de ellos esta es una escuela de “golpes duros”. Están lejos de sus hogares cómodos, de una tierra de abundancia y ahora viven en circunstancias muy modestas y día tras día ven la necesidad humana y la desesperación. …De esta escuela, inevitablemente, va a salir algún hombre bien temperado y probado, en quien la Iglesia pueda buscar liderazgo en el futuro”.
—Harry Martens, “You Are My Witnesses”

El hombre Pax regresa a casa con un odio por el materialismo y una pasión por la paz y la acción social. Siente que tiene un destello de verdad que no se puede perder, e intentará expresarlo cada vez que tenga la oportunidad.
—Por el Editor, “Paxman Come Home,” Youth’s Christian Companion, 16 de septiembre de 1962.

Compilado por Alain Epp Weaver (director del departamento de Planificación, Aprendizaje y Respuesta a Desastres del CCM), junto con Frank Peachey y Lori Wise (administrador y asistente de Registros del CCM EE. UU. respectivamente).


Pax MCC. http://www.paxmcc.com/.

Redekop, Calvin W. The European Mennonite Voluntary Service: Youth Idealism in Post-World War II Europe.

Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2010. Redekop, Calvin. The Pax Story: Service in the Name of Christ, 1951-1976. Telford, PA: Pandora Press, 2001.

Reflections from Pax (1951-1976)

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[Individual articles from the Winter 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

“Being caught in East Berlin without passports, handing out Christmas bundles to the ‘less fortunate,’ living with and learning to know European Mennonite students, eating goat meat with an Arab Sheikh, and seeing the new year in with prayer under the light of Greek stars: this is Pax, this is your experience, this is mine.”
—Pax Newsletter, January 20, 1959

All workers who have spent two or more years working in an area of need and with a people in a different land and culture will not return the same as they went. To many of them, this is a school of ‘hard knocks.’ …Out of this school there cannot help but come some well-tempered and tried man whom the Church may look to for leadership in the future.

Harry Martens

Inaugurated in 1951, MCC’s Pax program provided varied service opportunities for hundreds of young men (and some young women) in many contexts around the world, including post-World War II relief and reconstruction projects in Europe, humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank, the construction of a highway through Paraguay’s Chaco region and community development work in Greece, Bolivia and Congo. The last Pax workers concluded their service in 1976. For most Pax workers, participation in Pax fulfilled alternative service obligations through the United States’ I-W program. Yet MCC sought for the Pax program to be not only an alternative to military service, a program for “conscripted Christians,” but a proactive form of Christian peace witness staffed by “willing second-milers.” The excerpts from Pax reports, newsletters and conference proceedings below offer windows into the joys, challenges and motivations of the men and women who served with Pax. These excerpted reflections and reports show Pax workers assessing their efforts as Christian witness, as a proactive form of nonresistance, as an alternative form of service to the United States and as a contribution to anti-Communist efforts. Pax “matrons,” who made homes away from home for Pax “boys,” reflect on how their work of cooking, cleaning and mending clothes offered a Christian witness, even as these Pax women also pushed beyond gendered expectations of service. Finally, these reflections show Pax workers understanding their service as a form of transformative education, a “school of hard knocks” that opened up new understandings of and passions for Christian service.

Pax as Christian service

The Pax man “is a Christian pacifist worker for others in the name of Christ. …At his best, he forgets self, thinking only of others.… The Pax man does not build bridges of understanding and goodwill between peoples and communions by lecturing or preaching but through practical demonstration,through hard physical labor.”
—Peter Dyck, “Pax Bridge Builders,” Euro-Pax News, August 1959

“Our men, like St. Francis, are preaching many sermons as they ‘walk’ among the villagers, thereby winning their way into the hearts and confidence of the people. If we were competent in all the technical skills and in all the principles of community development, and failed to reach the Greeks as we have, we could not consider our program a success.”
—William Snyder, “Executive Evaluates Greece Program”

“Since being in Pax I feel that my growth and development as a Christian has been greatly increased, through fellowshipping with young fellows of the same faith and by discussing the Bible with them. Through these discussions we learn to know our Lord better. May the Lord bless us as each one of us labors in His vineyards.”
—Richard Lambright, “Activity Report,” Tsakones, Greece, March 7, 1956

“To me Pax was the ultimate in service. Of course, it meant sacrifice, in name at least, such as losing two years’ income, selling a sharp ’41 Ford, and leaving friends and family. But I knew it would be worth it. The opportunities for adventure, learning new languages and learning about peoples of other culture, and seeing the historic ‘Old World’ were privileges that even the leaders of the program recognized and granted us. So, why not go?… But there was still a deeper reason why I chose Pax, a very basic motive… This was the desire to return God’s love by doing something constructive for someone else. Pax provided just this opportunity.”
—David Burkholder, “Why a Man Goes Pax,” Youth’s Christian Companion, September 16, 1962

“PAX men should be impregnated with the truth that they are in the first place Voluntary Service people. They are not ‘drafted Christians’, but rather ‘willing second-milers.’ . . . . PAX should not be two years to get over with, but two years packed with opportunities and challenging work. The PAX fellow should grow inwardly and contribute positively during these two years.”
— “Pax Operation Suggestions”

Pax as alternative service to country

“To be a patriot means to contribute the best we can to the welfare of our nation, and this is our active peace position rather than taking up arms.” —Omar Lapp, Backnang, Germany, August 13, 1955

Pax man, LeFever, works at a housing project in Bielefeld, Germany in 1957. The MCC Pax program functioned primarily as an alternative service option for conscientious objectors drafted into U.S. military service from 1951 to 1975. A few men from Canada also participated, even though Canada had no draft. (MCC photo)

“[The Europeans] realize that we are here to help them have a better living, but at the same time realize that we are here instead of being in a branch of the armed forces. We might do well to ask ourselves whether we would be doing this type of service if it were not part of our requirement towards the United States government.”
—Robert Beyeler to Robert Good, “Activity Report,” May 28, 1960

