2 Mar 2017 | Mission East

”You are ready to move – also for the long haul”

NGOs like Mission East are very much needed in a future with climate change and overpopulation, says former Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller.

By Svend Løbner, freelance journalist

“Mission East has a broad agenda that covers emergency aid as well as long term development, e.g. road building in Afghanistan. You have a wide scope that enables you to react quickly, but also engage in long-lasting and long-term work. This is quite unusual for such a young organisation,” Per Stig Møller noted recently.

He was Denmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2001-2010 and became well acquainted with Mission East’s work at the time.

Ready to move – and build up

“It is important to have aid organisations like Mission East that can work in a country during peaceful times when steady development is required, and during times of disaster when it is necessary to react quickly by providing emergency aid. This is required during natural disasters, but also in times of conflict, i.e. when you are helping in Mosul. Or in Afghanistan where there is still considerable unrest, but where you contribute to progress.”

In Per Stig Møller’s opinion, Mission East does well to work with emergency aid as well as development: “You have to do both. You should be ready to move quickly into the field when it is really needed. But you should also be able to rebuild after a crisis, after a breakdown. This would prevent a bad situation from recurring later. From this perspective, your work in Afghanistan is a succes,” the former foreign minister said.

Keep an eye on fragile states

Mission East not only works in conflict-ridden countries, Per Stig Møller noted: “I have noticed that you work in areas that I considered worthy of attention when I was Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was my assessment that these countries will play an ever larger role, either as areas of unrest or future partners. I am thinking of your efforts in Armenia and Tajikistan. These countries normally do not attract much attention, do they? There is no civil war there,” he said. But he added that something could suddenly happen in a country like Tajikistan, and the situation in Armenia could become serious in case of setbacks. “So it is important to be present in areas that the world ignores.”

NGO’s have the will and the stamina

When Per Stig Møller was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, he valued cooperation with NGOs like Mission East, he said: “They are exciting to work with, for they are very dedicated people, they are really involved. And of course they were unhappy with us, because they wanted us to give more and give it faster. They are lobbyists for themselves and people in the world. But what I like and respect about them is their involvement. They are willing to work in difficult places.”

“As foreign minister, I have also traveled to many of those places. It can be very unpleasant. But it is important that there are people who have the physical strength, will and desire to be there, and the NGOs do. Otherwise, they could have found something different to do, something nice and quiet in Denmark where they would be able to come home for dinner every night. But NGOs like Mission East really get into the field.”

The 21st century could be unpleasant

The former Minister for Foreign Affairs concluded: “We must prepare ourselves for new kinds of problems during the coming 25 years. At present, we are facing war problems or post-war problems. But future problems will be more long-term – such as population issues or problems with climate change. We might as well be prepared for some very difficult years ahead. The 21st century will be a very unpredictable century – and it could be a very unpleasant one.”

That is why there will be a need for close cooperation between the authorities and NGOs like Mission East, Per Stig Møller said: “There is very much a need for that. The government does not do the humanitarian work, and we cannot employ that many public servants to go out there and do it for us. Therefore, it will be necessary to have a close and stable cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the NGOs,” the former Minister for Foreign Affairs concluded.

Per Stig Møller was interviewed by Svend Løbner at Mission East’s 25-year Jubilee celebration on 18 November 2016.