IPA Reps’ Reports

NGOs with General and Special consultative status have the right, among other things, to designate authorized representatives to be present at public meetings, submit written statements, and make oral presentations. UN4In addition, NGOs with General consultative status have the right to propose items for the agenda of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, and to address ECOSOC.

 

IPA Representative Reports

Troy Ertelt – Reflections on CSoD55

TroyReflections on the Civil Society Forum, January 31, 2017 and the  Commission for Social Development,  February 1, 2017 to February 10, 2017   By Troy Ertelt

                It was an exciting and unique experience to see the United Nations in operation.  I appreciated the opportunity to see how IPA interacts with the broader community of NGOs at the UN.  It was valuable to see the ways in which the tenets of IPA, like radical hospitality, professional competence, and zeal, are interwoven into the ways in which IPA interacts with the UN.

                During the course of the Commission, I attended some fascinating side events.  I was very impressed by the Human Dignity and Faith Perspective on the Eradication of Poverty for the Incarcerated Population of the World presentation.  Because of my background in forensic psychology and criminal justice reform, this was particularly informative for me.  The presentations by the participants was interesting for me because they wove together threads that I had not previously considered.  They put forth the idea that engaging incarcerated populations more meaningfully across the world could reduce worldwide poverty.  I have considered how to reform criminal justice in the United States, but this presentation gave me a global perspective.  This presentation called to mind radical hospitality.  If the rest of the world practiced radical hospitality with prisoners, they might be able to more meaningfully engage in the world upon release and thus reduce poverty around the world.

 Additionally, the presentation The Role of the Media and the Use of ICTs in Promoting Strategies for the Eradication of Poverty was excellent.  One of the chiefs of Al Jazeera America was in attendance, and he presented some very interesting thoughts about poverty and myths surrounding it.  He took a historical perspective to describe how government officials and even some faith leaders throughout history have reinforced the myth that poverty is necessary in order to protect their positions of power.  He explained that, from his perspective, poverty is not a foregone conclusion although almost all people have accepted this as being true.  He argued that poverty is, instead, the result of those in power refusing to share their resources.  I had never heard poverty referred to as a myth before, and this particular speaking was truly perspective altering for me.  I thought this was interesting in terms of professional competence because I have worked in poverty reduction projects as a professional, but I have never considered this particular myth.  It was good for me to have exposure to another perspective that broadened how I thought about poverty and why it exists.

                One issue that was addressed consistently throughout the Commission was the recent Oxfam report about economic inequality.  The reported explained that 8 men in the world possess the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the world’s population.  So 8 people have the same amount of money as approximately 3,500,000,000 people.  This kind of concentration of wealth seems to me deeply immoral, and I think almost everyone at the UN agreed.  At the same time, no one seemed to have an answer.  Of course, it is an incredibly complex problem with no single solution, but such reports almost make it seem like a hopeless endeavor to try to correct the problem.

                I found myself surprised that the member states sometimes did not give the NGOs the time or credit that I think they deserve.  I recall one morning at a briefing it was shared that only three NGOs had an opportunity to speak the day prior although more spots were initially allotted.  I understood the reason for this being that member states had taken more than their allotted time and ran into the time of the NGOs.  I was also surprised that only 20 NGOs were slated to have speaking spots to the assembly while more than 60 NGOs were in attendance.  It struck me as disappointing that there were not more formal opportunities for NGOs to engage with member states because the member states have so many important resources to offer member states.

Olivia Dawson, IPA Volunteer - Reflections on Service at the UN

‘To exist for the future of other without being suffocated by their present’  –Musings of Dag Hammarskjöld

Olivia speaking at the HLPF on July 18

Olivia speaking at the   HLPF on July 18

So the time has come to write my final report for the IPA- it seems strange to be writing it from my old University campus in Western Australia, seemingly a world away from the experience I have just had in New York City and living in Community in the Bronx. This past fortnight has helped me greatly to process all the many things I have learnt, the people I have met, the lifelong friendships I have formed and the ways of thinking gleaned that I hope never leave me.

Highlights

While there are far too many memorable moments to list in a single reflection, a few occasions will always stand out in my memory, times when I was helped to achieve things I did not think I was brave enough to do. Speaking at the High Level Political Forum in July, on the topic of social protection floors and grassroots economies was definitely one of those moments.  I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to do so on behalf of the IPA, in an imposing and intimidating arena that has heard speeches from some of the most important characters in foreign affairs over the years.

 Furthermore, being selected to present at the 13th Annual Youth for Human Rights Summit on a topic that was very close to my heart, was without a doubt a personal highlight. Being able to shed some light on an issue that affects my own country, as well as finding newfound confidence with my capacities as a speaker and to overcome nerves, was incredible.

 However my highlights were not only personal; as a team the IPA in collaboration with other NGO’s have had some amazing success’s in the past year, and even contributing to that in any small way that I could was such a privilege. The two Side Events organised by the IPA at the United Nations were amazing achievements and brought attention to the plights of those who perhaps were not able to speak in the UN hallways themselves. Both events were undoubtedly highlights throughout my experience.

 Final Thoughts
On a service day in upstate New York working for Habitat for Humanity, we finished the day with a reflection all together as a group. And as part of that reflection we read a prayer that has stayed with me and sums up for me both the work of the IPA and how I wish to direct my life henceforth. Written by Presentation Sister Rafael Considine, she pens;

‘To Nano Nagle

Take down your lantern from its niche and go out!
You may not dwell in firelight certainties,
Secure from drifting fog of doubt and fear.
You may not build yourself confining walls

And say: ‘Thus far, and thus, and thus far I shall walk,
And these things I shall do, and nothing more.’

Go out! For need calls loudly in the winding lanes
And you must seek Christ there

Your pilgrim heart
Shall urge you still one pace beyond
And love shall be your lantern flame

 After having spent several weeks back home, and re-immersing myself in the privilege of Australian society, its beauty, the relative wealth of its citizens and the fortunate standard of living that I was lucky enough to be born into- it is so easy to forget about the winding lanes where need calls. They are present here, to be sure, but far less obvious than overseas. Going forth, I need to push myself not to stop and be complacent, but to break through the confining walls of what scares me, and to continue to go out wherever the need calls me.  To not enhance my standard of living but to enhance my standard of giving (another notion imparted on me by the amazing women I’ve encountered. For the gift of this developed mentality, I am eternally grateful.

Mary Ivers, PBVM - HABITAT III QUITO

All roads lead to Quito……one world in dialogue at HABITAT 3
17th – 20th October, 2016

mary-ivers

Mary Ivers, PBVM

In 1976, the United Nations convened the Habitat 1 conference in Vancouver, Canada, sparking an international conversation on urban issues as the world was starting to witness the greatest and fastest migration in history of people into cities and towns.

Twenty years later in 1996, at the Habitat 2 Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, world leaders adopted the Habitat Agenda as a global action plan to create adequate shelter for all.

In 2016, Habitat 3 in Quito, Ecuador is designed to reinvigorate the global commitment on the implementation of a “New Urban Agenda” that addresses 21st century urban challenges and harnesses the tremendous potential of cities to promote sustainable development globally.logo-2-jpg

The world is a map of connectivity these days in this city as people from 193 countries begin to arrive and discuss together how to shape the cities of the future. Up to now the story of metropolis has been one of expensive infrastructure, the unilateral vision of the expert but the voices of those who occupy public spaces and places have been largely absent. What people do in cities, how our shared experience drives both competition and collaboration and how citizens participate are all key components in making our settlements thrive.

e_sdg_icons_notext-11The New Urban Agenda is framed as a convening of minds seeking to provide solutions to the complexity of urbanization in the modern world. All current estimates tell us that four out of five people will be living in towns and cities by the middle of this century.

This New Urban Agenda must fit into SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)  framework that is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Thus, much creative energy will have to be present these days to look at transport, housing, air quality, the relation between urban and rural living, green and public spaces,  mitigation andadaptation to climate change, preparation for disasters and the protection of cultural and natural heritage.

As I glance through the program I recall the witty saying of one person as he refers to the agenda: “There are enough good proposals and formulations (145 in all) to sink a ship”

However cities are central to all our lives at the present day. They are where people of different histories, cultures and languages intersect; they are rich with possibility but are also the places where the challenges of income inequality, economic and racial segregation, homelessness and lack of affordability persist.

Preparations for this meeting have many moments of humor as the length of speeches, documents and proposals are infinite as I have mentioned above and, at this stage, the UN is being asked to deliver a “tweet-length” final statement! There are side-events from all over the world but one captures my attention: From Rhetoric to Reality: Cities that respond to the needs of all.

Nisha Thomas, PBVM (North India Province) and Lizy Thomas, PBVM (South India Province) Reflections on 66 UN DPI/NGO Conference

2.UNNisha Thomas, PBVM (North India Province) and Lizy Thomas, PBVM (South India Province) participated in the 66 UN DPI/NGO Conference with its theme “Education for Global Citizenship” was held from 30 May to 1 June 2016, in Geongju, South Korea. The Conference was attended by an estimated number of 2,200 representatives from some 700 NGOs coming  from around 100 countries. It was very encouraging to hear the voices from vulnerable communities most affected by poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change.

At the opening session UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon appreciated the tremendous work done by different NGOs across the world. He said, “The United Nations highly values the contributions of non-governmental organizations. This Conference is a reminder of the power of NGOs to shape our common future. The United Nations is proud to serve as a forum for dialogue among the world’s NGOs. The United Nations will continue strengthening our proud partnership with the NGOs represented here – and others around the world which shares our vision of a life of dignity for all.”

Each day there were round table discussions of representatives from various backgrounds of the society. The themes for the round table sessions were

1.Right to accessible, safe and inclusive learning spaces

2.’’STEAM’’(Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) should power the SDGs

3.Children and Youth Tomorrow’s Global citizens today

4.Global   citizens as  Stewards  of  the planet, Energy, Environment and Climate Change

5.Local Development and poverty Eradication for Global Citizenship .

There were also workshops from various NGOs across the world which helped the participants receive new ideas and gain more confidence to work towards the common goal.

During one of the sessions, Dr. Scott Carlin, Chair of the Conference said, ‘The need for this international conference is clear. Never before in human history have actions in one part of the globe so quickly and profoundly affected life elsewhere on Earth. We must develop new educational and policy tools to meet today’s global challenges.un-Interfaith-service (1).docx

The focus all through the conference was rooted in Sustainable Development Goal number 4, calling forth  strategies, expertise and resources across the widest spectrum of civil society to unleash a range of education initiative that ensure, safe and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The three pillars of learning are (a) formal education, (b) informal education and training and (c)advocacy and public information will be examined as means to correct gender, social, economic and other inequalities that perpetuate marginalization and discrimination and thus, hinder achieve of Goal 4 and each of the additional sixteen Sustainable Development Goals.

On the last day, our well-framed action plan was presented and agreed upon by the participants of the Conference.

 

Margaret Walsh, PBVM-Reflections on 15th Session of the Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples

BEING THERE
Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples, May 9-20, 2016 by Margaret Walsh, PBVM
Issues:  Peace, Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation

Margaret Walsh, PBVM

Margaret Walsh, PBVM

It was a special gift given to me, as an NGO representative of IPA, to be able to ‘be there’ at the United Nations as a participant at the Forum for Indigenous Peoples, in company with their representatives of the Indigenous communities from around the world. At the Opening Ceremony, the vision of the Indigenous delegates’ colourful attire immediately contributed to an atmosphere of anticipatory expectation and to my own personal awareness and appreciation of their rich and diverse cultures.  I was at once swept into the realization that I was fortunate to be part of a very significant and unique event.

In his traditional welcome to all, the American Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Todadaho Sid Hill, called on the Sky Creator “to take care of us, Sisters and Brothers on Earth, to free our troubled minds from confusion,   and to bring us together in peace and compassion.” I felt a common bond between all participants was truly established then with his powerful presence and words of profound wisdom.

From then, during the full two weeks of the Forum Agenda, including the many interesting Side Events programmed as well, I continued to be informed and inspired by the serious content of the presentations, particularly those of the Indigenous persons themselves. The “Cry of the Earth’, and the ‘Cry of those made poor’ were particularly voiced with deep passion and urgency as each speaker put forward his or her appeals to all present in respect to the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as outlined in the UN Declaration.

Such ‘cries’ I myself heard were:

“To open the door of the Indigenous Peoples to the world. That Indigenous peoples be empowered to take back their lives. We need to deconstruct colonial legacy; to work in partnership with all, leading to strong healthy indigenous in charge of their destiny.  Peace is our common right. “

“We need to look deeper into the serious issues of Indigenous Youth. They have a right to be happy.”

“Respect Indigenous Women and Children”

Have I heard these cries before?   How can I help?   May the cries of the Indigenous soon cease.

I was especially both dismayed and delighted when I heard the tragic examples of neglect and devastation, and hence the pleas from the Indigenous speakers in reference to the ‘Care of Sacred Earth’; of their rightful place as one with the land, water, air, rivers.   There was a telling moment in one session when the ‘cry’ of the speaker from Bolivia was responded to with a standing ovation from the Forum delegation present. 