“These small mountain villages [in Greece] have always been a breeding ground and a no-man’s land for factions participating in the civil war. Communist rebels found security in the mountains above the villages and continued to receive reinforcements from Communist sympathizers located across the border of Yugoslavia less than 10 miles away. The Communist ideology received followers from the ranks of the poor refugee farmers because of their low standard of living. The need for removing the causes of Communism is one of the greatest challenges confronting Christianity today. Removing the causes for war presents a great opportunity for our Peace witness.”
—Dwight Wiebe, “Status of Pax Greece 1955”

“I believe that this is the time for the Christian World to demonstrate the Love of God in contrast to Communist fear. This is a real opportunity for us as a Mennonite Church to help meet the needs of our fellowman physically, but minister also to his spiritual need by witnessing of the love of Christ.”
—Arthur Driedger at a home for Hungarian refugees in Klosterneuburg-Weidling, Austria

Pax as peace witness

“We speak glibly of the love of God. We print, ‘In God we trust’ on our coins. But we don’t trust God. We trust machine guns, ballistic missiles and H bombs. We trust in the $40 billion we give each year for defense. We believe that if it weren’t for our armies, evil forces would overtake major portions of the world. So we pay our taxes and hide behind the flimsy protection they can buy. . . . I am a Paxman because I believe that Christ was telling the truth when he proposed that loving your enemies and blessing them that curse you was the way of God. I believe that the love of Christ is practical. Not only can this love work miracles within the heart of an individual. It is the answer to suspicion, fear and mistrust which usually ends in violence.”
—Jim Juhnke, “A Paxer’s Testimony,” May 11, 1959

I am a Paxman because I believe that Christ was telling the truth when he proposed that loving your enemies and blessing them that curse you was the way of God. I believe that the love of Christ is practical. Not only can this love work miracles within the heart of an individual. It is the answer to suspicion, fear and mistrust which usually ends in violence.

—jim juhnke

“What is the Christian’s role and responsibility in this rather confusing business of peacemaking? One thing should be clear: to the Christian peacemaking is not a business but Christian living. It is not a movement but obedience, not a strategy but discipleship, not a position but a Person. Pax is not merely another movement or demonstration for peace. Pax men are living examples for peace, demonstrating the love of God in heart and life. A Christian service program such as Pax is a natural response to God’s love in the face of human need. We are peacemakers because we are His children.”
—Roy Kauffman, “Pax Men as Peacemakers”

“We are still thinking that it is a miracle that bridges are being built over our wreckage and ruins from one land to another, and that we can clasp hands. And these hands are not empty, but filled; the people are helping each other and the difficult and wicked past is being slowly forgotten. We are especially happy to find that the children, who have suffered more than the older people, are being given special consideration by the American friends—another token of a new and sincere human relationship.”
—Letter from the Mayor of Wedel, Germany, to the MCC office in Frankfurt/Main, January 4, 1955

Women in Pax

Breathes there a PAX man
with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
Matrons are made in Heaven!

"A tribute to Our Matrons," anonymous Pax man


“The boys like lots of variety in their meals and are surprisingly adventurous in their eating. They like a clean house, but also one that is livable… Realizing that the matron will never be able to fit into their mothers’ shoes they still want a home away from home. I hope that I was able to give them one.”
—Joyce Shutt, matron in Enkenbach, Germany, “Reflections of a PAX Matron”

Paxman J. Lester Yoder, of Belleville, Pennsylvania, is showing a hog to a Greek farmer in 1962. MCC’s agriculture program introduced purebred hogs to farmers in Greece in the late 1950s, and Pax workers provided training and guidance in hog husbandry. Program participants were required to construct a hog house and sturdy enclosure to qualify for the program. (MCC photo/V. Cross)

“At night I retire to my room and ponder over the day’s happenings. Yes, I have been busy. Not many minutes have been wasted. However, I do not feel satisfied and can’t help wondering: is there really a purpose to my being here? True enough, the fellows like to come in for a substantial meal after a day of hard work. But is making meals and scrubbing floors my sole purpose for being here? I like to think not. Should such be the case, these two years would be wasted time and effort. Then my thoughts turn away from my day’s work and I begin to the think of the fellows They are here because they believe the wrong in this world can never be made right by force and bloodshed. They are here not merely because they don’t believe in war, but because they believe in peace. They are here because they know a Savior who teaches us to love all men and do good unto them. Then I ask myself ask: What is my purpose for being here? My thoughts become more settled and I begin to see and understand the purpose. I am here because I believe as the fellows do. Then if I can do anything to strengthen that belief, to make their stay more pleasant, to help them in their effort to build a bit of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, I shall feel that my time has been profitably spent.”
—Anne Driedger, Pax matron in Bechterdissen bei Bielefeld, “This is Not a Dream!” European Relief Notes, January 1956

“I must master the art of saying pleasant things, I must not expect too much from my fellowman, must make my work congenial and pleasant, I must help the miserable, sympathize with the sorrowful, and never forget that a kind word, a smile or a loving deed costs little but are treasures to others. It is not only my duty, but rather my privilege to be and do these things thereby revealing to others that non-resistance is meaningful to me and with God’s help I live it daily.”
—Tina Warkentin, “What Non-Resistance Means to Me,” February 10, 1959

MCC Voluntary Service in Korea involves “some glamour, some broadening of experience, some new learning, and a lot of dedication and hard work.” —Lydia Schlabach, nurse in Seoul, Korea, 1962

“Our fellows do wonderful work on construction of new houses, but haven’t you heard of the MCC girls who help village girls construct and mend their clothing? Pax farmers help village farmers mix feeds and make silos, while lady Paxers acquaint village housewives with new recipes. As men discuss personal problems with men, so women discuss personal concerns with the women.”
—Lois Martin, Pax matron in Greece, 1962

Pax as a transformative school

“It goes without saying that all workers who have spent two or more years working in an area of need and with a people in a different land and culture will not return the same as they went. To many of them this is a school of ‘hard knocks.’ They are away from comfortable homes, a land of plenty and now living under very modest circumstances and day after day see human need and despair. . . . Out of this school there cannot help but come some well-tempered and tried man whom the Church may look to for leadership in the future.”
—Harry Martens, “You Are My Witnesses”

“Mr. Paxman returns home with a hatred for materialism and a passion for peace and social action. He feels he has a gleam of truth that daren’t be lost, and he will try to put it across every chance he gets.”
—By the Editor, “Paxman Come Home,” Youth’s Christian Companion, September 16, 1962

Compiled by Alain Epp Weaver (director of MCC’s Planning, Learning and Disaster Response department), together with Frank Peachey and Lori Wise (MCC U.S. Records manager and assistant, respectively).


