[A Close Point of View] The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

12 May 2023 | A close point of view

I included a quote by Edmund Burk in the title, as it has become some kind of a maxim to us. These words accurately describe how important it is not to be indifferent to human suffering.

Currently, there are over thirty wars and armed conflicts taking place all over the world. Most of them have been going on for many years, such as the civil wars in Syria and Yemen. In a few cases, we can observe a phase of relative stability, as is the case with Iraq. But we could also point out examples of escalation of military activities, which has been happening in Ukraine for several months, and more recently in Sudan as well. Unfortunately, there is also a pretty long list of countries where an outbreak of war or increased terrorist activity may happen in the near future.

Millions of people are living in all of these countries. Of course, not everyone requires help, and certainly not to the same extent. However, it should be taken into account that war, apart from destruction, brings terrible economic consequences that can be felt by a large part of the population of an affected country. Massive financial resources are needed for people to be able to return to normal lives. Post-conflict reconstruction usually takes many years. Oftentimes, it is impossible without external aid.

As ordinary people, we are unable to prevent wars and attacks, but we can have an impact on the fate of those who have suffered from them. It all depends on our attitude. In Poland, more and more people declare both financial support as well as active participation in all kinds of charity activities. We want to feel co-responsible for the world’s fate. That is why the so-called third sector, also known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), plays a very important role in providing humanitarian assistance. They give us a choice of how we want to bring aid. We co-create it and at the same time determine its strength.

The third sector (also spelled “III sector”) is a term used for non-governmental, non-profit organizations. In Poland, these are mostly foundations and associations. They are not part of state structures, hence the term “non-governmental”. A modern concept of the division of social and economic activities distinguishes three sectors. The first sector is the public administration at the central and local government levels, while the second one includes private enterprises. The role of the third sector, namely non-governmental organizations, is to cooperate with the first and second sectors to meet social needs, both local and international.

A remedy for helplessness

Of course, not all Polish NGOs operate in the field of humanitarian aid abroad. Most are active within the country and deal with such areas of public benefit activities as education, social welfare, or healthcare. I mentioned before that there are many foundations registered in Poland and only a few are active in the field of humanitarian assistance (See: Is our help still needed in Iraq?) But here I would like to focus on the support provided to the victims of wars and terrorism, which is what we have been doing since 2016.

At the end of April, we celebrated the 7th birthday of the Eaglewatch Foundation. Seven years of intense work, which started in Iraq, have given us a lot of experience. We have gained an understanding of how the mechanisms of humanitarian assistance work and how to avoid mistakes. Of course, there is still a lot to learn. It is not as if we already know everything about helping others. But we can include several things as our small successes. Our biggest achievement so far, and perhaps the most significant, is that we have earned the trust of many people. This includes both donors and volunteers, as well as the people we support in various countries. Both groups have become quite large and it makes us very happy. It means we are heading in the right direction.

However, our mission would not have brought any results without the aforementioned people who are not indifferent and whom we meet on our way. Thanks to you, we can bring help to those in need in countries such as Iraq, Ukraine, or Egypt. And how many such people have we supported so far? It is difficult to say exactly as we have never made such calculations. We know how many workplaces we have created or how many new houses we have built, but we do not keep records of the number of people who have received such aid. Besides, it could be quite challenging to define the word ‘help’. At the turn of 2022 and 2023, we delivered heating oil and tarps to cover the destroyed tents to families living in an unofficial refugee camp in the mountains. It was another such aid provided to people who fell victim to the genocide carried out by ISIS in 2014. Can such activities be labeled as full-fledged assistance or rather a one-time relief in everyday life? I am aware that many foundations in the world multiply the number of people in a given family by the number of families that received some gifts. This gives completely unrealistic results and leads to massively distorted statistics. However, we focus on ourselves and what we have achieved. I believe we have managed to change the lives of at least a few people, and it undoubtedly is a great success.

We are one of many foundations operating worldwide in the field of humanitarian assistance, probably of the smaller ones. But we do not participate in any competition. We need to cooperate with other organizations and complement each other. The areas of our activities often overlap. Tother, we can reach a large number of people in need. That is why the role of the third sector is so important, not only in Poland but in other countries as well.

We consider supporting the victims of wars and terrorist attacks as a defense of values that we uphold. Why do we do it? Because we feel it is the right thing to do. Many bad things happen in the world, but we can work to decrease this evil. Our weapon is unity and lack of indifference. One person may not be capable of doing much, but if there are many of us, together we can achieve something good. After all, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Author: Dawid Czyż

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