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Medico International is a government-supported humanitarian relief and human rights organization based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Its declared aim is to achieve the human right to health globally, and using this justification, it is active in controversial partisan political campaigns, particularly in the Middle East. Medico has an annual budget of approximately 11 million Euro, provided by the German Federal Foreign Office [AA] and Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development [BMZ]), and other sources. With this large budget, Medico is a prominent member in what Dutch author Linda Polman has called and criticized as the humanitarian NGO industry.
Medico works with partners from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Together with its partners Medico provides help during catastrophes and supports long-term activities. Medico International focuses on health supply, human rights, psycho-social work and migration. Citing the World Health Organization, is not only seen as the absence of decease but as a physical, psychological and social comfort and well-being. In this definition it goes along with the World Health Organization.
Secondly Medico emphasizes a critical public and educational work, where it engages in debates as well as campaigning. Medico puts the sources of poverty and conflicts into focus and not only to support in the management of the consequences. This idea is reflected within its several publications—like the quarterly ‘rundschreiben’, which is available in German – public lectures and campaigns.
Medico International is a registered association with a voluntary board. The psychologist Thomas Gebauer is the managing director. The office is divided into the three sections: public work, project monitoring and administration. Around 40 people work at the office in Frankfurt, with three additional offices: one in Israel/Palestine, one in Central America and one in Algeria. The most famous employee is the philosopher Thomas Seibert. The process of oversight and regulation of Medico activities and personnel is unclear.
Founded in 2004, the Medico International Foundation supports activities with earnings and engages in debates, congresses and symposia. Famous members of the board of trustees are the German cabaret artist Georg Schramm as well as the former Hessian minister Rupert von Plottnitz. Former members were the Psychoanalysts Paul Parin and Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen.
Medico International was founded with the name ‘Medico Action’ in 1968. It started with the aim to collect medication for Biafra and delegated staff and trucks to devastated areas. Due to those experiences, Medico changed its strategy fundamentally, adding a strong emphasis on political activism in conflict areas. (In contrast to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has a policy of strict neutrality, some humanitarian aid NGOs such as Medico become partisan actors in conflicts, although they are generally not qualified to make the assessments in complex situations and are manipulated by the parties to conflict.) Discussions came to the conclusion that for improving the situation long term the sources for poverty and catastrophes must be taken into consideration. Since then Medico refrains from sending medical supply or personal from abroad short term but tries to support local initiatives, capacities and specialists.
Long term projects came into the centre of Medico's work. In 1970s Medico focused on Primary Health Care and a community centred health support because of the stranding of a big health centre in cooperation with the government of Mali in 1973. A central perspective of this approach is the impossibility to achieve global health care of everyone by centrally monitored projects from governments. Furthermore, everyone concerned needs to take place in this process.
Currently Medico International works together with 114 partners from 24 countries. Most of them in the Middle East and Central America. It gives emergency assistance during urgent catastrophes like armed conflicts or environmental crisis. But those are tied to long term cooperation with partners and not short term delegations to achieve long lasting improvements. Central for this work are local organizations, who work with Medico as independent partners. Following its definition of health as comprehensive well-being Medico works together not only with health organizations but with political/cultural groups like the radical and problematic Palestinian Freedom Theatre Jenin, and the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), an organization fighting for rights for sexual minorities in Zimbabwe. Further it supports mine cleaning and education organizations in Afghanistan and Colombia.
Public work and campaigns
Public works for Medico not only means fundraising, furthermore it aims to engage in debates and informs about the situation of the project and the countries they are working in. Constant focuses of attention are the sources of poverty and injustice. Medico informs mainly through its homepage https://www.medico.de/en/, its newsletter and it quarterly German publication ‘rundschreiben’. Further it is present in the public debate through campaigns, lectures and interviews.
Medico launches several campaigns like the campaign against the strategy of the EU to gain access to resources of countries of the global south called ‘Die EU nennt es Rohstoffinitiative...Wir nennen es Rohstoffraub‘ together with attac. In 1991 Medico and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation launched an international campaign against land mines. The international successful campaign resulted in the Ottawa Treaty 1997, which banned land mines internationally. The same year the campaign was honoured with the Nobel Peace Price.
In 2012 the network 'Umfairteilen' (a word play with the words fair and redistribute [ger: unverteilen]) is launched. Several unions, initiatives as well as Medico worked together for a tax for the wealthy.
In 2014 Medico together with the presidents of the German unions Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund and the IG Metall and ver.di launched a campaign called ‘untragbar’ (unbearable/unwearabe) in support of textile workers in southeast asia. This was a reaction to the accident at the factory of Ali Enterprises in Pakistan, where 300 people died. Apart from the campaign Medico and the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights supported a lawsuit of four suvivours against the German textile company KiK. In Bangladesh medico supports a fund for the injured of the collapsed fabric Rana Plaza , where 1127 people died and 2438 were injured.
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