The Sovereign Order of Malta is participating in the 71st United Nations General Assembly, which opened on 19 September, in New York. The topic of the general debate of the annual Session is “The Sustainable Development Goals: A universal push to transform our world”. The Grand Hospitaller of the Sovereign Order of Malta Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel spoke at the High Level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants and will be engaged in other meetings during the course of the event, ending on September 26.

In his address in the plenary session, the Grand Hospitaller made a strong plea: “We call for development programs which must cover extended time periods, complemented by emergency aid for immediate suffering. We call for adequate funding for the humanitarian and development fields. To respond to the challenge, the recommendations of the World Humanitarian Summit – on bridging the humanitarian-development gap – must be implemented”.

With over 60 million people displaced around the world, the Grand Hospitaller emphasised the importance of including faith-based organizations and institutions when addressing the enormous humanitarian needs at stake. An important step was taken at the Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit last May, when the Order of Malta reaffirmed the special role faith based aid agencies play in the field of humanitarian assistance.

As the Grand Hospitaller noted “Religious-based organizations develop networks of support and solidarity, can be the liaison between diasporas and affected populations, and are often trusted by local communities”.

Another important engagement for the Order of Malta was the participation in the roundtable on Addressing the Vulnerability of Refugees and Migrants on their journeys from their countries of origin to their countries of arrival.

Drawing from the long-term experience in emergency and assistance programmes for migrants and refugees around the world – at sea and on land- Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel stressed the need to reaffirm and respect humanitarian laws and human rights: “We strongly believe that no human being is illegal and therefore s/he has rights. These rights are not being respected. If you take away the status of a human being, you take away his basic rights. This is how refugees and migrants are being treated” he stated.

The Grand Hospitaller called for a stronger cooperation between migration authorities and child protection services and for enhancing protection of women and girls, all too often subject to different sorts of physical and psychological violence during their treacherous journeys.