“We on Earth are more than just human beings.  We need laws not just for humans; we need to restore our cultural ideology.  We all feed from Mother Earth.  We are brothers and sisters. The water and land is our life.  We, all peoples, need to live in harmony with nature and each other”.

 I was later very impressed by the remarks of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, to the Indigenousdelegates during the Closing Ceremony on the final day of the Forum: 

“ Over the years, and during  the process of my visits to your communities I have gained a deeper understanding ofyour peoples’ historical struggles, your contributions to Mother Earth and humanity, your sustainable way of living, your cultural expressions, as well as the endangered situation of your languages. I have heard your call for recognition and respect for your identities and rights as indigenous peoples.  My message is clear: I am with you”.

His words have caused me to consider the need and challenge of my own personal response to all the Indigenous Peoples of the world, especially to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of my home nation, Australia.  To also say to them:  “I am with you”.

 I trust that my presence and involvement at the Indigenous Forum which brought with it the opportunity to hear, meet and interact with so many wonderful Indigenous will cause me to renew and act on this commitment to  be with them as they continue to call for all of us to acknowledge their true identity.

‘Being there’ at the UN Indigenous Forum certainly helped to deepen my awareness, compassion and understanding of the Indigenous Peoples everywhere.

Margaret and friends

Margaret and friends

Margaret Walsh, PBVM
Lismore, NSW Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Dolan, PBVM-Reflections on the CSW60

 I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to attend such a significant event as the

Commission for the Status of Women (CSW60). The priority theme for this Conference was The Empowerment of Women and its link to Sustainable Development. During the two weeks I gained some insight on how the various bodies of the UN function. The General Assembly is the main decision making Body within the UN and is composed of all member States. The CSW is the intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of Gender Equality and the empowerment of women. The UN women help to formulate policies, help member states to implement these policies and hold member states accountable for the implementation of these policies.

Morning briefings enabled us, civil society, to contribute to the deliberations of the General Assembly and kept us abreast of the progress made. At this Conference emphasis was placed on Implementation. One of the facilitators on the panel pointed out that there were three key topics of concern at this Assembly – (i) Implementation, (ii) Implementation, (iii) Implementation!

The CSW is a Body continually evolving. It is becoming more universal and more inclusive. This year saw the inclusion of Interfaith Dialogue.Ten years ago World Leaders didn’t see the need to dialogue with Faith Leaders, now this dialogue is seen as an integral part in the elimination of violence against women and girls.

Parallel and Side events highlighted critical issues relating to Gender Equality from across the Globe. The dark side of our world was exposed in issues such as Human Trafficking, Violence against Women and Girls, the destruction of the Planet by large Corporations. Trafficking in persons, the ‘open wound’ in our society (Pope Francis) finds its way to all corners of the world. Persons can be bought and sold like commodities for sexual exploitation and forced labour on the streets and Online for a few hundred dollars. The annual profit per victim is approximately $80.000. One statistic – 90% of  those working in Prostitution are Trafficked (Spain), shows the extent of the problem.

Sex tourism, pornography, sale of human organs are other aspects of the crime.

I became aware of the connection of Trafficking to many other issues and problems. It is connected to Climate Change. Natural disasters like drought and flooding offer opportunities for traffickers. Poverty, War and Conflict, Migration, Gender Attitudes all these situations where people are vulnerable are easily exploited by traffickers. An adequate response needs to happen at National and Global level.

Sr Gabriella, co-ordinator of Talitha Kum, in her Presentation at Franciscan International, 11th March, urged all of us to greater networking and collaboration. I saw these two concepts in a deeper light, they were not just expedient strategies, but ‘God’s call’  in our world today. We need to develop our capacity to collaborate. We also need to be alert to ensure we are not benefiting from Slave labour.

Violence against Women is still an issue for every nation but I was disturbed by the scale of violence against women in some parts of the world.

Fifteen women are murdered daily in Brazil, one woman is raped every four minutes. Many women simply just disappear. Homosexuals are murdered every day. We need to raise awareness internationally and stand in solidarity with our sisters in the South who are denied basic human rights.

However, many efforts are happening to counter Gender inequality. One example that impressed me was the National Plan, inspired by a UN document, devised by the Australian Government. It had cross Party agreement and was adequately funded. Its aim was to change young people’s attitudes about Gender Equality.

Formerly the focus was on intervention, now the focus is on Prevention, Early Intervention and Response. Progress has been made. It clearly shows that violence is not inevitable, it is preventable.

In spite of the array of problems I was exposed to during the two weeks, it was impossible not to feel heartened and energized by the vast number of talented, inspiring women working for Gender Equality and basic human rights in places where they confronted political and religious opposition.

I felt this especially in the Interfaith Dialogue sessions that I attended in the many side and parallel events. One of the discussions entitled, ‘A Woman’s Right to Belief’ showed the diversity of belief within the Islamic faith. One women spoke of her efforts to work for gender equality within the Muslim faith.She was a member of ‘Muslim Women for progressive values’. Another voice spoke of the struggle in her choice to abandon her faith, and the accompanying  loss of her Arabic culture.

She spoke of her daily awareness that she was now on the ‘Hit List’. Women who dissent are heretics and face open persecution. For her, the right to belief held within it the right to dissent.Two Third’s of Muslim countries have no law to protect women. Economic assistance is provided for those women questioning their faith in order to keep them within the fold.The integrity and heroism of these women is prophetic.

Sally Kader, President of United Federation for Peace keeping and Sustainable development, facilitator of another interfaith discussion, claimed our immediate attention with her dramatic opening question: ‘What is wrong with us?’ She repeated three times! Do we let people who hate rule our world? She emphasized that we no longer live in a world comprised of different cultures living in our own separate spaces. We need to break down walls and build bridges.

There is no road to Peace except through Dialogue. I was reminded of the statement I had read by Ban Ki-Moon displayed on the third floor of the UN building: “Our world is over armed and Peace is under funded.” Displayed beneath the statement is the daily military worldwide expenditure!

Participating in these interfaith dialogues was the most enriching experience of the Conference for me. The separation of the fundamentalist group ISIS from the true Islamic faith was previously a notional one. As a result of these exchanges

I have been pushed out into a new space. I am grateful for the Exodus experience.

Some tensions between Global North and Global South surfaced in a number of  discussions I attended. What is development? For one African woman, it was not skyscrapers or smooth pavements. Development centered around the question; ‘Why is my river polluted?’ There was concern about how Western values were penetrating their cultures. Some of the approaches and methods of Western NGO’s to bring about change didn’t acknowledge the diversity of cultures in Africa. One example given was the issue of female genital mutilation. Dialogue with local influential persons would be an essential first step and introducing legislation without dialogue would simply drive this practice underground. Different cultures offer us a challenge and opportunity to question our own values and assumptions.

Ban Ki-Moon’s inspirational opening address raised expectations concerning the outcome of the Conference. There was great hope that this would ‘deliver’ for women and girls. He said ‘We are here to change the world’. His remark ‘Leadership has no gender’ may have inspired women to lobby for a Feminist Secretary General.The final outcome may not have delivered all it could have but the commitment to realizing the Sustainable Goals and the work to achieve Gender Equality by 2030 will continue.

I have been stretched, disturbed, inspired, empowered and challenged over the two weeks of this Conference. I have learned that I can be more politically aware and active. The casual comment passed at the event ‘Fighting Sexism and Hate Speech Online” –  ‘You are privileged if you are ignorant or unaware of things that don’t affect you‘.  This I carry forward with me.

I see the need to balance the local and global reality in my ministry.

Also the necessity of working more closely with our NGO representative.

I have made connections that enable me to network with people and agencies in the area of Human Trafficking. I hope to find ways to move into more interfaith spaces.

Mr Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, chair-person of the General Assembly, in his opening address expressed his hope that the conference would be ‘memorable, meaningful and transformative’ for all of us. I think this is a good description of what the CSW 60 experience has been for me.

 

Diane Moyle, IPA Representative-Reflections on the CSW60

Attending CSW60 as a representative for the NGO, International Presentation Association (IPA) in New York City March 14-24, 2016, was a life changing and life enhancing experience. The personal impact will continue to unfold along with the responsibility to share the learnings with others.

During the first week it became apparent that three voices were present at the Commission and it is under these three headings the report is written.

The voices of pain from those directly affected by acts of injustice toward them.

These first hand stories of women from all parts of the world who have been abused sexually, physically and psychologically, explaining their fear, trauma, disempowerment and vulnerability was confronting and sobering to hear.

A group of young people aged 17-20 years explained the plight of youth in Mexico outlining the three most serious issues affecting them today as:

  • Drug Addiction – quite common from the age of 12
  • Pornography Addiction via the Internet – 93% of boys and 66% of girls spend hours a day accessing images which are detrimental to their emotional and psychological development and
  • Surrogate Pregnancy – where the womb of teenage girls is ‘rented out’ to provide a child for a couple or for the baby to be sold to the highest bidder.

The heinous use of technology where partners are stalked which often leads to violent acts, or sexual exploitation of children by paedophiles or the deformation of character with the intent to harm was explained in detail.

The cruelty to the most vulnerable, the indigenous, and the disabled and elderly women is such an easy target for those in positions of power who choose to misuse their power.

The voices of advocacy from those in powerful positions to the everyday campaigner.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his opening speech addressing the General Assembly was very clear, forthright and encouraging, that the Sustainable Development Goals need to be met on or before 2030. Even clearer was his statement that no woman should die in child birth due to lack of appropriate medical treatment. He also stated that the young people are not only the voice of the future but the voice for today and as such need to be listened to.

“Despite the conflicts in this region, and the social and economic problems they have created, I remain optimistic about the future. That is partly because the vast majority of young people around the world, including in this region, long for peace and security and are committed to human rights.” Ban Ki-moon said.

By 2030 he would like the acronym FGM (currently – female genital mutilation) to instead stand for Finally Girls Matter. Education should be available for all and indeed no woman should be left behind. His speech was both inspiring and reassuring, and was a guarantee that men too, need to educate other men, as to what is acceptable, culturally respectful and to clearly understand the benefits for everyone when we reach the day when there is equality for women.

It was encouraging to hear civil groups and NGO’s advocating for change in the light of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDG’s, of which there are seventeen. Visit, http://www.un.org. Examples of these are given below.

Two years ago, 200 Chibok girls were abducted by the Boko Haram and today, a Nigerian Psychologist woman works with six of these survivors who now live in the USA. They cannot return to their home town due to the culturally inferred disgrace for both them and their families. Some of families are suffering traumatic grief but they believe their key to survival is for the girls to be educated in the hope they can help others in their local Nigerian area. The strong message was the difference between being a ‘survivor’ and a ‘thriver’, the later enabling those affected to become empowered to help assist change in behaviours from what has been accepted in the local area.

Indigenous women have been affected by violence often due to societal values of today, including alcoholism, drug addiction and abuse associated with these. Today, more than ever, indigenous women need to be strong voices to change the future for tomorrow. Government agencies support these changes in many countries; however, it requires the elders both male and female to stand strong against this violence and to educate and enable the young people to be the change agents to ensure the younger generations don’t experience the life of past generations.  Education is again the key to the future, but it is also the responsibility of society in general to enable the educated indigenous young women to be assimilated back into their communities to empower the youth of tomorrow for a better and brighter future.

The voices of empowerment for women to find the way forward for their lives.

It was encouraging to hear of grass roots groups making a difference in the lives of women. From Fiji, where women are using their skills of weaving to recycle trash into saleable products thus providing income for families and at the same time caring for the environment, their slogan being, “do what you can with what you have.” To the Presentation Sisters in an area in India engaging women in self-help groups and encouraging the establishment of small businesses, while at the same time supporting Men’s groups, their slogan being, “ to ensure no one is left behind and to reach the last first.”

Even in the most poverty stricken countries, there seems to be money for mobile phones. Young people of today are digital natives (grown up with technology) but along with the amazing positive uses, there is a dark side where perpetrators exploit the vulnerable. The Australian Government has produced a practical package teaching women and girls to be tech savvy and together with Telstra – an Australian telecommunication provider, phones are being given to women in crisis along with education on how to use the device to keep themselves safe. This year, Australia will host a Technology Summit in October as an inaugural event to discuss further advances in positive uses as well as further solutions to safeguard against the misuse of technology.

The voice of youth making up a large percentage of the population and need to be heard as they speak of the problems affecting their age group. The youth have suggestions for solutions to the problems and need government action to stand firm against the evil occurring and find a way forward for a better future for the coming generations.

Women are already removing the shroud of secrecy by speaking out about the discrimination they have endured and together have collective wisdom as to ways of overcoming the acts of violence and silencing that has been common place for too long. Women are educating others, both males and females as to what is culturally acceptable and what should be culturally acceptable and lifting the veil on what is done in the name of religion but is actually a cultural tradition. A reminder of this is in the statement, “Women are like tea bags… when things get hot the strength of women is seen.”

We are called upon as women, to be prominent in promoting, educating and encouraging change to ensure equality and empowerment for women and girls is not only heard but is a reality. The call is to think globally and act locally.

