We work with the poor as partners and equals, uniting in mutual recognition of the problems they face. We believe the poor themselves are the only true experts on their communities – so our advocacy and efforts on their behalf arise not from our expertise but from their own views and ideas. We listen closely to them, we learn from them, and we join together with them in common cause to build real solutions to their problems. And in evaluating our programs we emphasize the feedback of the people we serve, because ultimately we are wholly accountable to them.
Ethicist Thomas Pogge has captured PHP’s view of the necessary relationship with global poor:
…we must stop thinking of world poverty in terms of helping the poor. The poor do need help, of course. But they need help only because of the terrible injustices we have been inflicting upon them. We should not then think of our individual efforts and of possible institutionalized poverty eradication initiatives…as helping the poor, but as protecting them from the effects of global rules whose injustice benefits us and is our responsibility. And we should think not only about such remedial measures, but also about how the injustice of the global order might be diminished through institutional reforms that would end the need for such remedial measures.
In this light, PHP demands quick and appropriate action to address the urgent needs of the poor. We cannot be patient when thousands of people continue to die each day of preventable causes. We demand both an immediate scale up of services for the poor and initiatives to address the fundamental social and economic factors that underlie their ill health.
Amartya Sen has argued that the pursuit of social justice requires not only sympathy, but also commitment. Sympathy-based behavior arises when a person’s actions are motivated by his or her unhappiness due to a destitute person’s suffering, but commitment-based behavior is motivated by a determination to end injustice and is not fully explained by “your desire to relieve your own sympathetic suffering;” as a result, commitment will likely involve self-sacrifice. PHP recognizes that self-sacrifice and commitment are required for success in achieving progress for the global poor. Our actions are intended to change the system, and in that sense they entail steadfast commitment to the poor.
Our advocacy and the programs we strive to implement are determined solely by the need of the poor. Need may take on multiple forms and may or may not include financial challenges. For example, people may be marginalized because of a lack of economic opportunities, or they may be marginalized because of their gender, their ethnicity, or their social status – or, most likely, a combination of these factors. PHP understands these many different sides of poverty, and we act according to need – not according to other interests and influences – in providing services.
Hope and Strength
PHP draws its vitality from the realistic and undying hope that tomorrow will bring a better day for the poor, that tomorrow the poor will enjoy a level of human rights and opportunities on par with the rest of us. Our hope and vitality also emanate from the people we serve, who continually demonstrate great skill and insight in diagnosing the challenges they face and then developing and spearheading solutions to them. When allowed to flourish, the determination, thoughtfulness, and resourcefulness of our partners and the people we serve goes far, and we make these strengths the foundation of any program we implement.
As a humanitarian actor, PHP works for the people of our global society and no one else. While PHP partners with a variety of stakeholders to achieve common goals, the organization remains independent from all political, economic, religious, and social actors. Solidarity for the poor should not depend on the many vested interests across the world. Compromising on this principle would promote a distorted global picture and continue to produce injustice for those in the most need; and it would permit the exploitation of the poor by pressuring them into promoting causes which they may not intrinsically support and which may even go against their interests. At PHP, we think independently.