Pax MCC. http://www.paxmcc.com/

Redekop, Calvin W. The European Mennonite Voluntary Service: Youth Idealism in Post-World War II Europe. Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2010.

Redekop, Calvin. The Pax Story: Service in the Name of Christ, 1951-1976. Telford, PA: Pandora Press, 2001.

Advocacy as translation: representing partner voices

[Individual articles from the Fall 2018 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

MCC Canada’s Ottawa Office engages in advocacy to government on behalf of, and together with, MCC partners in Canada and around the world. We often describe our work as a two-sided coin. One side is political engagement. This is the work we do to speak directly to government and to the political system: through letters, face to face meetings, written or oral presentations to committees and more. The other side of the coin is public engagement: this is the work we do to help our constituents hear the stories, understand the issues and become advocates themselves.

We have found inspiration in the words of Samantha Baker Evens, a mission worker in Cambodia, who wrote: “We are not ‘a voice for the voiceless’—we lend our privilege as a megaphone.” In the Ottawa Office, we like to think of our advocacy work as amplifying the voices of our partners.

In representing the message of our partners to a wider audience, we often find that our work requires translation. We need to express the message in a way that both Canadian parliamentarians and constituents can understand and, we hope, act on. With parliamentarians, we translate concerns into the language of law and human rights; with constituents, we use the language of biblical theology and concepts such as justice, mercy and compassion.

We hope that in our translation we are bearing faithful witness to the advocacy message our partners urge us to speak. But sometimes we ask ourselves: Does it really do that Sometimes we wonder if our decisions about how to represent these voices is weakening or distorting their message. We wonder if, in our efforts to make the message work in the Canadian context, we are losing the essence of what our partners ask of us. A few examples illustrate this dilemma.

Some years ago, an MCC group travelled to Guatemala to learn about the activities of Canadian gold mining giant, Goldcorp, in the San Marcos region. While there, we heard about the mine’s contamination of water and soil, its tearing of the social fabric of the community and its failure to adequately consult with Indigenous people regarding the use of their land. We learned how the mine had devastated the community. At the end of the week, we sat together with local people who said clearly to us, “This mine is destroying our lives. Get rid of it.”

Our hearts sank. We knew there was no way we could get rid of the mine. We were only a small nongovernmental organization with a handful of advocacy staff. And, although we were part of a larger coalition back in Canada, we simply had no capacity or mandate to take on a mining corporation. What we could do was commit to pressing for changes in Canadian law that would make it much more difficult for companies like Goldcorp to act like it had in San Marcos.

Working with other advocacy groups back home, we had some success in pushing for corporate accountability. The Canadian government made it mandatory for companies to report all payments made to local authorities to gain mining contracts, with the aim of eliminating bribery. It also created the office of an independent ombudsperson to hear and adjudicate complaints by people harmed by Canadian corporate activity in their countries.

In that instance, we translated the messages we heard from MCC partners in Guatemala into requests for action that made sense and were achievable within the Canadian political system. We didn’t attempt to get rid of the mine. Should we have?

As indicated above, we also translate for our constituents. We do that, we say, to move people gently from their comfort zone and into their “learning zone,” rather than thrusting them into a “panic zone.” We translate our partners’ advocacy messages so that these messages can be heard by constituents who may feel deeply anxious or threatened when their worldview is turned upside down. An example from MCC’s work related to Palestine and Israel illustrates this dynamic.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society—including some of MCC’s Palestinian partners—initiated a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal human rights principles. From this call has emerged a global grassroots movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, popularly known as BDS. Palestinians and their Israeli allies have urged the international community to engage in academic and cultural boycotts and to undertake economic measures such as divestment and sanctions in order to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, to achieve equal rights for Palestinian citizens within Israel and to respect, promote and protect the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties. Over the years, some of MCC’s partners urged MCC to participate in and promote the BDS campaign. The Kairos Palestine document from 2009, written by Palestinian Christian leaders, also urges churches around the world to explore divestment and economic and commercial boycotts of goods related to Israel’s military occupation. Over more than a decade, MCC has organized learning tours for church leaders to Palestine to hear directly from Palestinian Christians and from Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, including from people who have pressed Mennonites to join the BDS movement. Some MCC boards, meanwhile, have taken steps to divest from companies connected to oppression of people, including the Israeli military occupation. Yet MCC has also determined that it will not take a position on the BDS movement, but will instead use other language and strategies to call for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.Cry for Home - english

A current campaign led by MCC in Canada is called “A Cry for Home.” The campaign calls for safe and secure homes—and a safe and secure homeland—for both Palestinians and Israelis. It invites Canadian constituents to consider the situation of Palestinian children in military detention and urges them to act by raising this issue with their Member of Parliament. Our hope is that the plight of Palestinian children will open the hearts and minds of both constituents and politicians, while also providing an entry point into the larger and deeper reality of occupation and oppression. How should MCC balance diverse, sometimes conflicting, partner perspectives on potentially contentious advocacy issues like this? How should MCC balance these various calls from partners with the diverse perspectives of its supporters?

As indicated at the outset, in “translating” for our constituents, we try to represent the messages of partners so that they can be heard, understood and acted upon by our constituents and to maintain strong support for MCC. Like many Christian nongovernmental organizations, MCC works hard to maintain a strong support to carry out its work of relief, development and peacebuilding in the name of Christ. Traditionally, MCC could count on strong and steady financial and other support from Anabaptist churches and households. Today, that support cannot simply be taken for granted. MCC must work hard to seek out and sustain its support. Thus it might feel easier to emphasize MCC’s relief and humanitarian assistance work over more potentially controversial initiatives, including advocacy work.