At the conclusion of the commission there is a voice of hope. Hope for the future for women and their journey to equality and a realisation and acceptance that women are agents of change. Equality is accepting and celebrating the God given differences between male and female, providing a way forward together, respecting the importance of education and learning from the errors of the past. Neither sex should be exploited. It is about respect for creation and as Christians we see the essential place of prayer along with acts to help bring about this change in the world today, for all. Nano Nagle was certainly a woman before her time, as she also recognised the importance of education and the basic needs of people, a true role model acting according to the will of Christ.

The IPA needs to look carefully at the SDG’s and fine tune the foci to improve the future for empowerment of women in the countries where we have influence. This wisdom appropriate for each area needs to be implemented at the grass roots level for change to become a reality.

Diane Moyle
St Ursula’s College, Yeppoon, Queensland, Australia
 

Laura Urbano, PBVM-Reflections on the CSW60

The work of IPA in furthering the mission of the Presentation congregations globally is extremely important because we, sisters, associates, friends and collaborators are promoting the mission of the Venerable Nano Nagle to be of service in any part of the world and to do all in our power to bring justice, equality and well-being to all those in need. 

Nano Nagle strove for quality education for children especially for girls and for the women with whom she came into contact who needed help from abuse, violence, poverty and unjust situations.

“Flowing from our identity as Presentation women the mission of IPA is to channel our resources so that we can speak and act in partnership with others for global justice.”   We can see that attainment of the U.N. sustainable development goals of the 2030 agenda is at the heart of our mission to empower the oppressed especially women and children throughout the world wherever Presentation people minister and serve.

My experience of CSW 60 calls me to take down my lantern and to go forth into the winding lanes and streets of our cities and towns of this twenty first century and work for ways that will bring about the attainment of the 17 sustainable developmental goals.  The resolution of the United Nations for transforming the world through the attainment of the sustainable development goals linked goal number 5, Gender equality and women empowerment, as the transversal to attainment of the other goals.

“We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.” (United Nations Resolution: 25 September 2015 for the SDG 2030 Agenda)

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • GOAL 5: ACHIEVE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

After all these years women and girls still struggle for gender equality and gender parity across all levels of society.  Women and girls still suffer gender based violence in all its forms even though there are international conventions, laws and regulations that set the course for the prevention, sanctioning and eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls.  Migrant women and girls, refugees and asylum seekers are trafficked and abused as they escape war, armed conflicts or economic and social upheavals. They are thrown into the sex trade, prostitution, forced marriages, forced bonded or slave labor, stripped of all human dignity, exploited, trampled and treated as commodity.  Women and girls are the ones who suffer the most poverty due to lack of economic and social parity in educational, political and social spheres.  Gender based violence in all its forms stems from and maintains gender inequality.  Ending violence is directly linked to achieving gender equality and thus the opening of economic, educational, social and political opportunities on par with men.   The attitudes and behaviors of men and women must be changed to attain gender equality.

 Women’s and girls’ empowerment, social and political representation, full, equal participation and leadership are the keys to break out of this vicious cycle of inequality, discrimination, injustice and violence.   New programs and initiatives must be started where women through their participation and leadership inspire and empower other women to further their own development, empowerment and participation.  When women are actively engaged in all spheres of economic, social and political life, sustainable development programs and goals have far reaching results and long lasting outcomes.  The 2030 agenda calls for 50/50 gender equality through all levels of society for the realization of the sustainable developmental goals. 

We are all created in God’s image and likeness and have been gifted with dignity, so all men and women are capable of achieving the development of society.  We must start re-modeling or re imaging our schemes of thinking and behaving and find the way to globalize equality, human dignity, respect, solidarity, and justice; right relationships with all persons.  Women’s and girls’ empowerment, participation and leadership don’t exclude men or boys.  It calls for a new understanding of who we are as human beings and the need to work together in equal partnership towards the development of a just equitable society founded upon respect, tolerance, and acceptance of talents, gifts and differences.   It is so important to share the work of the U.N. and the CSW among the people with whom we work and minister so that we can all study, investigate and then implement the sustainable development goals in our communities, cities and countries so that truly we are transforming our world, making it a better place for all peoples.

My experience with IPA and the United Nations has given me a greater awareness and knowledge of what it means to partner globally to affect social and economic justice.  It also shows me that what we do however small does matter and does make a difference so that no one is left behind.  Sometimes, we may feel that the issues are so great that whatever actions we take won’t really matter but that is not true.  It is from the grassroots in the communities, villages and towns that people partnering together and working jointly on projects affect the most sustainable change and precipitate the development and progress of their villages and cities.  We must globalize solidarity, justice, equality, hope and work for the common good.  As Presentation people, as IPA, we are doing just that.  Nano Nagle would be proud of us.  Through her intercession, may we continue to take down our lanterns and venture forth bringing the light of the Risen Lord to all peoples.

 

Rose Elias-Reflections on the CSW60

Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development

The Commission for the Status of Women is the principal global intergovernmental body that is exclusively dedicated to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

I was so proud to be apart of this significant event. I was one of the participants that have been invited by the International Presentation Association (IPA), and the members of IPA are engaged with local communities in 23 countries. IPA is a member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) who is an accredited Non-Governmental Organisation at the United Nations since 2000.

As I reflect on this perfect, unique and rare opportunity it is exciting to note that over the past years much has been achieved in gender equality, however there is still much more need to be done. This CSW60 was filled with strong messages of inequality and the significant role of everyone participating in making it possible that no one will be left behind. Therefore the challenge to women’s empowerment and sustainable development has to consider the key message of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of leaving no one behind.

It was a magnificent feeling to be surrounded by empowered women and girls from all over the world, people who have same goals, vision and good spirits working together to make sure that our planet is 50-50 by 2030 a reality. Not only that, but there was a common understanding that this aspiration will never become a reality if woman and girls are not included in the implementation process.

CSW60 forum was a perfect opportunity of interaction with women delegates from across the world. It was a wonderful sharing experience where women and girls joined their voices to promote women’s needs. During the conference we had an opportunity to share other women’s expertise and also providing recommendations on how to address the issues we focus on. As a new participant in the (CSW60), I would like to acknowledge that the event was an enormous success for women and girls to advocate for change. Throughout the conference I was able to network with many women and young people, NGO representatives and government delegates to promote the work of women for change.

Being a participant in this Commission on Status of Women has shaped my way of thinking and also to admire the wonderful work that Nano Nagle had done in her community in the past. And her vision and mission is still successful today because the Presentation Sisters and Wellsprings for Women are much committed to follow Nano Nagle’s dreams, and walking in her steps making sure that women and girls are empowered.

The Commission on Status of Women (CSW) was a new experience and life changing. It was a great opportunity sharing others stories through the side events that were conducted during the conference. The more we join meetings and listen to others speak and advocate, the more we get engaged in discussions that help us as the grassroots voices to be heard.

In achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set out for all nations worldwide by the United Nations, women must work together as local and global partners. It is important to hold each other accountable to our actions, and also keep hoping for change by 2030. However women and girls need to maintain the momentum from the CSW60 conference, and keep fighting for better world for women and girls.

 

Shanti Sagayam, PBVM-Reflections on the CSW60

Ambassador Otto, Permanent Representative of Palau  to the United Nations was honored by the Mining working group for his contribution to getting the Human rights to water and  Sanitation in the outcome document  of the 2030 Transformative agenda. To do this he had to face lot of challenges and struggle He became aware of the women and girls struggle for the sanitation. He made it appoint to provide them with basic facilities. This helps me to think about my own country about the water resources and availability to the people. We need to become aware of our own resources in our own places and demand the government through raising our voice against companies.

The session of the commission on the status of women was very informative, on women’s rights at all levels. Less than 25% women are in decision- making.  Women have gifts and their ability is a great loss when their voices are not heard.

Translating Political commitments into effective gender-responsive climate change.

In so many ways women are affected by the climate change. They are the carriers of water and when it is not available or polluted they have to walk miles to find water.  Women are the people who do the cooking and cleaning and look after the children.  Women are also the ones that bear the burdens and their situation has to be taken into account in all the decisions made.

Women are denied land rights, lack education and healthcare. When women are educated the whole family and even the whole society benefits life improves for all. We are denying and ignoring the gifts and potential a group of people who could make such a difference in the world today

It was quite interesting to listen to the young vibrant girls sharing their life. In this world no female should be left behind. Everyone should be educated in all the fields. Women are powerful in making the world a better place. We must include the boys and girls together in decision-making

The girl’s life story was so touching how each one struggle to get her rights as a girl in the family. Even to get their education has been denied them.  It was not easy to face the challenges in life which molded them to be a good person today. It was a good to listen to their stories how they were misused by their own father and brother.  Things are changing and girls are demanding their rights even paying the price for their voice to be heard.

Addressing violence against women and girls was highlighted and here again the stories were very moving and sad, and this violence is going unnoticed and unchallenged in so many countries. The flight of the women and girls in each country is very different. The violence and war often ending up with trafficking. The survey shows that the women and girls are tortured in many ways. The international labour orgaisation has found that over 55% of women and girls are bought or sold.

The 2030  transformative agenda and the sustainable development goals aim at leaving no one behind and reaching the lost first.

This SDGs states have committed to end modern slavery and the child labour ,Human  trafficking. But still it continues in many countries. Even now in tamilnadu. To achieve this target we have to fight for women;s rights through empowerment programmes.

 As a result of this the one month experience helped me to have better understanding of the SDGs and the United Nations are working in all over the world. Attending this different commissions on the status of women in the global level ,making policy, Human rights, promoting gender equality, Education for all and the empowerment of women and it s role in the united nations made me to have clear understanding about the structure and the involvement of the IPA work in United nation. As a presentation sister working in the grass root level should be always connected with IPA. Through this we can bring all our work and the issues and challenges to raise our voice in the United Nations where the policies are made are changed. As a presentation sister should think ‘’Globally and act locally ‘’to bring the changes , we the  presentation sisters should become aware of the global issues and local issues to work together for the betterment of our society to reach out to the people. Above all this experience helps me and challenges me to put it in action to work towards the change. ’’ONE CANNOT CHANGE THE WORLD BUT TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD to achieve these goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Raftery, PBVM-Reflections on the CSW60

Now that the 60th Commission on the status of women has concluded we look back on what has been achieved and how this achievement can be realized as we move forward.

It was the wish of the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the opening session that delegates and countries would seize the day and transform gender relations irreversibly for the next generation .Leaders may not have seized day alas, but some gains have been made on the Sustainable Development Goals e.g. on women’s education, health, and economic empowerment. Now it is up to each country, leaders and society to work with the text and targets and make these gains a reality – now is the time when we must move from conversation to implementation.

We all need the perseverance and tenacity of Ambassador Otto who is the Permanent Representative from the small island Palau to the United Nations. He has worked tirelessly to get the inclusion of the provision of universal and equitable access to adequate safe and clean drinking water into
the final draft. This he has achieved after a great struggle. He was aware that it is women and girls who are disproportionally affected by inadequate water and sanitation facilities, and they are, as a direct result in the greatest risk of violence and harassment. We heard harrowing stories of what multinationals and oil companies are doing in polluting the streams in the Niger Delta and in other areas in Africa by oil and other pollutant, thus causing disease and deaths to the people and to the fish in the streams. The sad fact is that the technical innovation is available which would supply water to all the people in the world. That technology is not expensive, when we compare its cost to the amount of money being  spent on the manufacturing of arms which are being used to destroy lives. Those of us who have this precious amenity available, do we use it wisely, or are we even aware of this precious commodity? We need the commitment of us all to demand the water technology be made available to safeguard the wellbeing of all and of our planet home. We need a corporate voice against multinational, companies and private cooperatives.

The human cost on women and girls fleeing from violence and war and often ending up being trafficked, was graphically highlighted by survivors. These survivors showed great resilience in the face of such terrible torture. While estimates concerning the number of victims range greatly, the International Labour Organisation has found that over 55% of those bought and sold are women and children. In target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, States have committed themselves to end modern slavery and human trafficking. Though outlawed universally, human trafficking and modern-day slavery continue to thrive, usually with impunity for the perpetrators. Achieving this target is crucial to fulfilling women’s rights, and ensuring women’s empowerment. We see that slave-related activities are often deeply embedded within multinational networks of supply chains. Therefore the positive engagement of the private sector is now essential to help eradicate human trafficking and this modern-day slavery once and for all. It was very encouraging also to hear what religious sisters are doing to combat this deadly injustice
and of the many services they are providing for women who have been trafficked. They are at the forefront of this struggle, as they also call for the criminalisation of the buyer of sex.

The percentage of women and children of those seeking asylum in Europe is now larger than that of men travelling alone. Women are experiencing violence, abuse and physical and mental harm at all stages of their journey. Smugglers, security staff or other refugees may force them to engage in sex before they are allowed to continue their journey. In the camps they are harassed and abused, they have no separate toilet facilities and because of that, they are denied basic rights. The situation of pregnant and breast-feeding women is particularly difficult with regard to sanitary facilities, food, safe places to rest, and other basic needs. For women with disabilities the situation is even worse: their risk of being abused is manifold, while basic services and protection is more restricted due to discrimination. Women have stated that they are seldom offered protection or the services they need. These women are fleeing war and conflict in their own countries and are seeking peace and security, but often they arrive into a situation much like the one they left behind. Women face particular risks and have particular needs in conflicts situations, yet they are seldom given a seat at the table when peace negotiations are going on. To achieve lasting
solutions for peace and security, women’s voices need to be heard. Peace is a question of gender equality, as conflict tends to increase sexual abuse.

