Trócaire’s CEO reflects on a year of change, progress and challenges
While Brexit and the rise of far-right populists have dominated the media agenda, 2018 has been a challenging year for many communities around the world due to conflict, hunger, climate change, gender discrimination and human rights coming under threat.
Yet 2018 has also been a year of significant change and progress. In Ireland, the passing of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill has been historic. The Occupied Territories Bill has passed through the Seanad. Years of tireless work by Trócaire, our partners, volunteers and supporters have played an integral part in achieving political action.
For Trócaire, it has also been a year of change, with Éamonn Meehan stepping down as Executive Director. Éamonn worked for Trócaire for 27 years, during which he provided far-sighted and inspiring leadership. He was a mentor to me and many others.
Following my appointment as CEO in October, I insisted that, under my leadership, Trócaire will continue to be a voice for those who take a stand against injustice and who put their own lives on the line. These will be our guiding principles heading into the New Year.
As the first female CEO of Trócaire, I have been heartened to see the impact of Trócaire’s work around the world for women’s empowerment.
A particular highlight of 2018 was the first-ever International Congress of Women’s Caucuses, held in Dublin Castle, with female parliamentarians from around the world in attendance. On the 100-year anniversary of women achieving the right to vote in Ireland, delegates discussed the challenge of how to increase female participation in politics.
The passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Law through the Dáil this year was a historic step in Ireland’s efforts to tackle climate change, yet further domestic action is greatly needed.
The urgent need to address this crisis of climate change was made clear by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in October. The report gave a stark warning that we have only 12 years to halve global emissions and avoid catastrophic further impacts.
On a recent visit to Ethiopia, the effects of climate change were startlingly obvious to me. 16 million people recently required humanitarian assistance for food because their crops failed due to drought. For these communities, increasingly damaging weather patterns is extremely concerning.
While the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi rightly caused outrage, less attention is paid to the murder of hundreds of peaceful human rights defenders every year. 2018 had the highest recorded number of human rights activists on record killed.
This year we highlighted the courageous people who risk their lives every day to defend human rights. Defenders are being intimidated, harassed and killed for attempting to protect communities, land and the environment from exploitation and human rights abuses by business interests.
Our call is for a legally binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses in addition to protecting those who defend their communities.
On my recent visit to the West Bank, I witnessed the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. These settlements on Palestinian land are eroding the chances of a two-state solution. These settlements are sabotaging the efforts of Palestinians to remain living in areas they have called home for generations.
The Occupied Territories Bill is a significant move which, if passed by the Dáil in 2019, will see Ireland ban trade with these illegal Israeli settlements.
Trócaire was delighted to receive a number of awards this year recognising our work in communications, governance, fundraising and Development Education. The documentary ‘This is Palestine’ won the Dóchas Respect and Equality in Communications Award, and also won the Commended Award in the televised documentaries category at the Radharc 2018 awards.
Trócaire also won best communications Campaign for a not-for-profit at the national Awards for Excellence in Public Relations 2018. Our video game for school children, 'Project Honduras', also won 1st prize at the ECGBL International Educational Games Competition. Former executive Director Éamonn Meehan was also honoured with the Dóchas Global Citizen Award for 2018.
The Irish public’s support remains essential in helping Trócaire to work with millions of people around the world, to help them fight for justice and to live a life of dignity. The compassion of the people of Ireland is vital and I would urge our supporters to please donate to our Christmas Appeal to support families affected by conflict in countries such as South Sudan and Yemen
I would like to thank all of our supporters for their continued generosity.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.