As Anabaptists in Canada and the U.S., we do not want to hear that we are implicated in other people’s suffering, whether through lifestyle choices, racial privilege, distorted theology, colonial history or support for unjust government policies. Advocacy messages that imply complicity—or that simply point to the realities of systemic injustice—not surprisingly sometimes encounter resistance. Yet it is often these very realities that partners call us to address. It takes courage for organizations like MCC to act out of solidarity and call for justice when doing so may harm the bottom line. I am grateful for the times MCC has acted courageously.

In summary, advocacy together with and on behalf of our partners requires that we translate their concerns so that politicians and constituents in Canada can comprehend and act on them. Doubts and questions about how we represent their stories will—and no doubt, should—always remain with us. Nevertheless, we hope and pray that our translation bears faithful witness to our partners and helps to amplify their voices and ultimately leads to greater justice and greater peace.

Esther Epp-Tiessen worked for MCC for over 28 years, most recently as public engagement coordinator for MCC Canada’s Ottawa Office.

Learn More

For information on MCC’s A Cry for Home campaign, visit MCC’s website: https://mcccanada.ca/cry-for-home.

 

What would justice look like?

[Individual articles from the Winter 2018 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Churches struggling for justice alongside Indigenous peoples sometimes ask: “What would justice look like?” The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), I would argue, provides answers to that question. UNDRIP articulates minimum standards for survival, dignity and well-being from an Indigenous point of view. Created by an international commission of Indigenous leaders to serve as a comprehensive body of policy that could be adopted by the nations of earth, UNDRIP can be incorporated into any national system of law or policy. Although the United Nations General Assembly adopted UNDRIP in 2007, the resolution is not legally binding on member states. Individual nations must incorporate it into their own legal and policy structures for it to become binding. While some nations have taken steps to do so, the United States has resisted adopting UNDRIP provisions.  Churches in the United States seeking justice for Indigenous peoples, I contend, should press for the U.S. to adopt UNDRIP provisions as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Indigenous leaders bothered to write minimum standards because many countries, including my own, have not provided survival, dignity or well-being to Indigenous peoples.

The U.S.’s historical and current policies toward Indigenous peoples serve as the backdrop of my life. Indigenous leaders created UNDRIP because many countries, including my own, have not provided survival, dignity or well-being to Indigenous peoples. My father, a Pueblo (Tewa), never knew his mother. In 1943, he was removed from his people at birth. He grew up in a home for Indian boys, subjected to habitual abuse, forced labor and malnutrition. He was not one of the exceptions that was able to rise above his conditions. As his daughter, I grew up facing abuse, homelessness and hunger. Like many Indigenous people of my generation, I came to understand my own story in middle age, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process that took place in Canada.

I learned much about the TRC from Chief Wilton Littlechild, whom I met in New York City at a World Council of Churches expert consultation in conjunction with the annual UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Chief Littlechild, a former member of Canadian parliament, was there as one of the three TRC commissioners. About a dozen of us sat in a small space, in the Church Center for the United Nations, in a room just big enough for the conference table at its center. A lifelong athlete, Wilton (known to his friends as Willie) is a tall, muscular man with a proud bearing. He filled the room, dwarfing the setting. Although he spoke quietly, the rest of us were overwhelmed by his presence and the power of his words.

Willie began by telling us about the furs and boots made for the children of his native village by their parents for protection of little bodies against the winter in the extreme north. School administrators seized and burned these furs and boots when taking children away from their families to live in compulsory residential schools. The residential school leaders deemed these lovingly crafted clothes to be the garments of savages, replacing them with cloth coats and shoes, inadequate against harsh winters. Teachers cut the braids from Indigenous boys’ heads. School administrators separated neighbors and even siblings. They forbade Indigenous children from speaking their tribal languages, inflicting corporal punishment on children who violated this norm. Teachers mocked and prohibited Indigenous spiritual practices.

All of this I knew already. But the visual image presented by Chief Littlechild of the piled-up boots and coats chilled me. Willie explained that these children knew viscerally that their comfort and protection were being stripped away. As he spoke, I pictured the piles of warm clothes heaped next to lines of exposed, humiliated children, shivering in their western clothes. Many would not see their families again until they were 18, and when they did, they would be unable to communicate with their parents, having been conditioned to speak only English. They would now lack the skills to survive in their Native communities. Willie endured this himself. He had watched his own leather and fur boots burn, the ones his mother had made for him. It hurt to witness the grief of a large and imposing man, a leader of his people, as he described a childhood of abuse and deprivation at the hands of the state.

Willie then began to describe the thousands of testimonies he had witnessed as a commissioner of the TRC. He recited the numbers of children who had died in residential schools. Of malnutrition. Of exhaustion and overwork. Of bodily injury from abuse. Of influenza and other viruses inadequately treated. Of criminal neglect. Many times, school administrators failed to inform parents that their children had died. Even when parents were informed, they were not given their children’s remains by the school. The TRC went about the macabre work of searching for thousands of tiny bodies buried in unmarked graves on residential school grounds.

Willie’s voice cracked as he described testimony after testimony where men stood and explained that they had never talked about what had happened to them at residential schools. Their stories of horror had rotted inside them. Many believed their parents would come for them and grew bitter waiting. Those who tried to run away were tied to their beds and beaten more severely for each attempt. Again and again, Willie heard fathers and mothers explain that they had never told their children, “I love you,” because they had become incapable of feeling or expressing love. Others explained how they had hurt their own children with either the constant rage they walked with or through emotional distance. TRC witnesses shared struggles with substance abuse and depression. Many wept openly, unable to control what had never been told before, sobbing so hard they could not speak.

As Willie spoke softly into that small room, the volume of his stories was deafening. I wept uncontrollably. I wanted to run from the room, and probably would have if I had had the space to maneuver around the awkward conference table. I wanted to cover my ears. For the first time, I understood my own story clearly. So much of what Willie shared of the testimony of survivors—the abuse, neglect and cruelty passed on to children—was the experience of my childhood. And I understood for the first time that my suffering and the suffering my father had endured growing up an orphan in a religious “boys home” were outcomes of U.S. domestic policy.