We live in a global climate where people are on the move and innovations are developing every day. Today technology is a means of empowerment, yet often women are denied access to this area of life. We are aware that equality must happen within and through technology, yet there are places in the world where there is no access as people lack basic skills or education. To bring these skills available to women and girls will involve innovative structures. The technology is there, the means are there and what is needed is the political will to enforce it. The advantages are limitless. The example of what happened in Estonia was highlighted. They are now the leaders in computers development. When they got their independence they were very poor, yet they invested heavily in infrastructure, set targets and learned from the mistakes of others. They got every school on line, and now their education system is known to be one of the best in the world. Nokia got involved and technical education started in the Universities. Here we see how the state and the multinational worked together for the common good. Many other innovations were highlighted and these can easily be made available to educate and empower women.

While the struggles of women and girls were very much highlighted over the two weeks, equally the leadership and the tenacity of these women was inspiring and indeed challenging. Women are at the forefront of this struggle – training other women, consciousness raising and changing attitudes of both women and men in regards to equality. Women’s rights groups, organisations, gender units and women’s networks are champions in this field. Among those doing challenging work also is Sr Shanthi Sahayam a Presentation Sister from India who is working tirelessly with the Tribal Groups, training and empowering them to be full members of society. It was so true what one woman said early in the week. “They tried to bury us but they did not realise we were the seeds”

There was also a very moving Interfaith Service of Gratitude and Remembrance, where we joined in remembering those who have gone before us and who continue to inspire our lives. We all placed a candle or memento of someone special to us, and placed it on the altar, which was now a sea of lights leading to the one light. We heard stories of the struggles of so many women who had lived and died, or were killed in that struggle for justice for others. We prayed for the courage and commitment to continue in the struggle to advance gender equality and thus make the world a better place for all.

As a result of this experience I have a better understanding of the working of the United Nations and of its role in the world; of the Commission on the Status of Women the global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and its role in the United Nations; and have a greater clarity and understanding of the importance of the role of the International Presentation Association (IPA). I realise that those of us working on the ground need to be in constant contact with the IPA so that they can bring the struggle to the seat of power and have a voice in the UN where the policies and made or changed. I realize that every little drop makes the ocean and every drop makes a difference. While we work locally we need to be aware of the global situation This whole experience has been inspirational and as I leave here I see many challenges ahead. The African proverb points to the way ahead. “If we want to go fast, go alone If we want to go far, Go together” 
( African proverb)

 

Joshua Boschee and Antony Tompkin -CSocD54

 

 

Charlotte Genest - ECOSOC Youth Forum

The 5th Annual ECOSOC Youth Forum
by Charlotte Genest

The 5th Annual ECOSOC Youth Forum which was held from February 1-2, 2016 at the United Nations, was executed logo (2)under the theme “Youth Taking Action to Implement the 2030 Agenda”. The purpose of the ECOSOC youth forum is for youth to have their voices heard, on behalf of all the youth in their respective nations, on the topic of economic and social development.

The conversation throughout the forum controversially revolved around the point that “youth are an important part of the implementation of the SDG’s”, and considered even more controversial was the fact that the main contributors to the conversation were over the age of 30 years. The controversy was sparked by an initial speech given by Youth Envoy to the UN, Ahmad Alhendawi, where he passionately expressed the fact that youth are the present, not the future and that at this point we should not be saying that youth are important, because we know this already, but rather discussing ways in which member states and democrats can invest in the youth so that the youth themselves can begin the implementation process. Mr. Alhendawi has been influential in the inclusion of youth delegates to the 2016 ECOSOC Youth Forum and he continues to actively advocate for youth participation at the UN, during other sessions such as the Commission for Social Development.

As many UN officials can attest, any change in structure at the headquarters is an impossibly slow process, so thatcharolette 2 means even if delegates and/or member states identify a problem within the system, change will not occur unless there is strong resistance over a long period of time.

The nature of the Youth Forum was revealing of the exclusive nature of the UN itself and many comments made from delegates on the floor shed more light on the fact that the UN’s statements and actions occasionally contradict each other; for example, the UN officially launched it’s “Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth” which is the first UN initiative to actually tackle the issue of youth unemployment and they have promised to help facilitate preparation for the work of the future. On the other hand, it is a known fact that the UN does not pay their interns, therefore making these young people economically vulnerable in a city with high costs of living and marginalized within the scheme of the workplace.

This being said, during the regional breakout session on North America & the European Union, we heard from a member of the UNDP who happened to be a youth moderator at the first annual ECOSOC Youth Forum. In the session, we were discussing the fact that hardly any youth were able to actively participate in the general discussions and panel sessions. The UNDP member was able to guide the youth delegates and participants in the session through the developmental path that the Youth Forum has taken since the first one. Although slight, development had certainly occurred. He told the room that in order for youth to be active participants at the UN and to also be the ones who personally help implement the SDG’s, that we must continue to ask questions, speak out, and be proactive.

un picOne of the main purposes of NGO and Youth representatives attending sessions such as the ECOSOC Youth Forum and the Commission for Social Development that I can gather other than to speak out, are so that they can relay information regarding policies made by the UN and about what others groups and member states are currently doing on the ground, to their various grassroots organizations and schools. The most effective first step towards implementing the 2030 Agenda is to spread awareness of the 17 SDG’s and to educate civil society, especially youth, on exactly what we need to accomplish in fifteen years time. In my opinion, the UN has done well in presenting the goals in a very accessible and attractive manner. In it’s simplest form, the SDG’s are presented in 17 coloured blocks, one for each goal, with a simple white graphic depicting the general theme of each goal; for example, Goal 16, Peace & Justice, features a silhouette of a dove sitting on a judge’s gavel. This is the perfect tool to use in a classroom setting especially full of younger children because it is so eye catching, well organized and uses extremely clear and direct language. Once your community knows that there even is a fifteen-year plan, that’s when plans of action can start developing.

A topic of conversation that spread from the 2016 ECOSOC Youth Forum, over to the 54th Commission for Social Development, and the one that was discovered to be the most pressing concern amongst all youth delegates and participants at the forum, was the lack of youth participation due, in hand, to lack of engagement and investment in youth by member state officials and government officials at every level. Coming from a Canadian youth myself, I can say first hand that it is a fact that young people are interested in politics on a local, national and international level and about foreign affairs, current events and the United Nations. In Canada, programs in high schools such as Model UN, Youth Parliament, Encounters with Canada, and even International Relations/Development Programs in Canadian Universities are largely to thank for actively engaging youth in these areas and sparking an interest. Another example of youth engagement that was shared during the ECOSOC Youth Forum that actually yielded an extremely important and relevant result was the 2015 Canadian Election. Elections Canada held a nationwide social media campaign to engage youth and encourage them to vote by using hashtags to easy-to-follow coverage telling people to post an “#IVoted” selfie. According to Elections Canada, there were 17,559,353 ballots cast (not including those who registered on Election Day), compared to 14,823,408 ballots in 2011 and Elections Canada was able to report that the difference in voter turnout consisted largely of new voters and youth. The result was stripping Harper of Power once and for all and the election of the second youngest prime minister in the history of Canada. This is historical and concrete proof that engaging youth to participate is worth every bit of time and financial investment.

I’ve learned a lot over the past two weeks. I’ve learned about the structure of the United Nations, about the role of NGO’s in the UN general assembly, who our leaders in high places are, about the SDG’s themselves, I’ve engaged with other youth who are excited about bringing the SDG’s back home and starting the education process, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned just how crucial young people are in the implementation process of the 2030 Agenda. Youth now more than ever need a platform to express themselves and have someone truly listen to them and take them seriously. There are youth in our midst who are incredibly dedicated to changing the world and the passion, imagination and motivation that young people can posses is hard to find matched in anyone over 30. Youth need to be trusted with more responsibility and input in decision making and in doing that, would have a chance to prove what we can do. The Social Development Goals are without a doubt an ambitious set of goals to achieve in only fifteen years; however, harnessing the imagination, passion, dedication and ambition that youth possess, is exactly what the UN needs to have a successful and historic year 2030.

 

Mary Walsh, PBVM- Australian UPR Pre-session in Geneva

Australian UPR Pre-Sessions
6th-9th October 2015   Geneva
Mary Walsh, PBVM

 mary_walsh-247x300Thank you or the opportunity to visit Geneva and attend the UPR Pre-Sessions for Australia and other countries.

I arrived in Geneva on Monday the 5th October in readiness for the next few days of Pre-Sessions. The Australian Pre-Session was not until the Thursday. This gave me a chance to orientate myself and explore the area. I was only 15-20 minutes walk from my hotel to the UN Venue hosting the UPR Pre-Sessions. Within a few blocks I discovered the UN main building, DPI, UNHCR headquarters and other UN buildings. In close proximity were the offices of Edmund Rice/Franciscans/Marist International, the ICMC, Caritas and many other NGO offices.

Edmund Rice International: The staff, at the joint Ed Rice/Franciscans/Marists International, were very welcoming and helpful. The young Intern, from the UK, who was working on the combined PNG UPR submission was pleased to meet me as she was so familiar with Betty Singamai’s report.   The staff explained some of the protocols and procedures and gave helpful tips to assist me in navigating the next few days.

IPA Australian UPR Submission: I had prepared a one page sheet (at the bottom) for the UPR Pre-Sessions on behalf of IPA making five recommendations on the issues of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. However, as the IPA Australian UPR Submission (written by Joan Power, PVVM) was not submitted, I was not supposed to give out this sheet as no further information could be added at this point in time. This also excluded me from meeting certain officials and attending certain meetings. On the suggestion of the Ed Rice people I was able to slip in the IPA page with their handouts and by-pass the regulations! When attending the Reception, organised by UNInfo, for NGOs, Civil Society and Representative of Missions I was able to hand out a more when appropriate at the Reception.

UPR Info: I visited the UNInfo (DPI) office and made myself known. Obviously they were familiar with IPA and know who we are and what we are on about. They remembered me from the Registration and the emails that had gone back and forth between us prior to going to Geneva. They plied me with published material which is helpful back in Australia to share with others in talking about the UPR purpose and processes.

Australian UPR Pre-sessions:
The panel of speakers or human rights at the UPR Pre-sessions covered a number of issues, (e.g. Disabilities, LGTG, Privacy, etc) The ones that related most to our own IPA area as in our IPA Mission Statement were Indigenous Issues and Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

Indigenous: The speaker for indigenous affairs was Les Malezer, representing The National Congress of Australia’s First People. www.nationalcongress.com.au . This national organisation is representative of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia. Les is the current Co-Chair of this Body. I was delighted to learn that The Congress is accredited by ECSOC with Special Consultative Status at the UN.

Les was a strong speaker and really challenged the Australian Government in their failure to uphold the commitments and reforms (in regard to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) recommended by 30 States at the 2011 UPR. So often various indigenous groups in Australia are at odds with one another over policy matters so it is real struggle for some groups to have their voice heard. Other Indigenous groups across our large continent would claim that the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples do not represent their views. This Body was originally funded by the Australian Government but later had their funding withdrawn. This is not surprising as ‘criticise the Government and run the risk of losing funding’ was a key theme of the Australian Government!

Refugees and Asylum Seekers:

Australian Human Rights Commission: (funded by the Australian Government but independent of the Government) The Australian Human Rights Commission delivered presentations at a UPR pre-session in Geneva, to highlight current human rights concerns in Australia and areas where protection of human rights has deteriorated since Australia was last reviewed in 2011. The AHRC representative was Darren Dick who is the Director of Policy and Programmes with AHRC. Their UPR submission on this topic was excellent. Last year the Abbott Government wanted the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, to resign over the AHRC’s damming report on Children in Detention and the abuses suffered by those in Detention Centres, particularly the off-shore Centres in Nauru and Manus Island (part of Papua New Guinea). Within this context, the presentation at the UPR Pre-Session, by Darren Dick, was particularly poignant. I have never felt so proud of the AHRC as on this occasion!

Refugee Council of Australia: (RCOA)
Lucy Morgan spoke not only on behalf of RCOA http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au but on behalf of a Coalition of 200 NGOs and Civil Society groups in Australia. RCOA’s UPR submission again was on behalf of this the large coalition

In Geneva during the preceding week to the UPR Pre-sessions, Lucy with other members of the NGO Coalition had met representatives from numerous governments, encouraging them to make recommendations for improving the human rights situation in Australia. This had, of course, been planned and organised some time ago. The treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia was one of the biggest areas of concern during both these meetings and the pre-session, particularly in relation to offshore processing and immigration detention.

