The Sovereign Order of Malta is one of the oldest humanitarian institutions in the western world and, in light of its territorial and military history and traditions, is a subject of international law. We maintain diplomatic relations with over 110 countries, and enjoy recognized relationships with the European Union and with other multilateral bodies. As possibly the smallest state in the world, we have no interest in any political or partisan outcomes, a status which make us neutral, impartial, and apolitical in the best sense. Although aligned with the Catholic Church, and with full allegiance to our Holy Father Pope Francis, in the operation of our global humanitarian mission, we make no distinction between persons, religions or belief systems and embrace all of humanity in our work.
Through our worldwide relief agency, Malteser International, the Sovereign Order of Malta is permanently present with medical, social, and humanitarian projects in 120 countries. Our 13,500 members, 80,000 permanent volunteers, and a qualified staff of 42,000 professionals – most of whom are medical personnel and paramedics – form an efficient network providing constant support for forgotten or excluded members of society, and those who have been left behind.
Our mandate is that the General Assembly allocates to the Third Committee, agenda items relating to a range of social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues that affect people all over the world. We are privileged to offer our contribution to what we feel should be the priorities of this agenda based on the values and the mission of our government and our reflection on global needs..
- We draw attention to the need to provide support for those struggling amid armed conflicts and natural disasters by providing medical assistance, caring for refugees, combating human trafficking, and distributing medicines and basic equipment for survival. In our work, we put human life and its dignity at the center of our actions. The Sovereign Order of Malta shares the general concern that the current pandemic, coupled with political instability in many countries, has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities to human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.
- We strongly support and defend the human rights of migrants in all situations. Migration, when poorly regulated or, when regulations are simply ignored, creates significant challenges to all stakeholders involved. Our fundamental mission, having been carried out over nine centuries, has been to provide humanitarian assistance to the sick, the poor, and the vulnerable. Migrants easily fall within these categories. The recent establishment of full diplomatic relations between Germany and the Sovereign Order of Malta has helped tremendously in our efforts to protect the human rights and ensure the dignity of all refugees and migrants. In Germany alone we are currently operating 140 reception and assimilation facilities with space for more than 44,000 thousand refugees. Additionally, our missions to serve refugee populations in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, demand much in the way of resources and human investment in the care of people. We call on the Third Committee, in its deliberations, to increase the level of attention to these forgotten people in light of our focus on the pandemic. Although many projects of the Order, particularly concerning refugees focus primarily on the Middle East, our work covers a diverse array of countries and regions such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, South Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, and Colombia.
- The Order of Malta supports religious freedom worldwide and the end of persecution because of religious beliefs. The work of the Third Committee in this area has been exemplary over the past years. However we are particularly concerned with the situation of religious converts in some countries, where people who change their religion face a distinctly difficult situation, and are subject to persecution or discrimination by governments and social institutions. The UN Declaration of Human Rights specifically draws attention to the need for nations to respect the freedom of citizens to change their religious belief and to respect the demands of individual conscience. Not enough has been done to respect this right and while many nations are strong advocates of this basic freedom, others fall far behind in following this precept. Religious freedom, it must be stressed, promotes social cohesion in overcoming the inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, and allows that faith based organizations and institutions can play an active role in crisis management– such as the current health crisis – and can, and do, intervene in conflicts by emphasizing respect for human rights and dignity.
- Climate change, while not necessarily on the core agenda of the Third Committee, is having an increasing impact on social, humanitarian and human rights issues. The Order of Malta fully supports the work of the UN, countries, and partners worldwide, in their effort to address the climate emergency. As natural disasters become more prevalent, weather pattern changes increasingly frequent, and the intensity of them deadlier, the work of the Order of Malta in hard-hit places has become more necessary than ever as we try to protect those most impacted, especially women and youth. Climate change disproportionately affects women because they are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like freedom of movement and land acquisition, and face violence that escalates during periods of social and political instability.