Most Americans are unaware of the history of compulsory boarding schools for Indigenous children in the United States. Children of Indigenous parents were forcibly removed as a matter of national policy, with the federal government paying Christian denominations to carry out the task of civilizing and assimilating Indigenous children. The work of Christianizing Indigenous children was believed to be the best way to relieve them of their Indigenous identities. Boarding schools in the United States existed until the 1990s: as a result, many Indigenous people my age and older grew up in boarding schools. Most people my age and older on the Yakama reservation, where I live, grew up in boarding schools, enduring childhoods without hope.

As an institution with moral authority, the Church has a mandate to express what justice could look like.

I often hear settler Christians who seek justice for Indigenous peoples ask: “But what can we do?” My answer: churches in the United States and Canada must press their governments to adopt the minimum standards for respecting Indigenous rights set out by Indigenous peoples in UNDRIP. Canada and the U.S. were two of the four countries that initially voted against the resolution when UNDRIP was passed. While Canada removed its objector status to the resolution in 2016 and the U.S. under the Obama administration in 2011 signaled its support for UNDRIP, the two countries have not adopted UNDRIP’s minimum standards into their laws. We are societies of laws. If we want to change our context, we are able, in our democracies, to change our laws. What would our countries look like we if we chose to incorporate UNDRIP’s minimum standards for recognizing Indigenous rights into our legal systems? As an institution with moral authority, the church is called to advocate for justice. Pressing the governments of Canada and the U.S. to adopt UNDRIP’s provisions is an essential way to follow the lead of and be accountable to Indigenous communities.

Sarah Augustine is the Executive Director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas Counties in Washington state and adjunct professor of sociology at Heritage University. A descendant of the Pueblo people, she chairs of the structures committee for the Anabaptist Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery.

Learn more

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Available at https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html

For more about the Indian Residential School system in Canada and the TRC, see the reports at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s web site: www.nctr.ca

The Washington Office encourages policy makers to enact legislation that acknowledges and addresses the injustices (both historical and ongoing) to the Indigenous peoples of this land. Currently, this involves protecting reservations against environmental disturbances such as border walls and pipelines and preserving Indigenous monuments. To take action, sign up for MCC action alerts at http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5764/signup_page/signup.

El fondo verde para el clima

[Articulos Individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Verano de 2017 se publicaran en este blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

El mayor sufrimiento por los impactos del cambio climático está siendo sentido por aquellas comunidades que ya tienen mayor necesidad—y que son las menos equipadas para responder eficazmente. Estas comunidades vulnerables son también las menos responsables de causar el cambio climático. Las naciones ricas, incluyendo a los Estados Unidos, son las principales responsables del cambio climático y, por lo tanto, tienen la obligación moral de reparar los daños y ayudar a las comunidades a adaptarse a las nuevas realidades. En reconocimiento de esta obligación moral, el CCM y otras organizaciones basadas en la fe han abogado firmemente por el aumento de la financiación del gobierno de los Estados Unidos para programas internacionales para ayudar a las comunidades de bajos ingresos a adaptarse al impacto del cambio climático.

Lamentablemente, la actual administración estadounidense no sólo ha prometido detener la financiación para los esfuerzos internacionales de adaptación, sino que recientemente anunció que retiraría a los Estados Unidos del acuerdo de París, un acuerdo internacional sobre mitigación y adaptación al cambio climático formulado en la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático y firmado por todos menos dos de los países del mundo.

Trabajando con asociados en la fe en Washington, D.C., el personal del CCM aboga directamente con funcionarios del gobierno de Estados Unidos y también trabaja para educar a los constituyentes sobre la necesidad de apoyo para la adaptación climática, animándolos a abogar a sus miembros del Congreso. En los últimos años, gran parte de esta incidencia se ha centrado en el Fondo Verde para el Clima (FVC). En 2014, Estados Unidos prometió $3 mil millones al FVC, pero, cada año desde entonces, ha sido una difícil lucha conseguir la aprobación por parte del Congreso de estos fondos. Mientras tanto, aunque la comunidad de fe ha continuado apoyando al FVC, una creciente tensión ha surgido dentro de los esfuerzos de incidencia del cambio climático basados en la fe entre abogar por una financiación continua y, al mismo tiempo, criticar las deficiencias del fondo.

El Fondo Verde para el Clima fue creado en 2010 por la CMNUCC [Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas para el Cambio Climático]. En la actualidad, el FVC es uno de los varios mecanismos existentes para la financiación multilateral de proyectos climáticos, pero se espera que el FVC se convierta en el principal mecanismo para dicha financiación en los próximos años. El FVC no es una agencia de las Naciones Unidas, pero es una institución legalmente independiente responsable ante la CMNUCC. El fondo está destinado a ser parte de una respuesta transformadora de cambio de paradigma al cambio climático, implementando un enfoque sensible al género e impulsado por cada país para la mitigación y la adaptación.

La Junta del FVC consta de 24 miembros con igual representación de “países desarrollados y en desarrollo”. Dos representantes de la sociedad civil y dos del sector privado actúan como observadores sin derecho a voto a las reuniones de la Junta. El FVC financia proyectos de mitigación y adaptación, así como de transferencia de tecnología y construcción de capacidades. Los proyectos se financian mediante donaciones y préstamos en condiciones favorables del FVC, a menudo en combinación con fondos públicos locales o privados. El Banco Mundial es el fideicomisario interino del FVC hasta que se elija un administrador fiduciario permanente a través de un proceso abierto y competitivo.

Una campaña inicial de recaudación de fondos obtuvo promesas para el FVC de 37 países por un total de $10.2 mil millones. Los fondos asignados al FVC se destinan a ser una nueva financiación en lugar de ser una reasignación de fondos de los programas de asistencia al desarrollo existentes. Para 2015, el FVC había recibido contribuciones firmadas por más del 50% de las promesas, alcanzando un punto de referencia para permitir que el fondo comenzara a aprobar proyectos.