I had a number of conversations about  (RCOA Coalition) and we talked about a closer connection of RCOA and IPA (through Society) post Geneva. I have since followed this up upon my return to Australia and I will meet with ROCA in the new year to discuss this further. Some of the Australian Congregations have contributed financially to RCOA over the years as they are a respected and effective advocacy group. A number of our Sisters, (especially the Justice Contacts) would be on their regular mailing list. There are other very good advocacy groups in Australia for Refugees and Asylum Seekers and the majority of these would link into RCOA.

In Geneva during the week preceding the UPR Pre-sessions, members of the NGO Coalition had met representatives from numerous governments, encouraging them to make recommendations for improving the human rights situation in Australia. RCOA were certainly well organised to maximise their advocacy potential! Staff at UNHCR assisted in setting up these meetings for RCOA.

In addition RCOA, each year, sends a representative to attend the annual UN Commission for Refugees Executive Committee meetings as well as the UNHCR’s Annual Consultations with NGOs and Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement in Geneva.

Nauru  
Nauru is a small island (population 10,500) in the Pacific to which Australia pays millions of dollars to the government of Nauru to allow Australia to have an off-shore Detention Centre. Nauru was also up for UPR review at the Pre-Sessions but not one person from Nauru was able to be in Geneva to speak. Any person in Nauru who criticises the Government is not permitted to obtain a visa to leave the country. If it wasn’t for the Refugee Council of Australia, Human Rights Law Centre Australia (ISHR International Service for Human Rights)) and Edmund Rice/Franciscans International, the voice of the Nauru people would not have been heard on this topic at the UPR Pre-Sessions.

Other Learnings:

  • The UN UPR Submissions and Pre-Sessions are an increasingly important tool for advocacy at the highest level.
  • A tighter, focused UPR submission is more effective than trying to cover many issues.
  • It is important to meet with other Country Delegations, within your own country prior to going to Geneva. Make this contact months before the Pre-Sessions!
  • Working in coalition with others strengthens your advocacy at the highest level
  • UPR submissions from people in the field (versus armchair advocates) are highly valued but must be professionally presented.
  • Have a lawyer (Human Rights or other) to check any recommendations in your submission or the submission itself.
  • An IPA Business Card with name and position (e.g. Advocacy Officer) is essential
  • On the spot Phone/Internet access in Geneva would have been helpful! (my basic phone was useless!)

 

Mary Walsh
15th December 2015

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Australian Government Report to the UPR

Compilation of UN information

Summary of Stakeholder’s Information

The Commission’s 2015 submission   (Australian Human Rights Commission)

The Australian NGO Coalition submission

 

 

UN Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

Recommendations by International Presentation Association

Regarding: Australia’s Policy and Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

 

The International Presentation Association (IPA) is an NGO with Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations. Representing Presentation women, Associates and co-workers, the IPA has over two thousand members living and working in 23 countries. The IPA is particularly concerned with: human rights, women and children, indigenous peoples, the environment and sustainable living.

Government Policy:

Mandatory Immigration Detention for all who arrive in Australia without a valid visa. This includes children.

 

Recommendation:  

Immediately release all children from detention centres as a matter of urgency. This includes the release into the Australian community of children with family members as well as unaccompanied minors.

Government Policy:  

Offshore processing and refusal of resettlement in Australia for all who arrive by boats (post July 2013)

 

Recommendation:  

   Immediately close all off shore detention Centres and transfer all detainees to Australia

 

Recommendation:      

Australia must repeal the mandatory detention provisions of the Migration Act 1958, legislate time limits (90 days) for processing of asylum claims and provide for the fulfilment of all legal rights afforded to asylum seekers under international law including the right for administrative review of a negative determination.”

 

 

Recommendation:      

                 Release detainees into the general community and restore   full access to merits review for all asylum seekers

 

 

Recommendation:

   Codify the obligation of non-refoulement in law

 

We are very concerned about the Australian Government Policy on Refugees and Asylum Seekers and make the following five recommendations to the UN Human rights Council for the UPR.

Mary Walsh, PBVM

 

Lynette Rodrigues, PBVM-Advocates with Impact – Power in Partnership

Lynette.newsletter.docxNaume Pasipamire and Lynette Rodrigues, PBVM attended the Conference “Advocates with Impact – Power in Partnership” May 17 – 20, 2015 which was organised by Christian Brothers in Kenya.  The conference focused on advocacy of Human and Earth Rights and techniques to  monitor and evaluate the  advocacy work. Rights based approach rather than needs based approach as the effective way for transformation.

Theory of Change and U Theory was studied as how to apply these theories in the process of change.  In the advocacy process, a base line is determined and data is acquired to help and to clarify the purpose and aim of advocacy interventions and to identify outcomes.  

Participants were from nine different countries in Africa and India and were urged to work in partnership in their advocacy work.   As defenders of Human and Earth Rights, participants committed themselves to community practice creating learning communities.  They strengthened networks through sharing experiences and committing to in active participation.

Rabekka Selvaraj, PBVM-From Karanje to the Corridors of United Nations

From Karanje to the Corridors of United Nations

By Rabekka Selvaraj, PBVM

 A Zen koan reads, “One hand may not make any noise” but we know the fact that when hands join together they create an ovation of applause. And I am (Rabekka Selvaraj) overwhelmed with this very sentiment, when I think of my short term experience in United Nations. When I walk back in the memory lanes of mine, which were caught in the corridors and session-halls of UN, I am filled with gratitude to God, the Almighty, the Leadership at all levels, and Sr. Elsa, the IPA representative to UN, in particular and Sr.Elena Hoye for her timely help in making this experience possible for me . It is, indeed, a great opportunity and a special privilege for me to take Karanje, an interior hamlet to the corridors of United Nations, New York. Personally, it is a blessing to me to be part of the international body and with our sisters over there. This enabling, enriching, challenging and cherishing experience motivated me a lot, when I mingled heart and mind with the global energy, which has its global cum familial summit at UN.

I received a warm and gleeful welcome, when I landed at JFK Airport, New York. Srs. Elsa and Jancy received me warmly and made me very comfortable at St. Antony’s Convent, Prince Street. Information given by Sr. Lancia about the life and environment at the convent and the city helped me feel more comfortable. Sr. Jancy took me around in New York, and introduced me to sisters and places. Everyone was welcoming, gracious and helpful.

My experience at UN was motivating and educating. To pin point a few:

  • I gained a clear understanding of
    • UN, the brain of the world body and its functions.
    • And how UN, the highest decision cum policy making body plays a vital role in making international policies (with its positive and negative impact).
    • The interest of the people all over the world.
    • Participations of the NGOs at the UN (it helps them to respond to their government policies respectively).
    • Important role played by women in UN.
    • The Local, National and Global networks which collaborate with UN.
    • How one can make connections and bring our concern and aspirations. (Bringing the voices of the local people to UN).
    • And how one can make use of the global energy by the evolving the mystery of oneness.

The various Commissions that I attended gave me a clear understanding of the participants, the concerns/topic, their role, and their influence on the people all over the world. Commissions are the forums, where the global energy, connections, relationships and partnerships converge. They are the defining moments in the UN. They are the platforms between Government and Civil society to hold dialogues or negotiations on various issues.

Other events too were very informative and educative. Issues related to women and children, Gender inequality, environment, sustainable living, human rights and women rights at all level were very challenging at times.

Meeting with other religious (RUN) brought me to the realization that when we synergize our potentials collectively in any issues (locally, nationally and internationally), we can gain justice.

I was asked to prepare presentation on integrated health approach and mining in Gao as my preparation to come to UN.  So I was prepared when I got an opportunity, unexpectedly to be part of panel on “Power, health, sustainability: challenging oil gas and other extractive industries” at a side event organized by the Temple of Understanding, the mining working group at the UN and a few others.    It was a great opportunity to connect with international group called ALERT who works to bring healthy people and healthy communities’ part of our energy future through their work on clean water life for all. This is platform where I got a chance to bring our people and their struggles through the presentation I did. I had a few more opportunities to share with other NGOs at the UN as well as the office of propagation of faith through which we are connecting our people and life. This is partnership that we created through our presence here as PBVM people. I am grateful for all these experiences.

The Challenges Faced

  • Educating and updating on the policies, declarations and Government documents was a challenge in the beginning.
  • Creating an interest to have link with IPA-UN representative and local justice contact.
  • Updating myself with IPA documents.
  • Having national and international partnership.

Action Plans (After Returning to India)

  • Preparing a program, together with Sr. Lilly, to conscientize the NGOs, other religious organizations and our sisters in India with regard to the UN.
  • Creating a network with other religious (both PBVM and others), who had the similar experiences in UN.
  • Sharing the knowledge and experience gained in UN with our staff and the people of our locality.

                 I am immensely grateful to God, the Congregational, and the Indian Unit leadership team for giving me this rich and unforgettable experience. I thank Sr. Elsa for her guidance, care, concern, timely challenge and inspirations. I also thank Srs. Mary Margaret Moony, Helen and Salome for their constant accompaniment and support in making me gain this great experience. A special thanks to Sr. Jancy, who spared her precious time to be with me and accompanied me till my departure to India.

                Above all, dear sisters, thank you very much for your prayerful support. I can vouchsafe that only with your prayerful support I was able to gain such an unforgettable experience. With grateful heart I remember my community sisters in Karanje for taking up additional responsibilities in my absence, so that I could be free for this voyage. A special thanks to Sr. Thecla for her generosity in helping my community during my absence. Thanks galore.       

“A single drop of water may not make any difference, but millions of drops make an ocean”

Jancy Saleth Mary, PBVM-SHORT-TERM REPRESENTATIVE AT THE UN

Journey at the UN

IMG_0300As I look back on my experience as IPA short term representative at the UN, my heart and mind are filled with thanks and gratitude to God and IPA leadership team for giving me this opportunity to have this unfolding experience at this time of my life journey.

 As I recall my experience at the UN and my journey in New York, I hold my life experiences with the people of the past, the back ground and culture of India and my place of ministry, Thailand. I am drawn to choose as a symbol the onion. Onion by its nature contains many layers; in the core of it there is a place to bring new life. Each layer is different by its color and texture, unity in diversity. As each layer is peeled, there is an unfolding experience with its newness and reflection of its own state of being. The inner layer shines with its readiness to unveil the beauty and stimulate healthy growth and brings new life with its beautiful and perfect bright green sprout. When I relate this to my experience at the UN, I see my experiences and the opportunities as a door way to open myself in learning, becoming aware of the reality of the people at the global level and the planet in line with our IPA statement.

“The cry of those made poor and the cry of the earth call us to continue the mission of Jesus to being forth a sustainable society founded on respect for earth, universal human rights, economic justice and culture of peace”.

I see the UN as a place where the world reflects as one body for people– people of all ages, genders, countries, cultures, languages– living on one planet with its beauty and diversity. The hope is to be open for the life giving aspects of human rights, dignity, empowerment, transformation, sustainability and systemic change. We are also called to hold the chaos of a world in which people are affected with crime, injustice, violence, and terrorism. In the midst of this chaos we strive to bring hope in people’s lives through plans, policies and programs that benefit them and the planet. The UN is a place for governments, stakeholders and civil society to engage in open dialogue in planning and in decision making that respects countries’ ideas and views.

During my six months the major events I participated from October 1, 2014, to March 27, 2015 I participated in the following events.

Preparation for Post 2015 agenda:

  • Briefing on the Secretary General’s Synthesis report on post – 2015
  • Stock taking session on Sustainable Development, post 2015 agenda
  • High level thematic debate on meeting on means of implementation
  • Declaration on the post 2015 agenda
  • Intergovernmental Negotiation with major groups and stake holders
  • The indicator frame work for the post 2015 agenda
  • Aligning partnership with the post 2015 Development agenda, how should it be done and where could they be reviewed?

Preparation for 3rd conference on Financing for Development at Addis Ababa:

  • Informal meeting- preparatory process for the 3rd conference on financing for Development
  • First preparatory process of the element draft session on FfD

Commemoration of International Days:

  • Commemoration of Poverty Eradication Day 17th October2014
  • Celebration of Spirituality Week 23rd November 2014
  • Commemoration of 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 25th November 2014
  • Celebration of Human Rights Day 13th December 2014
  • International Women’s Day 8th March 2015

Civil Society Forum:

  • Fourth ECOSOC Youth Forum “Youth Engagement in the transition from MDGSs to SDGS: what will it take”?
  • 53rd Commission on social development (CSocD) , priority theme, Rethinking and strengthen social development in the contemporary world.
  • 59th Commission on Status of women ( CSW), priority theme, Realizing the marginalized and disadvantaged women and girls

My learnings and observations included the following.

UN meetings and side events: It was a privilege to attend programs at the UN, in the beginning, as I listened to the speakers it sounded like Greek and Latin for me, but as time went by I made some sense of what they were talking about. It was a challenge to be patient with myself and just observe and listen to who says what. Why the focus of countries differs so much so often is a puzzle.  As time went by I was interested in listening to the representatives attentively, especially at the different sessions on preparation for Sustainable Development Goals and the post 2015 agenda. I admired the role of co-facilitators in leading the members with a lot of patience and being strict but gentle with the time limit as well as creating space for civil society to bring its statements to the sessions.

