Written by Anna Rohwer, Director of International Operations & Administration
‘United We Stand’ originated from The Liberty Song that was written by John Dickinson during the American Revolution. It’s a simple phase that has lived in different contexts of American history but always means the same thing: we fall when we’re divided, so we must stand united if we hope to stand at all. ‘United We Stand’.
We are living in a critical moment of history. Our world is more interdependent and interconnected now than ever before, yet we are seeing increased polarization across political, cultural and religious ideologies. We have made progress towards addressing poverty and hunger, yet there remains significant need. More than 65 million people have been displaced due to war and persecution—more than at any other time. Millions of people in the horn of Africa are facing a devastating drought. Nearly 3 million children under 5 are still dying from preventable diseases each year, and just 1 in 3 people have access to proper sanitation globally.
The U.S. has always been at the forefront of addressing humanitarian and development challenges, with billions of dollars going each year to foreign assistance. However, the current administration has proposed a significant (31%) reduction to the international aid budget. This has negatively affected organizations like Feed the Children that rely on government funding to address poverty and hunger around the world. Because of this, there is now an urgency for both civil society and the private sector to find opportunities to fill the gap.
We had the opportunity to participate in the annual InterAction Forum in Washington, D.C. InterAction is an alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on disaster relief and sustainable development programs. The theme for this year’s forum—United We Stand—was incredibly relevant given the current climate in which NGOs are operating in the U.S. today.
In his keynote address, President Bill Clinton emphasized the need to be unified in our efforts to eliminate global poverty and empower those who are most vulnerable. He shared: “We’ve never had more potential to spread hope through real learning, through real doing.”
The forum provided the opportunity for “real learning.” Themes like accountability and transparency, inclusiveness, human rights, and gender equality were emphasized by Heads of State, activists, entrepreneurs, and other influencers. We also heard from experts on technical topics like the economic rationale for investing in nutrition (there’s actually evidence that links investment in nutrition to economic development), the human side of technology (in places like Rwanda and Malawi, drones are being used to deliver medicine in remote places), and organizational transformation to achieve cross-sector programming (in order to reach sustainable development goals, organizations need to move away from legacy business models and build integrated systems and programs that actually work).
The forum also provided the opportunity to interact with more than 100 international NGOs that are working around the world, as well as a number of for-profit companies using business solutions to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Learning about what others are doing was not only inspirational, but it also created opportunities for information sharing and collaboration. ‘United We Stand’ together in the fight to end poverty and hunger.
As we, along with hundreds of other humanitarian organizations, continues to navigate the increasing challenges we are up against, our role in the effort to alleviate poverty and hunger is increasingly relevant and essential. We will continue our work and strengthen our impact, regardless of the increasing challenges, and we are committed more than ever to creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.