Los proyectos del FVC se centran en una variedad de esfuerzos de mitigación y adaptación, incluyendo esfuerzos para desarrollar energía renovable, mejorar la eficiencia energética, fortalecer la resiliencia a los impactos del cambio climático y proteger los medios de vida sostenibles. Todos los países en desarrollo miembros de la CMNUCC son elegibles para recibir fondos del FVC. El financiamiento proviene de entidades acreditadas que pueden incluir bancos de desarrollo nacionales o regionales, ministerios gubernamentales, organizaciones no gubernamentales y otras organizaciones nacionales o regionales que cumplen con las normas de acreditación.

A finales de 2015, el FVC aprobó sus primero ocho proyectos por un total de $169 millones, incluyendo un bono ecológico de eficiencia energética en América Latina y un sistema de alerta temprana para los desastres relacionados con el clima en Malawi. En 2016, la Junta aprobó un financiamiento adicional de $1.300 millones, incluyendo un proyecto de seguridad alimentaria y resiliencia de $166 millones en India para micro-irrigación solar en las zonas tribales vulnerables de Odisha y un proyecto hidroeléctrico de $232 millones en las Islas Salomón.

En muchos sentidos, los objetivos declarados del FVC se alinean bien, al menos en teoría, con los objetivos del CCM en áreas tales como participación de las partes interesadas, sensibilidad de género, construcción de capacidad local y llegar a las personas más vulnerables. En realidad, sin embargo, los miembros de la Junta y las personas defensoras del FVC han planteado preocupaciones sobre las garantías, consulta y transparencia.

En 2015, el FVC recibió una intensa presión para comenzar a financiar proyectos, pero al mismo tiempo, la Junta aún estaba en el proceso de desarrollar políticas y procedimientos. Un miembro de la junta comentó: “Estamos construyendo el avión mientras lo volamos”. La constante prisa por mantener los fondos fluyendo significa que incluso los miembros de la Junta se quejan de que no tienen la información adecuada para evaluar proyectos individuales. Los representantes de la sociedad civil han planteado objeciones sobre algunas entidades de financiación acreditadas (la mayoría de las cuales son multilaterales y bilaterales de desarrollo), señalando vínculos con la industria de combustibles fósiles, mala administración financiera y violaciones de los derechos humanos.

El FVC está utilizando las salvaguardias sociales y ambientales de la Corporación Financiera Internacional hasta que desarrolle sus propias. Estas normas incorporan algunos elementos buenos, pero carecen de un criterio sólido para la consulta y consentimiento a nivel local y contienen protecciones insuficientes para los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, así como para los hábitats nacionales y biodiversidad. En 2015, un proyecto de restauración de humedales en Perú fue objeto de críticas debido a la preocupación de si las comunidades indígenas habían sido debidamente consultadas. Persisten las dudas sobre la adecuación de la consulta con las comunidades locales y transparencia del proceso de aprobación del proyecto.

Otras preocupaciones han sido: la necesidad de aumentar la capacidad de las instituciones locales, el proceso de considerar los proyectos de alto riesgo, los beneficios de los proyectos grandes y los de menor escala, el nivel y tipos de cofinanciación con el sector privado, las definiciones de adaptación y mitigación y el uso de subvenciones versus préstamos.

El FVC sigue trabajando para abordar las preocupaciones. Problemas internos de capacidad plagaron el fondo al principio, pero desde entonces ha aumentado significativamente la cantidad de personal. Esta ampliación de personal ha permitido al fondo realizar mejoras iniciales en las comunicaciones y transparencia. El FVC está desarrollando sus propias salvaguardias ambientales y sociales y se ha comprometido a desarrollar una política de los pueblos indígenas.

La junta continúa debatiendo cómo proveer más fondos para desarrollar la capacidad a nivel local. Además, las agencias nacionales de desarrollo, como la Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID por sus siglas en inglés), han comenzado a reorientar algunos fondos para reforzar los esfuerzos de fortalecimiento de capacidades del FVC.

En el futuro, la participación del gobierno de Estados Unidos en la financiación y configuración del FVC está en duda, especialmente a la luz de la inminente retirada de Estados Unidos del Acuerdo de París. Las contribuciones totales de Estados Unidos al fondo hasta ahora totalizan $1 billón. La administración actual, sin embargo, ha declarado que no cumplirá con los $2 billones restantes de la promesa de EE.UU. Hasta ahora, las personas que abogan por la financiación estadounidense del FVC han mantenido un buen diálogo con el representante estadounidense en la Junta del FVC, pero no está claro si este acceso continuará. El CCM y sus asociados continuarán impulsando cambios positivos usando cualquier vía disponible, incluyendo el diálogo con los representantes de la sociedad civil sin derecho a voto en la Junta. A pesar de que el FVC sigue siendo un trabajo en progreso, hay espacio para la incidencia en los derechos humanos para llamar al Fondo Verde para el Clima a ser lo que se pensó que fuera, una herramienta muy necesaria para ayudar a las comunidades vulnerables a adaptarse al clima cambiante.

Tammy Alexander es asociada legislativa sénior para asuntos domésticos en la Oficina del CCM EE.UU. en Washington.

Aprende más

Amerasinghe, Niranjali, Joe Thwaites, Gaia Larsen, and Athena Ballesteros. The Future of the Funds: Exploring the Architecture of Multilateral Climate Finance. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 2017. Available at http://www.wri.org//sites/default/files/The_Future_of_the_Funds_0.pdf.

GCF 101: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Access the Green Climate Fund. Available at greenclimate.fund/gcf101. Green Climate Fund: Projects. Available at http://www.greenclimate.fund/projects/browse-projects.

Green Climate Fund: Projects. Available at http://www.greenclimate.fund/projects/browse-projects.

Schalatek, L., Nakhooda, S. and Watson, C. Overseas Development Institute. The Green Climate Fund. In Climate Finance Fundamentals 11 (December 2015). Available at http://www.climatefundsupdate.org/listing/green-climate-fund.

Additional resources on U.S. environmental policy available at https://washingtonmemo.org/environment./

National Congress of American Indians on the impact of climate change on indigenous communities. Available at http://www.ncai.org/policy-issues/land-natural-resources/climate-change.