 According to my experience attendance at side events was more interesting and educative than the official meetings. These events focused on particular issues in a detailed manner. Space was created for interactions and clarification. It was helpful to listen to the member states at these side events and find the countries interest in a particular issues.

By attending the commissions on social development and status of women I could see how they worked. It gave me an idea how the commissions are organized and the draft resolutions are passed. The engagement of civil society is encouraged through presenting their oral and written statements. Attending briefing sessions were helpful and informative in keeping updated on the daily events. Briefings also created a space for the NGOs and other stakeholders to share their concerns and clarify their doubts.

NGO committee meetings:

Most NGO committee met monthly. It was an opportunity to see the functioning and the working methods of different committees. I found that the main focus of each committee is people. People are at the center of everything in their plans and the rights of the people are considered. In my observations the needs of the people differ from country to country. For example, advancement of technology is needed in some countries but for other countries a power supply is needed to access technology. Each group tries to bring people’s local issues to the global forum. IPA focuses on women and children, indigenous peoples, social development and human rights.  In the respective committees IPA involvement in task groups with various responsibilities was appreciated.

Working on tasks with the migration committee and with the trafficking committee was a learning experience for me. On behalf of IPA, I researched migrants in South East Asia and unaccompanied youth at borders and contributed in other ways to the migration committee. Through preparing a paper on the situation of SE Asia migrants, I came to know more about migrants’ in Thailand and neighboring countries. Also, it was a challenge to work with well-versed, experienced people.

Religious at the UN (RUN) meetings:

Religious at the UN meet together every month. I found that the RUN members are likeminded people and gather to reflect, share, support, and network with each other. There is openness in sharing information and generosity in sharing resources. Mentoring of new NGO representatives is facilitated by RUN. They are courageous people in their collective response to the different issues.

NGO/ Department of Public Information:

I attend the NGO/ DPI briefing every Thursday. DPI conducts special programs which are educative and informative. I observed that it was a place of sharing information and open discussion regarding current issues, how to access to the UN information, and to connect people at a wider level to UN information. Quite a number of times youth were brought to the briefings to share their experiences and dreams for participating in the post 2015 agenda.

IPA involvement:

During the Commissions on Social development and Status of women, IPA attempts to influence UN policies through written and oral statements on the priority themes.  IPA organizes, sponsors and co-sponsors side and parallel events. IPA is noted for bringing grass roots people to share their with UN agency and state representatives at UN headquarters. IPA advocates for the interests of women, children and people living in poverty with member states.

Orientation programs:

Sr. Elsa organized orientation programs with different groups at different times. It helped me to understand the UN system and its functions. Listening to the wisdom of experienced persons helped me to realize it is important to link with local governments and network with  other NGOs  at the country level. Training on advocacy conducted by UNDESA was very informative; it challenged me to take interest in reading the UN documents.

Participation:

IPA organized an informal sharing on grass roots’ experience. It was an opportunity for us to share our experiences and learn from each other. It created a space to speak on our good practices, challenges and gaps in promoting sustainable development at local levels. We find that education is one of the priorities in promoting systemic change.

It was a greater opportunity to be with the larger presentation family and enjoy the company of our sisters. I am grateful for Sr. Elsa Muttathu, the NGO representative, for arranging board and lodging, sharing information, conducting periodic evaluations, and offering overall guidance and support. Sr. Elena Hoye, IPA networker who organized the orientation team building program, posted the news and views of IPA short term representatives to the IPA website. Sr. Mary Margaret Mooney’s company was life giving. We lived together and had a number of adventures that made us laugh and learn. She helped with directions to the office and to visiting different places and with editing my write ups. Sr. Helen Martinez presence is always significant and life-giving; she shares a lot of jokes with slang and proverbs Helen asked excellent relevant questions. Indeed, I was also happy to have Srs. Rabecca Selvaraj , Salome Joseph, and Angela Murphy and volunteers from Australia, Alexandra Miller and  Joe Morrow whose presence brought lot of  life and energy to the group.

We learned from each other by sharing our gifts and talents and by helping, supporting and challenging each other. We experienced the diversity of our gifts and commitment as God’s blessings as we shared our responsibilities and worked together.

It was a great opportunity to deepen the spirit of Nano in the wider presentation family and make new connections at the local and global level. IPA working as a team, reflecting and planning each week’s program, learning and encouraging each other was very helpful. I also acknowledge the presence of UNANIMA who made me feel at home and brought vibrant energy to our celebrations and time together.

Living with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany gave me the feeling of living in a small Vatican City with nine different congregations and 20 sisters in the community and was a good experience. I experienced their care and appreciation for Presentation Sisters. I felt that at times it was difficult to get work done because of disturbances and lack of reliable internet connections.

I am grateful for the wider Presentation family—New Windsor for graciously accepting us during our visit and Staten Island who invited us to join their Presentation Day celebration and the Sisters at St. Michel’s whom I visited several times. It was a wonderful experience to meet many of our sisters and to listen to the history and stories of our congregation. I admire the work of God in uniting us with the spirit of Nano and keeping the light burning as one Presentation family. My heartfelt thanks go to Srs Mary Deane and Fatima Rodrigo for vising us and the Indian Unit and My community in Thailand for their constant support and encouragement. I am also grateful to S. Patricia Anastasio for facilitating the final evaluation of our group.

                                                    “In every community, there is work to be done.
                                                     In every nation, there are wounds to heal.
                                                     In every heart, there is the power to do it.”
                                                                                                     -Marianne Williamson.

Helen Martinez, PBVM-SHORT-TERM REPRESENTATIVE AT THE UN

Reflections on the Tidal Wave of Justice at the United Nations

October –March 2015

Helen Martinez, PBVM

Helen Martinez, PBVM

For six months, I have had the privilege and grace to be a presence at the United Nations in the name of the International Presentation Association.  The core of our advocacy ministry is seeking to ensure the rights of the disadvantaged through diligently monitoring and participating at every level in every conversation from policy to implementation. The foundation of this prophetic role at the UN is giving a voice to those who need yet are denied one. 

Nearly every day, I passed through the Canada Doors at the north end of the General Assembly building.  On the exterior of the doors are four panels in bas-relief symbolizing peace, justice, truth, and fraternity. These words are powerful shapers of my understanding of the role of IPA at the United Nations and took on a life of their own as I was gradually influenced to become a world citizen.

Through our commitment to Gospel values, religious at the influence the language used when writing policies, form partnerships worldwide, bring the stories of grass roots people, and share their concern for all creation.  This was evident for me this year when I attended the Religious at the United Nations (RUN) meetings.  As a proud member of the Working Group for Girls, I was fortunate to have the experience of going to the Permanent Mission of Canada to advocate for the ongoing inclusion and development of girls’ rights in the work of the United Nations system and structures and in the document for the CSW59 political declaration. Although the document was heavily criticized, it was gratifying to see that there were seven inclusions of the words “women and girls”.   At the Mining Working Group, I learned and discussed efforts at working to have water included as a human right and not just access.  I frequently wondered where the issue would be if it was not for the presence of religious congregations.   On issues such as water rights, women and girls, mining, migration, and human rights we are collaborating with others who share similar goals and values.  

 These past six months gave me an incredible opportunity to hear from many national and international leaders who work tirelessly to prevent human trafficking, advocate for fair and just human rights for women and girls and boys, and work to improve maternal health and reduce infant mortality.  It has been an eye-opening experience for me and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to attend a wide variety of working group meetings about mining, girls, and trafficking.  Seeing cross-cultural and cross-generation connections happening was a moving experience in my life.  I am inspired to continue prioritizing the role IPA plays as social justice advocates.

 I saw firsthand that our role in the Non-Government Organization (NGO) community in the United Nations is to be a moral goad, a prophetic voice, a voice without the power of government that can and must remind this august institution both of the goals it must pursue and of the values it must embody in the pursuit of peace and justice.  I think there is no better place than being at the United Nations to fulfill Jesus’ great commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. (Mark 16:15). I saw this in evidence at so many meetings and the side events in which IPA sponsored and/or participated.

Bringing the voices of grass roots people enables the UN to shed light on the horrific condition of ordinary citizens and gives a forum to those who are suffering.  In February, it was a privilege and an honor to present the IPA oral statement “Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World” to the 53rd Commission on Social Development.  In March I authored a statement on “Realizing the rights of marginalized and disadvantaged women and girls” that Joe Morrow delivered on the March 18 for the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW59).

 Economic justice underlies the pursuit of peace and justice.  Dignity, equality, perfectibility, responsibility for justice and peace, the rule of law, a just distribution of God’s wealth entrusted us, and the demand that we use the world’s resources moderately and sustainably are the values that IPA brings to bear on the pressing issues confronting our world today. We have an obligation to pursue justice and are called to be the pursuers of peace to partner with God in the healing of this broken and hurting world.  There is a link between peace and justice.  The work of social justice is God’s work and the work of making this world a better place is holy work.  Many times I walked the Scharansky Steps on the way to the UN and read the Isaiah 2:4 wall that has the most eloquent call for international peace ever written. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.”

The Gospel mandate is to share our wealth with those of God’s children who are less fortunate than us. This is a vision of internationalism and all of these constructs of justice came the recognition that all nations, all peoples, are responsible for the other and that international cooperation is indispensable for international justice.  Working and listening and attending to the sessions on sustainable development goals and targets  made me more deeply conscious of incredible global inequity and discontinuity that is accepted indifferently each day. That is simply irreconcilable for all those who care about God’s call for us to be the steward of God’s resources for all God’s children.

The ideas which the UN has been at the forefront of exploring and promoting include sustainable development, human rights and gender equality.  These concepts continue to be elaborated on, promoted, and is changing conventional ways of thinking and decision-making.  During the duration of the negotiations, IPA, as part of the civil society, has played a role in the formulation of these transformational goals.    This work to advance sustainable development is reliant on the application of spiritual principles of peace and justice. Our presence at the UN enables us to bring the voices of the most vulnerable in the world—women and children, the indigenous and marginalized peoples including those made poor, those who suffer violence in all forms, those who live with disabilities, and all creation.  Bridging research, practice and policy is an essential part of IPA becoming a better advocate for the most vulnerable in our society and this really happens here at the UN.

 The story of the quest for peace and justice for all people was awakened again in us—Mary Margaret Mooney, Jancy Selvaraj, Rabekka Selvaraj and Salome Joseph—with many thanks to Elsa Mutathu.  To each of them, I say what Dag Hammarskjöld  wrote in his book Markings. For all that has been, thanks.  To all that shall be, Yes.

Here at IPA and the UN, we responded to an invitation to look deeply and listen to the struggles to achieve gender equality and human rights.  By balancing the outer world with the inner and by looking into our hearts, for a brief moment in time we became explorers and the boundaries of our world leaped from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Americas to a world still dreamed of for 2030.         

 “History says,” Don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.” [The Cure at Troy. Seamus Heaney].  I believe that the work, the dream and the vision of Nano Nagle brought that tidal wave of justice to the people of Ireland in the education of the poor.  We walk today as pilgrims and the miracle and the work of IPA at the United Nations is that the tidal wave continues to flow as we continue on our journey to go one pace beyond.

Helen Martinez, PBVM
March 27, 2015

 

Mary Margaret Mooney, PBVM-SHORT-TERM REPRESENTATIVE AT THE UN

SHORT-TERM REPRESENTATIVE AT THE UN
October 1, 2014-March 31, 2015 
Mary Margaret Mooney, PBVM

Mary Margaret Mooney, PBVM

Mary Margaret Mooney, PBVM

During the first three months of my assignment to the IPA office, I followed the working of the Third Committee.  This is a committee of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); IPA is accredited by ECSOC. The Third Committee is concerned primarily with social and humanitarian issues and with human rights. The advancement of women, protection of children indigenous issues and treatment of refugees are subjects of concern for this committee. (The Security Council at times discusses human rights in certain countries to the annoyance of many countries.)   I paid secondary attention to the Second Committee which has as its purview economic growth and development, trade, debt and debt structures and the sovereignty of the people of Palestine. It also holds a portfolio with groups of countries in special situations such as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Land Locked Developing countries (LLDCs).

In December and January I attended ten meetings of various committees/expert groups regarding financing for development.  These meetings were informative and interesting. Nearly all participants reiterated a central fact about financing:  there is sufficient financial capital to move all people of the world out of extreme poverty and have them enjoy a decent lifestyle. Preventing this is inequality in the distribution of wealth. Past and current practices have caused money to flow from developing countries to developed countries through tax avoidance and resource exploitation. Together with corruption and disregard of the common good, these practices have facilitated accumulation of wealth by the powerful at the expense of the poor.

There were no meetings of the Third Committee after early December so I switched focus to the Commission on Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women. The former Commission had its session in February and the latter in March. I attended most of the open meetings of each one as well as several associated side events. A side event is a meeting on a major UN theme sponsored by a state, a UN entity, an NGO or a combination thereof. A parallel event is like a side event but does not have a UN entity or state as a sponsor.

During the six months I attended approximately 77 UN body meetings, 22 meetings of NGO committees and 96 side/parallel events. Below is a list of work I competed during the past six months.

