God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

In between – NGOs in the times of war and pandemic

I guess nobody would argue against the statement, that NGOs are living through a difficult time. During the pandemic, those in the sector of health, nutrition and social support spend considerably more money than the agreed budgets provided. And those who had not put away some money for difficult times stood quickly at the brink of inability to pay due to overspending.

And no, neither in South Africa nor in Germany the state would consider support in the times of Covid – only companies, only economic entities were able to claim support from the state coffers. Looking at South Africa and seeing what NGO’s had achieved in supporting those left alone and in some instances still waiting for the state sponsored food support, it is clear: the situation would have been much dire without their work. In Germany, the food banks called “Tafeln” also were under strain because of the higher demand versus less support.

Generally, supporters and sponsors worldwide are more cautious in spending and granting support. Nobody really knows what is next and how to survive the possible next economic onslaught. It is understandable, but it hurts the ability of NGO’s to function.

Now the war in Ukraine rages on and as a result everything is getting more expensive while budgets, especially those fixed for some years via a grant, remain the same. Again: trouble is looming when not planned and forward-looking kept house.

The way forward? Not sure, but it is important to point out the in-between position of non-governmental organisations and their value for society and economy. Social interventions and economic development are going hand-in-hand. Development aid has always something to do with economical relationships. Both are important for the good and well-being of countries and societies.

Maybe after Covid and while the war is raging it is time to put those relationships but also the development agencies of countries on the test bench to have a sharper look what serves the purpose. The world is changing, and so the ways we do business – not only in the economical world.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Blackouts in South Africa

Driving through the Northern Cape last week made me aware of the trouble which the renewed and extended blackouts do have to the people in the towns of rural South Africa. And driving to the vast areas of virtually meeting nobody for hundreds of km, I also realize the extent of the political neglect of possibilities like solar power and wind.

It again shows how cadre deployment, corruption and incompetence paired by ideological blindness has hurt the all spheres of society in this country. Bringing a world-class entity to the brink of collapsing can be called a negative masterpiece. Trying to solve the problem to create another state-owned enterprise, as the responsible minister proposes it, is then the cherry on top of madness.

Since 2014 now President Ramaphosa was most times as Deputy President in charge of turning ESKOM around. Promises were made – as too often in the political sphere of South Africa, it remained hot air.

Having said all that, it does not serve a purpose to lament and to leave it at that. The crisis could be a trigger for a renewable energy drive also bringing the much-needed jobs for South Africa.

End 2021 13 million people worked in the field of renewable energy worldwide – and experts expect the number to triple till 2030.

So there lies a chance in South Africa’s woes – but it needs the willingness of the respective role players to act decisively and the political will to make it happen. The latter presents itself in the form of the respective Minister rather as a problem giver than a solution seeker.

But there is always hope in the ability of South Africa to also overcome this man-made disaster and to rise again as the beacon of hope for the African continent. There is so much expertise in the private sector to assist when politics is willing to change from being part of the problem to being part of the solutions presenting themselves naturally in this county.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Roe v. Wade – unfiltered thoughts…

Newspaper announcing the 1973 decision

The Republican Party, the right-wingers and those deeply entrenched in a specific way of thinking are jubilant – and my Roman-Catholic Church officially lauds the decision: “The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world”

I am holding my breath – and no, I am not convinced that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position. Polls tell the opposite.

Obviously, the world would be a better place without abortion – but also without unwanted pregnancies and with programs supporting single moms and difficult social situations. We all know, that this is not happening; that there is a lot of lip service.

Secondly, this is not a decision born out of democracy: It is an almost fascist takeover of a democratic institution essential for justice served in a democratic society. The USA has lost since Donald Trump many facets of a functioning democratic system. Radical white evangelical fundamentalists have taken over the reins at the Supreme Court and forcing their ill convictions onto society. Candidates for the Supreme Court bend the truth under questioning in their confirmation hearing – one could also say there were lies and deceit in the run-up to confirmation. We also heard about sexual harassment and more by one of the now elected judges – and we know that Mich McConnell abused the system to avoid an Obama proposed candidate. Politics instead of justice as a matter of fact.

No, the end never justifies the means – and the hijacking of the American democratic experiment by white macho evangelical and Catholic hardliners is one of the greatest dangers to Democratic means in the USA; it is a great danger to long fought for liberties and civil rights. Fake news, lies and outright criminal activities against the laws of democracy as the hearings in Washington bring to light cannot be the base of a juridical decision of the highest court of the land.

I can’t and I will not celebrate an attack on the values of democracy. I am appalled to know that the reality is that poor women will bear the brunt and consequences of this decision – there will be illegal and dangerous options with deadly consequences. The writing is on the wall – see Alito and Thomas opinions – that other basic rights will be on the chopping block in the future.

Abortion is in civil societies a much debated issue – and obviously the sanctity of life is at stake. But so is the sanctity of life attacked by the death penalty, by wars and certainly by current gun laws. The obvious schizophrenia of evangelical fundamentalists to pick what is convenient and to ignore or even promote the opposite of the rest is breathtaking.