The Green Climate Fund

[Individual articles from the Summer 2017 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

The greatest suffering from climate change impacts is being felt by those who already feel the most need—and who are the least equipped to respond effectively. These vulnerable communities are also the least responsible for causing climate change. Wealthy nations, including the United States, bear the greatest responsibility for climate change and therefore have a moral obligation to repair the damage and help communities adapt to new realities. In recognition of this moral obligation, MCC and other faith-based organizations have advocated strongly for increased U.S. government funding for international programs to help low-income communities adapt to the impact of climate change.

Unfortunately, the current U.S. administration has not only promised to halt funding for international adaptation efforts, but recently announced it would pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord, an international agreement on climate change mitigation and adaptation formulated within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and signed by all but two of the world’s countries.

Working with faith-based partners in Washington, D.C., MCC staff advocate directly to U.S. government officials and also work to educate constituents on the need for adaptation assistance, encouraging them to advocate to their members of Congress. In recent years, much of this advocacy has focused on the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In 2014, the U.S. pledged $3 billion to the GCF, but, in every year since, it has been an uphill struggle to secure congressional approval for these funds. Meanwhile, although the faith community has continued to support the GCF, a growing tension has emerged within faith-based climate change advocacy efforts between advocating for continued funding and at the same time criticizing the fund’s shortcomings.

The Green Climate Fund was created in 2010 by the UNFCCC. Currently one of several existing mechanisms for multilateral financing for climate-related projects, the GCF is expected to become the main mechanism for such financing in future years. The GCF is not an agency of the United Nations, but is a legally independent institution accountable to the UNFCCC. The fund is intended to be part of a paradigm-shifting, transformative response to climate change, implementing a country-driven, gender-sensitive approach to mitigation and adaptation.

The GCF board consists of 24 members with equal representation from “developed and developing countries.” Two civil society and two private sector representatives serve as non-voting observers to board meetings. The GCF funds projects for mitigation and adaptation efforts as well as for technology transfer and capacity building. Projects are funded through grants and concessional loans from the GCF, often in combination with local public or private sector funding. The World Bank is the interim trustee for the GCF until a permanent trustee is selected through an open, competitive process.

An initial fundraising campaign collected pledges for the GCF from 37 countries totaling $10.2 billion. Funds allocated for the GCF are intended to be new financing rather than the repurposing of funds from existing development assistance programs. By 2015, the GCF had received signed contributions for more than 50 percent of pledges, reaching a benchmark to enable the fund to begin approving projects.

GCF projects focus on a variety of mitigation and adaptation efforts, including efforts to develop renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, strengthen resilience to climate change impacts and protect sustainable livelihoods. All developing country members of the UNFCCC are eligible to receive GCF funds. Funding comes through accredited entities which can include national or regional development banks, government ministries, nongovernmental organizations and other national or regional organizations that meet accreditation standards.

At the end of 2015, the GCF approved its first eight projects totaling $169 million, including an energy efficiency green bond in Latin America and an early warning system for climate-linked disasters in Malawi. In 2016, the board approved an additional $1.3 billion worth of funding, including a $166 million food security and resilience project in India for solar micro-irrigation in the vulnerable tribal areas of Odisha and a $232 million hydropower project in the Solomon Islands.

In many ways, the stated goals of the GCF align well, at least in theory, with MCC goals in areas such as stakeholder engagement, gender sensitivity, local capacity building and reaching the most vulnerable. In reality, however, GCF board members and advocates have raised concerns about safeguards, consultation and transparency.

In 2015, the GCF came under intense pressure to start funding projects but, at the same time, the board was still in the process of developing policies and procedures. One board member commented: “We are building the plane as we fly the plane.” The continued rush to keep funds flowing means that even board members complain that they do not have adequate information to assess individual projects. Civil society representatives have raised objections about some accredited funding entities (most of which are multilateral and bilateral development agencies), noting links to the fossil fuel industry, financial mismanagement and human rights abuses.

The GCF is currently using the International Finance Corporation’s social and environmental safeguards until it develops its own. These standards incorporate some good elements, but lack a strong standard for local consultation and consent and contain insufficient protections for the rights of indigenous peoples as well as for national habitats and biodiversity. In 2015, a wetlands restoration project in Peru came under criticism due to concerns over whether indigenous communities had been properly consulted. Doubts persist about the adequacy of consultation with local communities and the transparency of the project approval process.

Other concerns have involved the need for more capacity building for local institutions, the process for considering high-risk projects, the benefits of large versus smaller-scale projects, the level and types of co-funding with the private sector, definitions of adaptation and mitigation and the use of grants versus loans.

The GCF continues to work to address concerns. Internal capacity issues plagued the fund early on, but it has since significantly increased staff capacity. This expanded staffing has allowed the fund to make initial improvements in communications and transparency. The GCF is currently developing its own environmental and social safeguards and has committed to the development of an indigenous peoples policy.

The board continues to discuss how to provide more funding for building capacity at the local level. Additionally, national development agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have begun to reorient some funding to reinforce GCF capacity building efforts.

Going forward, U.S. government participation in funding and shaping the GCF is in doubt, particularly in light of the impending U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Total U.S. contributions to the fund thus far total $1 billion. The current administration, however, has stated it will not fulfill the remaining $2 billion of the U.S. pledge. Until now, advocates for U.S. funding of the GCF have maintained good dialogue with the U.S. representative on the GCF board, but it is unclear whether this access will continue. MCC and its partners will continue to push for positive changes using any avenues available, including dialogue with the non-voting civil society representatives to the board.

Though the GCF very much remains a work in progress, there is space for advocacy to call the Green Climate Fund into being what it was envisioned to be—a much-needed tool for helping vulnerable communities adapt to our changing climate.

Tammy Alexander is senior legislative associate for domestic affairs in the MCC U.S. Washington Office.

Learn more

Amerasinghe, Niranjali, Joe Thwaites, Gaia Larsen, and Athena Ballesteros. The Future of the Funds: Exploring the Architecture of Multilateral Climate Finance. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 2017. Available at http://www.wri.org//sites/default/files/The_Future_of_the_Funds_0.pdf.