  • Authored IPA statement to the 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development on Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World
  •  Developed and disseminated survey regarding areas in which justice contacts had or could readily acquire information relative to IPA priority issues and collated responses
  • Collated responses for IPA office use
  • Co-authored NGO Committee on Social Development paper: Civil Society Declaration 2015
  • Provided commentary for composition of Civil Society Organization Cluster paper on Enabling Environment (funding for development)
  • Researched, authored report and made recommendation on UN resolution: A/C.3/68/L.12/Rev.1 regarding education for the Subcommittee for Eradication of Poverty 
  • Researched history, structure and function of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and submitted report to office on same
  • Developed survey regarding
  1. a) activities of sisters re priority issues of IPA including best practices
  2. b) UN actions that have helped with any of these activities
  3. c) recommendations to IPA NGO regarding advocacy focus

  and disseminated same to each country with Presentation presence.

  • Collated responses to above survey. Developed reference tables by country and issue
  • Researched expert testimony, position of NGO Committee on Financing for Development, and statements by other groups. Based on this information and IPA values and priorities wrote responses to question posed by NGO Relations and Advocacy Department of Public Information regarding securing of financing for development.
  • Authored chapter on International Presentation Association for book, It is Good for Us to be Here, an account of religious congregations’ NGOs at the United Nations.
  • Prepared oral intervention for UN Commission on Social Development.
  • Provided commentary for NGO Major Group’s paper “Vision and Priorities for Delivery on of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
  • Analyzed IPA by-laws for clarity and compliance with 2013 New York State Law for non-profit corporations. Made suggestions for amendments.
  • Reviewed “Understanding IPA” for clarity and congruence with IPA Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. Made suggestions for revisions.
  •  Wrote paper– “What are SDGs and Why Should I Care”—explaining history, purpose and hopes for the sustainable development goals. Paper to be disseminated by IPA office to Presentation Sisters and Associates as information.
  • Edited material on migration for presentation by NGO Migration Committee.Moderated IPA panel presentation on work with indigenous/migrant peoples in India and Thailand.
  • Consulted with indigenous people of USA and prepared materials that may be used by office during next Indigenous Forum. Consulted with legislative aide at Mission of the Holy See regarding the Doctrine of Discovery and relevant Papal Bulls of 15th and 16thDeveloped and piloted survey for gathering information about work of sisters and associates in addressing the Millennium Development Goals and the approximate numbers of people impacted by this work. (This information is required for the Quadrennial Report.) 
  • Wrote an article for a regional professional newsletter on the work of nurses at the UN.
  • Prepared introductory material for Quadrennial Report

Since the aim of IPA is to promote the agenda of indigenous peoples, untie the knots of inequalities affecting women and children, foster a culture of human rights for all, and support efforts toward building environmentally sound, sustainable living for all around the globe, it is important that IPA have a presence where governments from around the world interface about these issues. While change in any of the IPA foci has to take place at local and national levels, international forums can serve as accelerators and promoters of change.

Although its gears grind slowly, the United Nations has served to inch civilization forward. When considering the work of the UN it is well to keep the words of Dag Hammarskjold in mind: “The United Nations wasn’t created to take mankind to paradise, but rather to save humanity from hell.”

Salome Joseph, PBVM-Commission for Social Development 53 Session

 

53rd COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
February 4-13, 2015
Salome Joseph, PBVM

 On Feb. 3rd, the Civil Society Forum was hosted by UNDESA-DSPD, the NGO Committee for Social Development and the Friedrich Ebert–Stifung Foundation to reflect on key issues: inequality and poverty, human rights, accountability, and means for their implementation. The reflection was based on this year’s theme:  Civil Society Perspectives: Re-Centering Social Development in a Sustainable World and used in preparation for the upcoming post-2015 development agenda.

 On Feb. 4th to 13th I attended the opening of the 53rd Commission for Social Development whose theme was “Re-thinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World”. The Commission meeting was chaired by Ambassador Simona Mirela Miculescu of Romania. Representatives from various ECOSOC organizations attended this session. The theme chosen referred to the proposed new global development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs), while highlighting the task of re-centering social development in a sustainable world, (SDGs).  I found this very interesting as I read the outline of the approach:  the Preliminary Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals, Targets and Indicators, the Means of Implementation, a New Global Partnership and a Framework for Monitoring and Review of Implementation.

 From Feb 15th to the 27th I attended the second meeting, Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (Declaration Session).  Member States presented their views during the iinformal meetings of the plenary on the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, focusing on the Declaration. There were also sessions about the targets and indicator framework for the post -2015 development. 

 This was done, very comprehensively, through panel discussions by experts, debates, side-events, interactive dialogue, reports and negotiations made by all member states and  representatives from various organizations and the NGOs.  I found these sessions most informative, though at times somewhat overwhelming, energy-wise.

 Among the oft-repeated concerns during this commission were: human dignity, poverty eradication, full and decent employment for all, social inclusion, a healthy and productive life, a healthy planet earth, economic and social equity, a people-centered society, prosperity and partnerships, human rights for men and women, for nations, large or small, self-determination of the people and integration of social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.  This was very encouraging for me where even small relevant steps can make a big difference for the migrant and hill tribes of Northern Thailand, where I live.

 On March 3rd IPA conducted the prayer meeting at the Baha’i Center for Religious at the United Nations [RUN]. The meeting was well attended by all Religious groups both men and women. The possibility of applying to Hilton Foundation for the expenses of RUN was discussed. On other days I attended many meaningful side-events presented by various NGO organizations and Major Groups, representing key sectors of society which help channel the engagement of citizens, economic and social actors. I felt it a welcome blessing being part of IPA.

On March 8th, there was a celebration of International Women’s Day, the theme of which was: “Empower Women, Empower Humanity”. There was a huge and colorful march which started from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN to Times Square.  Thousands of women from all over the world and from all walks of life took part. They portrayed a wonderful sense of life and solidarity.

From March 9th to 20th, I attended panel discussions and side-events on various gender equality   related themes: women and girl children, slavery, education, sex trafficking, environmental degradation on women, causes and effects of migration, rights of women, domestic violence, adolescent pregnancy and life span reproductive health, the socio-economic implications of changing gender roles,  child labor, child slavery, bonded labor, the child soldier and supporting and critically evaluating outcomes of programs and projects that address these issues. It was new to me to learn that, in fact, gender equality is not a women’s issue but a human rights issue.

 I was very impressed by Peace Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi who said at the special briefing on child slavery at the UN, “We live in a globalised world, let us globalise human compassion.”  What a vision!  What a task!  He earnestly called us to build a child-friendly world through coordination among civil societies, education for empowerment and working with and within member states.

It was an especially privileged moment for me being present when the Oral Statement was presented to the 53rd Commission on Social Development. February 2015: RETHINKING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD by the International Association of Presentation Sisters. We, as IPA members, thought and acted globally in presenting the oral statement.

The tour of the UN and the orientation by Cristina Diez on the role of NGOs, how to work in partnership and collaborate with local governments helped to me to understand the role and function of the UN and my role as an IPA member. United Nations is the only organization where world nations with diverse history, geographical locations, socio-economic systems and cultures sit side by side sharing their concerns and aspirations for their people and nation.  I sense it more deeply now because of my presence there.

 National Governments are the entities that have the power to make social development happen. During the sessions there were repeated reminders to governments that they must move forward with intent, purpose and integrity. It was felt that the only ingredient that seemed to be missing was serious ‘political will’ on their part to stand by their agreed international conventions and protocols.

Having spent two months with the global society at the UN, thinking of and listening to global news and views, reports and data, challenges and concerns I am filled with a sense of urgency to find innovative ways of building partnership among ourselves, local civil societies, the UN, the NGOs, government etc. in Thailand in order to work towards a better future for all and for a healthy, sustainable planet.  I believe that behind every data there is a face waiting for my attention and action, to educate for empowerment, to create a family and child-friendly world, prosperity for all and a healthy planet. As an IPA member I am called to be a critical policy partner, an educator for empowerment, and a capacity builder.

 Lastly, I am delighted that there is a meditation room in the UN building.  An apt poster placed outside the meditation room reads:  “This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense. … It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in the centre of stillness. …  Dag Hammarskjold, 1957. 

 Such a heart-warming invitation to stillness!  I immediately connected this with what I heard Miriam Therese Winter say on Women’s Spirituality: Pioneering and Transformation, that reality has to be rooted in the real world, while looking at reality from inside out.  Now it is for us, women, and especially for myself as an IPA member, to be true to who we are among the people back home and the society in which we live.

 I learned much at the UN and am most grateful for such a life-giving and life-challenging experience.

I must mention the added bonus I had of having my colleagues,  Elsa Muttathu, Jancy Selvaraj,  Helen Martinez, Margaret Mary Mooney and Rebecca Selvaraj which gave me security and a good  headstart.  Sincere thanks to all.

 Salome Joseph, PBVM

Alexandra Miller, UN Volunteerr- Moving Towards an Understanding of What it Means to be Presentation

Take down your Lantern from its niche and go out! You may not rest in firelight certainties, secure from drifting fog of doubt and fear. You may not build yourself confining walls and say: Thus far, and thus, and thus far shall I walk. And these things shall I do and nothing more. Go out! For the need calls loudly in the winding lanes and you seek Christ there. Your pilgrim heart shall urge you still one pace beyond, and love shall be your lantern flame.                            (Raphael Consedine PBVM)

As someone who has been educated in the Presentation tradition, I have long been familiar with the story of Nano Nagle who urges us to “take down our Lanterns and go out!”, but with little firsthand, practical experience of the Presentation mission, my conceptualisation of Nano’s legacy remained just that – a story. My recent experience with the IPA at the UN has enabled me to move beyond mere familiarisation with the story of Nano Nagle towards a true and very real understanding of the Presentation mission in a global context.

 My involvement
My initial sense of the UN was very much like my first impression of New York City itself – richly diverse, perpetually busy and short of time. The more involved I became, the more the UN also revealed itself as an incredibly complex organism, with an overwhelming number of committees, NGOs, issues, decisions being made and people involved. With Sr Elsa Muttathu’s careful guidance, I found my place as part of the IPA team within this complex and busy system. 

 During my two months with the IPA, UN discussions focused upon the negotiation of the post-2015 development agenda and therefore, so too did my contributions to the IPA mission. For the most part, I was involved in drafting IPA statements (specifically those in relation to the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the upcoming Commission for Social Development), creating educational material and attending and reporting on various meetings. In particular, I was fortunate to be present for the delivery of powerful statements before the Third Committee by the Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences (Ms Rashida Manjoo), Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (Mr Philip Alston) and Special Rapporteur for the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (Ms Catarina de Albuquerque). I also had the opportunity to become involved in the work of various NGO committees with which the IPA is affiliated – reporting on Third Committee meetings for the Working Group on Girls and researching the United Kingdom’s National Plan of Action for Human Trafficking for the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons. 

 In addition to my involvement in the Presentation mission at the UN, I was introduced to many other aspects of Presentation life by the wider Presentation community. Attending the Dwelling Place Gala, shadowing Mary Catherine Redmond in the North Central Bronx Hospital Emergency Department, travelling to Leominster, Massachusetts and Staten Island for Presentation Day celebrations and spending Thanksgiving in New Windsor were special highlights. 

My learnings
Through all of these experiences, and particularly through my involvement in the mission of the IPA at the UN, my eyes were continuously opened to the practical living out of Nano Nagle’s spirit and what it really means to “Take down your Lantern from its niche and go out!” 

 I learnt that taking down your lantern means do not rest, but continue to “move one pace beyond” in the face of injustice. During my two months at the UN, I experienced the IPA’s persistent calling upon member states to agree upon a truly transformative post-2015 development agenda; in particular, an agenda which is inclusive of and centered around society’s most vulnerable people. I now have a deeper understanding of the way in which this persistent calling for a transformative agenda reflects the spirit of Nano Nagle – in demanding an inclusive agenda, the IPA is urging member states to resist the temptation to “rest in firelight certainties, secure from drifting fog of doubt and fear”, and to make real progress towards a just world by moving “one pace beyond”.

 I learnt that taking down your lantern means strive not for words, but deeds. I also experienced the IPA’s strong determination to achieve the explicit inclusion of human rights language (such as “right to water”) as opposed to softer language (such as “access to water”) in the post-2015 development agenda. I now understand that in advocating for the explicit inclusion of human rights language, the IPA is upholding Nano Nagle’s motto of “not words, but deeds”. In a strong statement made before the Third Committee, the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, made it clear why a human rights framework is important: a human right empowers an individual to vindicate his or her right, renders a government accountable to upholding the right and ensures that government resources are channelled towards protecting the right. To express it slightly differently, the explicit use of human rights language ensures that an agenda does not remain simply as aspirational “words” on the pages of a UN document, but that it transpires into action or “deeds”

 I learnt that taking down your lantern means do not build yourself confining walls. Before this experience, I had never been confronted quite to the same extent with the complexity and integrated nature of global issues. A girl child cannot benefit from an education, even where it is provided, if she suffers from untreated HIV/AIDS, if her family believes she should not attend school because she is female, if she does not have access to proper sanitary facilities at school once she reaches puberty, if she is forced to leave school when she becomes pregnant or if she is consistently malnourished because her family lives in poverty. It is impossible to effectively address one issue without also addressing the others. I now understand that in urging member states to acknowledge and address the integrated nature of development targets in the post-2015 agenda, the IPA is reminding decision makers that we must not “build ourselves confining walls” by simplifying global issues and addressing them within separate silos.