Once again: The end never justifies the means – celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision is ill-advised. It brings more chaos and more division to society; and more danger towards the democratic institutions in the USA. It will also cost lives.
Obviously, religious institutions and faith based groups can and should have an opinion and also participate in the public debate. But there are rules and ethics when it comes to how decisions in a democratic system are made.

If we are honest, we all have to admit: abortion will not disappear by a court decision, but by an openness of society to discuss sexuality, by means of avoiding pregnancy and by politics supporting children, single parents and families. All things, religious fundamentalists and evangelical hardliner, but also organized religion are not known for to put into practice.

Convincing people in a democracy to do the right thing (whatever that is…) is always a process of words and deeds, but also carries the freedom of those we try to convince to say “no”. We people of faith are part of this process, but in my humble view we can never support supreme decisions which are based on lies, deceit, political gambling and hardly covered intentions born out of private religious fundamentalist convictions.

The decision in the matter Roe v Wade is at the end a dis-service to the aim to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to acknowledge realities; it will polarize and militarize those in favor or against it, and it brings in disrepute the standing of one of the most important institutions in a democracy. And the victims in all this are at the end again: women.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

The “Ball of HOPE” joy – please join in…

Indeed, there is much joy in the hearts of those organizing the Ball of HOPE for the 20th time. After 2 years of cancellations due to Covid-19 it looks good for the 21st of May 2022 at the Westin Hotel by Marriott in Cape Town.

20 years Ball of HOPE, the end of the 20 years anniversary year of the organisation itself and the better late than never celebration of 20 years of the local office of the Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Ball of HOPE developed out of a dinner-dance established in 1998 at the Mount Nelson and organised by the German-speaking Catholic Community in Cape Town. The first guest of honour was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He also introduced the culture of letting culinary chefs be in pain keeping the main course hot and tasty, while speeches are indeed longer than anticipated.

The first guest of honour: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

With the opening of the local office of the AHK in Cape Town, the dinner-dance became the “Ball of HOPE” in cooperation between the newly founded organisation HOPE Cape Town and the Chamber of Commerce. In 2003 the Westin was inaugurated, and the event moved from the Mount Nelson Hotel to the then newly established Arabella Hotel at the Foreshore in Cape Town, which today is the Westin by Marriott.

Opening and blessing of the new Westin Hotel

During the following years, the Ball of HOPE became a fixture in the social calendar of Cape Town, and attracted also visitors from Europe to come and join this prestigious event.

So, yes, we are full of joy to invite all of you to the 20th Ball of HOPE – please come, register and join us in this celebration of service, of commitment and of a partnership between business and development, which changes the lives of people for the better in the last more than 20 years.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Asking hard questions

Looking at the social-economic & political consequences worldwide of the Russian attack on Ukraine, there comes a point, where the removal of Putin by all means possible and any means necessary must be ethically discussed.

The UN writes about the global impact of the war in Ukraine:

“The war in Ukraine, in all its dimensions, is producing alarming cascading effects to a world economy already battered by COVID-19 and climate change, with particularly dramatic impacts on developing countries. Recent projections by UNCTAD estimate that the world economy will be a full percentage point
of GDP growth lower than expected 1due to the war, which is severely disrupting already tight food, energy, and financial markets. Ukraine and the Russian Federation are among the world’s breadbaskets.
They provide around 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil2. At the same time, the Russian Federation is the world’s top natural gas exporter, and second-largest oil exporter. Together, neighbouring Belarus and the Russian Federation also export around a fifth of the world’s fertilizers.”

The world is factually a global village and the digitalisation has contributed strongly to interconnect the economies. This means that the unfolding war will bring not only hardship, but also hunger and additional poverty, and with it premature dying of people worldwide.

The full report of the UN titled “Global impact of war in Ukraine on food, energy and finance systems” is available here

Besides looking at the ethical possibility to remove a leader violating with his actions the dignity of millions of people, the current situation has also made it very clear again, that the UN mechanisms, created after the second world war, are not carrying any more the weight needed to send a clear-cut message to those violating international laws and committing war crimes without even making the attempt to hide it.

Looking at other challenges like energy needs and climate change it becomes, especially after Covid-19 and now the attack of Russia on Ukraine crystal clear, that human mankind has to change tune if it wants to survive as the human race. We are not essential to the universe nor to our planet; if we want to live and thrive and create a future for the next generations in peace and dignity, we better get our acts together.

Looking into our world with the mounting numbers of fake news and outright lies, of unashamed violence and exploitation, those ethical questions of how to respond need a new reflection and answer for our time. Philosophers and religious institutions are challenged to come up with guidelines when it comes to political and social actions determining the future of humanity and the human race on this planet.

And to clarify: No, the war in Europe is not really special, as war governs constantly parts of the world. But I believe that suddenly also Europe woke up to this truth and after Covid-19 there is a kind of sensitivity towards challenges. People have woken up to think the unthinkable – a good moment in time to push for deeper reflections.

Filed under: Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

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