GCF 101: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Access the Green Climate Fund. Available at greenclimate.fund/gcf101. Green Climate Fund: Projects. Available at http://www.greenclimate.fund/projects/browse-projects.

Green Climate Fund: Projects. Available at http://www.greenclimate.fund/projects/browse-projects.

Schalatek, L., Nakhooda, S. and Watson, C. Overseas Development Institute. The Green Climate Fund. In Climate Finance Fundamentals 11 (December 2015). Available at http://www.climatefundsupdate.org/listing/green-climate-fund.

Additional resources on U.S. environmental policy available at https://washingtonmemo.org/environment./

National Congress of American Indians on the impact of climate change on indigenous communities. Available at http://www.ncai.org/policy-issues/land-natural-resources/climate-change.

Speaking up about food assistance – and being heard

Food assistance has been and continues to be controversial. On the one hand, for someone who has missed several meals in a row, the provision of food is a gift from heaven. On the other hand, the motivations that have driven food assistance have been highly mixed, often (but not always) based on disposing of donor stocks of surplus grain, pulses or cooking oil. There are good people and good arguments on both sides of the heated debate about the appropriate modalities of food assistance.

Timely advocacy by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) has led to significant changes in the Canadian government’s commitments to, and the modalities of, food assistance. Moreover, the changes in the past decade may have rendered the food assistance debate irrelevant. Indeed, current humanitarian trends, notably the growing acceptance of cash transfers, may eliminate traditional food assistance altogether.

In this article I tell the story of the dramatic change in food assistance policy by one major global food assistance donor: Canada. Canada was, in fact, the first modern food assistance donor as part of the intergovernmental Colombo Plan for economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific in the early 1950s. Except for some brief periods of reform in the 1970s, until 2005 Canadian food assistance donations were mostly tied to sending food produced in Canada to countries around the world. Most U.S. food assistance continues to be tied to U.S. production, although European donor governments largely untied their food assistance in 1996.

In the decade leading up to the untying of Canadian food aid in 2005, the Canadian government had been quietly cutting its food assistance program, with the funding redirected towards more ‘evidence-based’ programs like vitamin pills and food fortification. This trend meant that Canada was falling farther and farther behind the food aid commitments it had made as part of the multilateral Food Aid Convention in 1999.

This convention, created in the 1960s, was designed to ensure that rich agricultural exporting countries would share the burden of providing emergency food and avoid using food assistance to steal each other’s export markets. The convention has been renegotiated several times since its instigation, broadening the range of foods covered and changing the commitments of the various donors. Since 1999 Canada had been committed to providing 420,000 tonnes of food each year in emergency food aid. But actual donations had slipped as low as 250,000 tonnes/year in the first years of the twenty-first century, and Canada owed the hungry of the world several hundred thousand tonnes of food.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s work focuses on providing food for those who face hunger. The funding for this work comes from private contributions, matched by the Canadian government. Operationally, the government requirement to send food from Canada meant that it often arrived many weeks after it was first needed. And, as international shipping was revolutionized by containerization, the shipping of bulk food
commodities became slower and more expensive. Getting more flexibility for increased local and regional purchase of food for food assistance had become a high priority.

The creation of the public policy program at CFGB in 2000 focused the organization’s efforts to effect policy changes. In addition to lobbying the Canadian government for the untying of Canadian food assistance, CFGB catalyzed the creation in 2005 of a consortium of European and North American NGOs to push for the reform of the 1999 Food Aid Convention. To strengthen the case for change, public policy staff linked the desirability of untying Canadian food assistance with Canada’s interest at the World Trade Organization to limit the ability of U.S. food assistance to interfere with Canadian food exports.

Although CFGB and other humanitarian actors had some success in persuading Canadian elected officials of the value of untying food assistance and meeting Canada’s commitments, it took the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami to tip the balance. In places like Sri Lanka, local food was plentiful and largely unaffected. It made no sense to send more food from Canada.

The national media, having run out of direct stories about the tsunami, picked up on this obvious fact and took aim at Canada’s food assistance policies. Policy change came swiftly, with 50% of Canadian food assistance funding becoming available to buy food wherever it made the most sense early in 2005.

Meanwhile, Canada’s failure to meet its Food Aid Convention commitments began to receive more attention, at least in part as a result of CFGB’s advocacy. The partial untying of Canada’s food assistance helped by permitting Canada to recalculate its food assistance shipments. Starting in 2005 Canada met or exceeded its 420,000 tonne commitment.

Finally, Canada’s food assistance policy reform and the 2008 global food price crisis stirred the members of the Food Aid Convention into action. During 2010 and 2011 member states agreed upon a new Food Assistance Convention. The new Convention went far beyond providing traditional food assistance to include providing food vouchers and cash transfers to allow recipients to buy their own food on the local market. It also included provisions to allow cash to purchase livestock and other short-term agricultural inputs.

These changes make sense. But as the focus of food assistance has broadened and become more closely linked to the market, other issues have arisen. Food assistance commitments are increasingly made in cash terms rather than amounts of food. If the food prices skyrocket, as they did in 2008 and again in 2010, less food will be available to those who need it most, when they need it most.

Within the humanitarian sector there is now a push to dispense entirely with a food focus in favor of simply giving cash to allow people to buy whatever they need, including food. We may be seeing the end of the modern food assistance era.

The Foodgrains Bank’s efforts to reform food assistance demonstrate the importance of building coalitions of support and being ready for the opportunity to build the momentum for change. But the momentum for change can exceed the goals of reform. Would a loss of a focus on food and a move toward cash transfers reduce the public commitment to end hunger? It is certainly possible. Or will we perhaps see a renewed commitment to a more flexible, less restrictive way to help the least of these?

Stuart Clark is special advisor to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and is based in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Learn more:

Clapp, Jennifer. Hunger in the Balance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012.

Barret, Chris and Dan Maxwell. Food Aid after 50 Years, Recasting Its Role. London: Routledge, 2005.

Charlton, Mark W. The Making of Canadian Food Aid Policy. Montreal and London: McGill and Queens University Press, 1992.

Rieff, David. The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice and Money in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.