Catholics come together in Paris to take joint action for climate justice!

While negotiators from 195 countries were cloistered at Le Bourget last week at the COP21, Development and Peace staff and members joined British, French, Belgian, Dutch, German, Spanish, and Italian staff and supporters from Catholic development organizations from across Europe to share their commitment to climate justice. They inspired each other with strategies and solutions for fighting against climate change and for a more just world. With a focus on the power of people rather than on governments, these activities, which were organized as part of the Joint Action led by CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic international development organizations that Development and Peace belongs to, brought our movement together for an intense few days of conferences, workshops, poetry, briefings, demonstrations and a closing mass.

Arriving fresh from marches in our home cities, we shared our successes and challenges in educating our fellow citizens about the impacts of climate change on communities living in the Global South. With a focus on the many ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint, we also exchanged of the alternatives and solutions that we can adopt to do our part. From becoming a “Live Simply” parish, as CAFOD supporters in Great Britain do, to assisting communities in reducing waste in Germany, we shared the local, cooperative, ethical, and environmental alternatives that protect both people and the planet.

We heard from courageous leaders from Peru, Southern Africa, and island states in the South Pacific who are sounding the alarm on the urgency of the situation, and asking us to work with them together as global citizens to solve this global problem.

The participants left with a deeper understanding of the importance of curbing the overconsumption of fossil fuels and resources that we in northern countries take for granted, and the need to develop and promote alternatives that benefit people and the Earth. These community-led, ecological alternatives can even strengthen our communities, and leave them better than when we started. This commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, lobbying for a quick transition to renewable energy, and supporting our partner organizations in the Global South, is a solution to the climate crisis that we can all support.

Pope Francis tells us in his encyclical that “Today, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice so as to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” As the Canadian negotiators returned home with a signed climate agreement, and a lot of work ahead in order to respect it, our Development and Peace delegation left Paris with a stronger commitment to leading our communities in the transition to a world based on climate justice.

By Dominique Godbout, Programs Officer, Humanitarian Assistance

Women are closely involved in determining the design priorities for shelters in the Rohingya refugee camps.

It has now been four years since the beginning of the massive influx of Rohingya refugees from Burma (Myanmar) into Bangladesh. Four years that Caritas Bangladesh, through its Emergency Response Program, has been working tirelessly to respond to the critical needs of the Rohingya women, girls, boys and men who live in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Since 2017, too, Development and Peace — Caritas Canada, with support from thousands of Canadians and Global Affairs Canada, has been helping Caritas Bangladesh provide dignified and safe shelters to families in congested and disaster-prone camps.

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy drove our commitment to ensuring that the shelters meet the specific needs of those who spend the most time in them: women, adolescent girls and other vulnerable groups. This meant that shelters had to be made of durable materials; be well ventilated; and have safe cooking and bathing spaces, room partitions for increased privacy, and locks for safety.

Caritas Bangladesh’s gender-sensitive, community-led approach to shelter rehabilitation and construction has had meaningful impacts on the community, especially for women, girls and vulnerable groups. Female participants have gained the confidence to voice their needs and participate in making decisions about upgrades to their shelters. They have also become skilled, knowledgeable, and self-reliant with respect to shelter rehabilitation/construction. Their use of these new skills and capacities has also led to greater community cohesion and pride. Women also feel a greater sense of security and confidence in their shelters’ ability to withstand recurring extreme weather events. Caritas Bangladesh is helping Rohingya women develop shelter planning, construction and maintenance skills.

Caritas Bangladesh is helping Rohingya women develop shelter planning, construction and maintenance skills.

In the past year, fires, floods, cyclones and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused several setbacks in the delivery of the humanitarian response. This has had adverse impacts on the safety and well-being of the refugees, especially those from the most vulnerable households. These difficulties notwithstanding, Development and Peace remains committed to supporting Caritas Bangladesh’s sustained effort to secure the dignity of the Rohingya people and improve their prospects.