Medico International struggles for the human right to the best possible access to good health. In doing so we support local partners, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America, in their endeavours to create the economic, social and cultural conditions which allow each person to attain the highest health standard possible. In particular Medico stands by those who are in situations of emergency and in poverty, including refugees and the victims of war.
The political and conceptual framework to our activities is based on the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (1948) and the "International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" (1966), which together formulate the basic idea of health as a human right. The idea assumed concrete form with the Alma Ata Declaration of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the Protection and Promotion of Primary Health Care (1978) and the People’s Charta for Health (2001), approved by the People’s Health Assembly, both of which adhere to the goal of "Health for All".
In unison with the WHO and the People's Health Charta, Medico International understands health as the physical, psychological and social well being of every individual. Such understanding of health is more than the mere absence of disease, and includes at the same time the reality of chronic illness and handicaps, infirmity and grief, all of which are a part of human life.
Ultimately "Health for All" can only come about in social circumstances which guarantee social justice and the freedom to develop and satisfy existential and social needs. Liberation from disease, misery and violence necessitates as a very first move the reconstruction of social relations and the strengthening of subjectivity.
If the optimum access to a life in good health is to be an unconditional right for all, it must be guaranteed by society and its institutions. The necessary conditions for the attainment of good health cannot be decided solely by experts, but should be defined with the full participation of everyone. Put explicitly Medico International sees the access to good health as a political matter which is dependent on adequate nutrition, dignified living conditions, an adequate income and the right to be part of a free, just and safe community, combined with the respect for social and individual human rights. The espousal of good health therefore also means the struggle against a global economic order which places the dictates of the economy above social issues.
The help which Medico carries out is more than just the provision of Aid in Emergency. We see our work as a cooperative and collaborative rather than the sort of pragmatic and technical dealing which would reduce those in need to the status of mere aid receivers. We work on the basis of the political and social aims which we share with our local partners in the South. Cooperation on an equal footing, the steady exchange of experience, and transparency are in themselves part of these aims. However even this cooperative work cannot be regarded separately from the dominant power structures. Therefore we place great value on the continuous reflection on persisting dependencies and the interplay of specific interests.
Using both emergency relief and long-term projects to secure health provision, Medico supports the sort of efforts by its local partners which are characterised by independence within collaboration (Autonomous Aid)
The emergency relief which Medico supplies in ecological disasters, to refugees and in warlike conflicts is so organised that as quickly as possible those affected by emergencies are able to become to self-reliant again. Even in acute disasters Medico does not dispatch its own workers but rather seeks cooperation from local partners.
The same applies for the programmes for Rehabilitation and Conflict Resolution, which Medico promotes and which aim to help the survivors of affliction and violence. Using community orientated, psycho-social approaches, selfhelp groups and the psycho-social support of reconstruction programmes, the aim is the re-establishment and promotion of agency, something often destroyed by trauma and which is indispensable to the formation of self-determined futures. Along with this Medico supports both physical rehabilitation measures and the reconstruction of destroyed amenities such as houses and the agricultural infrastructure.
Emergency relief and rehabilitation actions are accompanied by long-term project cooperation, which aim to secure sustainable healthcare structures on the principle of solidarity. In accordance with the "Primary Health Care" concept of the WHO this is always a two sided issue: as much a matter of the encouragement and training of local health workers, the building of health centres, preventative medical campaigns and information about dangers to health, as the improvement of living conditions both for the individual and the community at large and the participation of every member of society in the political processes as a precondition for "Health for All".
The aim is to introduce exemplary changes, which can emanate out of the given projects into the surrounding society. It is therefore necessary that the procedural character of the project and the relation to our local partner organisations are taken seriously and that they are seen as one place within society for the development of far-reaching alternatives. The long-term nature of the projects demands reliable partners – on both sides.
International Networks of local project initiatives, social movements and NGOs constitute an independent public which serves as a mould for a not yet existing "Worldwide Civil Society". Medico is a part of these networks and works with them in the formulation of alternative and emancipating social blueprints. Putting these blueprints into action implies the construction of an extra-institutional countervailing power and the consequent use of the latitude and holes within governmental and international institutions. Medico sees itself as a fellow fighter along with many others who, working within these networks, amass expertise and develop concepts, whose adoption is sought through international campaigns. In this way aid becomes mutual support.
Medico’s involvement is, amongst other things,
- in its efforts to promote preventative health measures, the establishing of an internationally binding arms embargo, or through sanctions against the trade in natural resources which keeps civil war economies going.
- by the development of integrated concepts for the reconstruction and the stabilisation of social structures in war damaged societies.
- by the formulation of strategies for the construction of primary health care services and locally-determined social security systems
- by the creation of an international critical public as the medium for countervailing power in the globalisation process
Finally Medico understands its own work as social advocacy for its local partners in the "south". This advocacy is an attempt to influence public awareness and behaviour in the North, as well as the decisions made in the centres of power.
Our criticism of the privatisation of the social role of the state is not aimed at the reinstallation of a classical welfare state, but rather aimed to save social responsibility and solidarity. It is not the reconstruction of the state, which is the order of the day, but the reconstruction of the social structures, which must however include the defence of certain of the state’s achievements, in particularly the social security system. It is precisely by confronting the conventional forms of government that social alternatives can be developed.
Together with our partners we initiate campaigns in order to open up options and to instigate public pressure.
With the mandate of our partners we take part in political lobbying of international bodies, for example the UN, at which Medico possesses a consultative status.
We carry out human rights activities especially there where the basic rights of human dignity, physical and psychological integrity, and health provisions have been violated. Only the continual use of publicity to inform about such violations of basic rights and the denunciation of crimes against humanity can bring such actions to an end and prevent further horrors.
We are obliged to pursue publicity work, which transcends the dissemination of information. This includes dealing with the sort of behaviour, which causes disease, and confrontation with our own history and with the history of colonialism, which spread out from Europe and now as much as ever dominates the relationship between North and South. It depends on us to create an awareness of the fact that the neo-liberal globalisation process will not result in winners and losers, but will damage existence for all. The definition and continual redefinition of the mutual nature of this relationship is more than just a public relations exercise, it is Enlightenment in a very critical sense.