Emmaus International

The world council on political action and international solidarity (WCPAIS) met from 5 – 7 November 2014 in Montreuil (France).

Discussions were wide-ranging and included talks from external speakers, namely Bernard Salamand, Chair of the Development Research and Information Centre (CRID) and Addie Stevenson, Emmaus Gloucestershire’s Chief Executive, who introduced the discussion with a debate on international solidarity. Gus Massiah, a member of the World Social Forum’s international committee, spoke about the vital campaigning role played by organisations and social movements. 

Emmaus International must be a driving force, it must continue to challenge policy and attitudes and reflect on and implement alternatives that can be utilized to develop a powerful campaigning strategy.

Addie Stevenson, Emmaus Gloucestershire Chief Executive, UK
Emmaus Gloucestershire is located in Southern England and has been open for 20 years. The community has 33 companions living in four houses. 89% of the community’s funds come from selling recycled goods in their shops.

150110 Intervenants CMAPSI Addie Stevenson

“At Emmaus Gloucestershire we have a strong commitment to solidarity and meet each month to discuss activity and sharing of our money. We believe that it’s in serving others in greater need than ourselves that we grow as people and feel good about life. It’s fundamental to our community. We try to balance local, national and international solidarity. To understand the point of their work, the companions need to be able to see tangible results and it’s sometimes easier to identify with people who live in the same city or who speak the same language. But by going to communities in other countries, companions realise the importance of their action and are encouraged to work for international solidarity when they go back to their communities.
In 2014, we decided to focus more on local solidarity – we distribute food and clothing to the homeless, and the community provides support for people in difficulty in the city.
However, we’re also involved in international solidarity, as we support initiatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, and make beds available for migrants arriving from Calais.
For me, what’s most important is sharing information between companions and communities in order to strengthen ties and raise awareness about solidarity between Emmaus organisations.”

Bernard Salamand, Chair of the CRID in France, a collective bringing together some 50 international solidarity organisations.

150110 Intervenants CMAPSI Bernard Salamand“International solidarity is contending with a context that has been developing very quickly since decolonization and the oil crisis; these developments are changing public opinion on the subject. The socio-economic crisis in the West is leading to greater suffering. It has two consequences: ‘the Other’ is seen as a threat, and it’s no longer regarded as positive to share wealth.
Geographical location is vital when choosing solidarity initiatives in crisis periods: organisations are accused of working in faraway lands at a time when problems are closer to home.
International solidarity is the international dimension of solidarity. It is not a separate act but instead is a variation of the act of solidarity.
We need to ponder the rationale behind international solidarity. If the aim is to offer access to rights for all worldwide, cooperation-based approaches are more suited to achieving this than competitive approaches that distinguish a winner and a loser, the giver and the receiver. A cooperation-based approach requires links and solidarity.
Emmaus International is ahead of other organisations: you boast experience that demonstrates that the different types of solidarity do not compete against each other. Working with one’s peers and an equal relationship between the donor and beneficiary are also a plus point in terms of mutual recognition.”

Gus Massiah, member of the Attac-France advisory board and a member of the World Social Forum’s international committee.

150110 Intervenants CMAPSI Gus Massiah“First and foremost, when developing a campaigning strategy, there is a need to identify the situation in which the organisation finds itself.
There is then a need to set long-term objectives and policy directions that define Emmaus’ identity. While we need to identify the causes of the issues in which Emmaus is actively involved, we also need to draw on the concrete situations addressed worldwide in order to avoid formulating a general discourse and losing touch with reality.
Emmaus’ campaigning has therefore been developed by linking up immediate and long-term objectives. Helping the poor can therefore take the form of ad hoc support or eradicating poverty. There is a need to be able to think about both these concepts at the same time. Emmaus’ stance is legitimate because it draws on the organisation’s concrete initiatives and it is strong because it bases its stance on a constant yet evolving practice.
The founder of the Italian communist party, the philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci, said that “the old world is dying away, and the new world struggles to come forth: now is the time of monsters.” This quote is relevant in the current context, as it means that we must simultaneously fight these monsters, build the new world and forge alliances so that we do not fight alone.”