Jubilee reception: Aid makes a difference | Mission East

Jubilee reception: Aid makes a difference

Mission East’s jubilee on 18 November attracted a wide range of people, including supporters, partners, politicians and present and former employees. The photo features Gohar Hovhannisyan who works as a volunteer at Mission East’s office in Copenhagen. Photo: Kennet Havgaard.
In his jubilee speech, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, praised Mission East’s work in countries that do not receive a lot of media attention, such as Armenia and  Tajikistan. Photo: Kennet Havgaard.
Mission East has undergone a significant transformation over the past 25 years, but new challenges await such as climate change and conflicts. At the reception, people were able to present their solutions for a changing world. Their ideas were turned into drawings by cartoonist Erik Petri. Photo: Kennet Havgaard.

“Mission East contributes to making Danish development assistance more efficient than we could manage on our own,” then Minister for Foreign Affairs Kristian Jensen said at the 25th jubilee celebration on 18 November. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, added that Mission East’s development work also stabilises vulnerable countries that have been forgotten by the rest of the world.

By Svend Løbner, Freelance Journalist 

Mission East’s festive jubilee reception bustled with activity. The event at Vartov next to Town Hall Square in Copenhagen took place on Friday 18 November 2016 – exactly 25 years after the organisation’s humble beginnings in a garage in Birkerød. Cofounder and former managing director René Hartzner told the guests about the early days.

People joined the event in large numbers: Ambassadors, politicians, partners and journalists – and not least many of Mission East’s faithful supporters who privately or through associations or churches have supported the work for poor and disaster ridden people around the world.

But the world’s problems did not cast a shadow over the festive atmosphere – because the aid efforts really do make a difference. The results were documented by many banners, a photo exhibition and a cinema, but especially by the prominent speakers who themselves had witnessed distress being alleviated.

Praise for efforts in Armenia and Iraq

The Armenian ambassador to Denmark, Hrachya Aghajanyan praised Mission East’s distribution of food, medicine and hospital equipment to 65.000 people who back in 1992 were affected by conflict and the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 1988:

“You stood by us during the most difficult period in our history. When a country has problems, it is important to continue believing in people. What you did is an important reason why we started believing in the future. Thank you for your faithfulness for all those years. We feel that we have a large family in Denmark!”

Mission East’s work in Iraq had also made an impression on several speakers. Former member of the German Bundestag and chairman of the board of Mission East Deutschland, Otto Bernhardt, shared impressions from a trip to Northern Iraq. The foreign affairs spokesperson of Denmark’s governing Liberal Party, Michael Aastrup Jensen, described the joy and gratitude of the Yezidis for Mission East’s emergency relief and psychosocial support in the children’s centres on Sinjar Mountain. He visited the area in June. In his video greeting, Mr Aastrup Jensen expressed the wish that Mission East will continue to grow for the next 25 years.

Recognised aid organisation 

Two foreign ministers – one of whom was in office at the time – spoke at the jubilee, and they both praised the work of Mission East:

“You have undergone a remarkable development from the humble start in a garage in Birkerød till today’s role as a recognised aid organization that delivers humanitarian assistance around the world,” the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, said in a video greeting. He continued:

“Due to conflicts, climate change, wars and disasters a lot people in the world are, unfortunately, depending on our assistance. Consequently, I am happy that Mission East is such a close and well recognised partner. It has been so for the first 25 years, and I am looking forward to this lasting for many years to come,” he said.

Stability in forgotten countries 

The former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, praised Mission East as an aid organisation with many different skills:

“It is significant to have an aid organisation like Mission East which can be there in peaceful times when you build up something in a calm and steady manner, but which can also be there when the need suddenly arises for emergency relief, whether this need is caused by natural disasters or war.”

Per Stig Møller had noticed something special about Mission East:

“I have noticed that you are also present in areas that in my opinion will play an increasingly important role. I am thinking of countries like Armenia and Tajikistan which are normally not on our radar as countries with civil wars, but where something can happen in the future. They are countries that the world – and CNN – are not aware of. It is tremendously important to have stability in those countries; otherwise things will go wrong there as well.”

“We are Mission East”

Other guests at the reception were the leader of Mission East’s partner organization in Armenia, Bridge of Hope, Susanna Tadevosyan, and Madhab Raj Neupane from Nepalese partner KIRDARC. Both organisations play a decisive role in efforts to make aid relevant to local communities.

The importance of crosscutting cooperation was the theme of managing director Kim Hartzner’s speeches during the event. He kept on reminding the gathering that everyone – from the organisation’s management to every beneficiary of emergency and development aid – is a part of Mission East. For without crosscutting cooperation there would be no Mission East at all.