 I learnt that taking down your lantern means listen to the call loudly in the winding lanes. I experienced the vital role of the IPA in bringing information from Presentation grassroots ministries to the attention of member states. Those with a lived experience of the suffering the UN is striving to resolve (whether it be people in poverty, people without access to water or women who are subject to gender based violence) must be given the opportunity to be heard in relation to decisions which affect them. A particularly striking example of the importance of listening to those with lived experience was given by The Honourable Felix Mutati, Member of Parliament in Zambia, in a statement made before the Second Committee. Mr Mutati relayed a story of boreholes which were drilled in a rural area in Zambia to provide access to water for its inhabitants. The people who lived there had not been included in the decision-making process and had not been asked what they perceived to be the best means to provide them with access to water. Once the boreholes were drilled, it transpired that the people for whom these boreholes were drilled were a nomadic community. The boreholes were soon left behind and the peoples’ access to water remained unresolved. I now understand that by bringing grassroots voices to the UN, the IPA provides the global diplomatic forum with the critical opportunity to hear and listen to “the call loudly in the winding lanes“.

 Moving forward
My time spent with the IPA at the UN has provided me with a deep learning experience; a growing into understanding not only about the IPA’s function as an ECOSOC-accredited NGO, but more profoundly, what it means to be Presentation and to “take down your Lantern from its niche and go out!” Moreover, my experience has also instilled in me a strong desire to carry this mission forward as an integral part of my future. I recognise that is now time for me to “take down my Lantern from its niche and go out!”

 I must not rest, but continue to “move one pace beyond” in the face of injustice.
I must strive not for words, but deeds.
I must not build myself confining walls.
I must listen to the call loudly in the winding lanes.

 Many thanks
 I wish to sincerely thank Sr Elsa Muttathu and the IPA short-term representatives, Srs Jancy Selvaraj, Helen Martinez and Mary Margaret Mooney for including me in every aspect of the IPA’s mission at the UN. Thank you also to IPA Directors, Srs Patricia Anastasio, Mary Dean and Maureen Watson for facilitating my experience. For many of my wonderful experiences outside of the UN, I am especially grateful to the four wonderful Presentation sisters of Visitation House in the Bronx – Srs Elaine Hadzima, Fran Capich, Laura Urbano and Mary Catherine Redmond – who welcomed me like a friend into their home. I also want to thank the Presentation community at large for welcoming me so warmly. Finally, I wish to thank Richard Rogusz, Assistant Principle of Mission at St Rita’s College in Brisbane, Australia for his suggestion that I consider an experience with the IPA at the UN. It has certainly been an experience I will never forget and one which I hope to build upon in the future.

 Alex at UN

Ann Pender, PBVM-Geneva NGO Women's Forum-Beijing + 20 and UN ECE Reginal Review

GENEVA   NGO WOMEN’S FORUM – BEIJING + 20 and UN ECE REGIONAL REVIEW – BEIJING + 20 in Geneva
NOV 3 – 5 and NOV 6 – 7, 2014 in Palais de Nations, GENEVA

I  went  to  Geneva, ( the UN Centre for Human Rights) to these two meetings on the Advancement of Women’s Rights as a representative of  I.P.A. with  some excitement  and    trepidation. I  have  always  been  interested  in  the  equality  of  women,  so  this  was  my  chance  to  do  my  bit!  As  there  was  no  other  sister from  Ireland  

Ann.White Ribbon Campaignattending  I  was  glad  when  Elsa  at  the  U.N. put me  in  touch  with  an  American sister, Eileen  Reilly,  who  was  attending. She is  a  teaching  SSND  sister, but  has  been  working  at the  UN  for  4  years. Eileen  recommended  that  we  stay  in  The  John  Knox  International  Centre  in  Geneva,  so  we  met  there  a day  or  so  before  the  Conferences  began. It is a frugal hotel (as the name suggests) but comfortable, in a rural setting and very accessible to  the  UN  Palais  de Nations (location of the Conferences) by  bus  or  by  foot. Each hotel in Geneva gives its customers a free public transport ticket for the duration of their stay, so we used it to get to know our way round the city and even to get a short trip on Lake Geneva. We also used it to explore the Palais de Nations  building, finding out where to get our passes and go through security etc. on the opening day.

 FIRST DAY: On Monday Nov. 3rd the NGO Forum on Women’s Equality duly opened with large crowds of  women ful2nd onel of excitement and expectation at the registration desks and in the foyer. Most of them seemed to be leaders of their NGOs and were renewing friendships. The ECE region, which was being reviewed, is not just the EU, but covers all Europe as far east as Ukraine, Turkey and Russia and also Israel, the U.S. and Canada, 56 countries in all, so there was a great variety of languages and cultures etc.. This Conference was reviewing the progress made and the challenges that still remain, in the advancement of Women’s Equality in all areas of life, during the last twenty years. Due to the great geographical stretch and the diversity of cultures, religions and governing systems, there has been a lot of divergence in this progress e.g. between Sweden and Albania or Canada and Tajikistan. However, each country presented a picture of its struggles and achievements since the Beijing 1995 Forum . At that major World Conference TWELVE  CRITICAL  AREAS  for women’s advancement were laid down and these Conferences were to review progress on them in the past 20 years.

 OPENING  CEREMONY: At this first session we were reminded that we were here to give energy to each other, to keep up the effort to achieve Women’s Equality. We needed to fulfil the Platform for Action of 1995 in the 12 Critical Areas for Women’s Advancement and make 2015-2020 the ‘Last Mile’! There was a  Minute’s Silence for all the Women and Girls who died for Human Rights as a result of violence in home and country, in wars, maternal deaths and many other preventable causes.

THE  THEME of the CONFERENCES was ACT<ADVANCE<ACHIEVE human rights for women in all areas i.e. Gender Equality, Climate Change and Sustainable Development. The 56 countries in this ECE region and the government of each country was asked to submit a report on the situation of women and the progress made since Beijing 1995. Ireland was no exception and I had studied our Gov. report before I went. This is available online from the Gender Equality Division, Department of Justice and Equality, Dublin.

THE AIM of the Women’s Forum was to formulate a Declaration for the Post-2015 Agenda, which would lay down once again our targets for attaining Women’s Equality, as it was recognised that there has been stagnation and perhaps some tiredness, even a rolling back, since Beijing 1995. Therefore, great effort and determination were needed to continue to advance Women’s issues. We must remember that Women’s and Girls’ Rights are HUMAN RIGHTS.  Women’s  issues  are both societal and global  issues and changes can also bring advantages to men and to the world economy. The need for partnership with men and boys to enforce change was constantly stressed during the Forum.

The S.D.G.s agreed in July 2014 included Women’s Empowerment but have not included Women’s and Girls’ Rights as HUMAN RIGHTS. This is disappointing for us women.

First Session:

KEY  SPEAKER: Our Key Speaker on the first day was Dr. Ervin Laszio, a philosopher of science and systems theorist, who is over 90 years of age! He spoke passionately of the need for a new VISION, rediscovering our Spirit. We are one species of one web, which has Unity as well as Diversity, but not Uniformity. Feminist Spirit is giving Hope for the future. “There is nothing as strong as an idea whose time has come”, he said.

There were two other sessions that first day with about 10 speakers, outlining the Achievements and Gaps in the advancement of Women since Beijing 1995, when the 12 Critical Areas were laid down and pledges were made to fulfil them. As I said before, there was great divergence in progress made in the 56 countries of the ECE region and there are big Gaps, even in the so-called richer and more liberal nations.

Achievements:  Some of the achievements include

  1. Greater awareness of Women’s Rights as HUMAN  
  2. Some progress in the education of young women and girls.
  3. Increase in strong Women’s organisations and NGOs.
  4. Data collection has improved somewhat, but great need for disaggregated data to show the full picture re women.
  5. Uneven increase in numbers of women in decision-making roles.
  6. Increased focus on violence against women. However impunity continues and much has to be done.
  7. More gender sensitive governments and budgeting in some regions.
  8. Women stronger in expressing their rights even if it means persecution, as in Iran.
  9. More and better legislation being enacted, though implementation is a big problem.

SECOND  DAY:

We had 16 Interactive roundtables, 4 groups of 4 topics each. We could choose to attend one topic from each group so I chose (a) Women and Poverty, (b) Violence against Women, (c) Women in Power and Decision-making and (d) Men and Boys for Gender Equality.

The other 8 Critical Areas were covered too, as well as 4 extra areas.

I was a bit disappointed that there were speakers again at these roundtables, and that time for interventions was very limited.

  1. A speaker from World Bank Group on Women and Poverty said there were great gaps in the economic domain and many live (perhaps 40%) on $1.25 a day. There is no precise data on how many women live on this amount. Separate data on men and women is needed. Ownership of assets – land, houses, finance and access to credit is lacking to women and this is particularly harmful in divorce, separation, migration and ageing.

Time poverty is a big factor in preventing women getting into better work. Women spend a great amount of time in unpaid care work –  child  rearing, housework and other care work, so their hours of paid work are harder, longer and poorly remunerated. It was noted that the Czech Republic has the lowest poverty in EU as it is most fervent on Human Rights.

Registration of Births and Marriages is still a big problem for poorer women and access to practically all services can be denied as a result. Divorce for women, access to Passports or bank accounts are therefore also denied. This, and child marriage should be a Stand Alone Target in Post-2015 Agenda.

  1. Violence against Women: Even though Rape has been criminalised it is still widespread in war and peace. Harassment at work, esp. migrant women, child violence and F.G.M. justified by religious and cultural practices are ongoing. Politicians experience hate violence, Human Rights workers suffer much and women and men are ostracised for their different sexual orientation. The use of technology in the abuse of women is now a big challenge in combating violence. Ethnic groups, indigenous people, disability groups and widows lack Human Rights according to their spokespersons. The issues of the Roma people were also represented. We need Legislation, Prevention and Services and access to real justice for Women suffering Intimate and Domestic Violence in all areas of ECE. Funding is very restricted and austerity has cut it back even further.

1 out of 3 women or girls are forced to have sex. Every 4th day a woman is killed in France. 80% of women in Chile are victims of abuse. Institutions and governments condone this violence and as we know “Silence is Complicity”.

The U.P.R will not be successful either if states are allowed to opt out of their responsibilities in this area.

  1. In the area of decision-making roles, in private and public sectors, women are far behind, except in a few countries of the ECE region. Ireland, as we know, falls behind too.

The voice of Women for a culture of Peace should be heard and they should be involved in Peace Talks and Peace Agreements.

“Rights have to be named and claimed”. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

There is a big need to bring young women into political activity and active in NGOs. There should be special programmes in Leadership for them after school and college. More role models are needed.

The role of the media was stressed as it can be male dominated and often encourages stereotypes in society, as does the cinema and film industry.

  1. Education is the key to Change. Content of curricula and training of teachers in gender equality is vital. There needs to be an end to the Blue and Pink brigade! Respect and equality from Kindergarten onwards should be the norm and there is need for a new Language and Attitude.

Men and boys must participate in this movement for Equality. The term “opposite sex” is divisive.  Partnership and complementarity should be stressed, as boys think they have to conquer and control. Both sexes need each other to flourish and solve problems. There is more to Love than Sex.

Practical Suggestions :

  • Switzerland has a campaign called The White Ribbon Campaign which asks men to wear the badge and pledge not to condone violence against women in any form. See web: http://www.whiteribbon.ca/
  • “Men Engage” is another such campaign which aims to get men to talk to each other about violence against women.
  • 21 to Dec.10 is a ten day campaign against Violence, started in Uzbekistan.
  • Sexualisation of young girls needs to be stopped.
  • “Stepping Stones” is a Social Ed. Programme from the Nat. Board of Catholic Women, in the U.K. to help Relationship education.
  • Education in how to overcome violent situations without being violent, is needed.
  • Consequences of rape on girls are not studied in Medical School or by Health Professionals though life – long trauma and health problems ensue. This needs to change.
  • We can all do something about bosses owning their employees. “ A woman with a laptop is more powerful than a man with a gun”, said a Crimean woman. There is need for technology for all women, especially rural women. Internet cafes are so important here. The aim is to connect and empower women around the world, so they can feel supported and get common ground for change.
  • Refuse to buy from companies who do not employ women or pollute the planet.
  • Disappointment was expressed at the few men who attended the Forum……perhaps seven or eight!

SIDE  EVENTS:  There were some side events in which it was a little easier to make an intervention on topics that it was felt were not included. I intervened to say that Trafficking was a crime against people, especially women and girls and needed to be included in the Final Draft of the Declaration. The Nordic model was explained and is found to be successful in the end.

The rise of Conservatism and Fundamentalism is seen as an obstacle to the achievement of Women’s Rights. Health and Reproductive Rights are denied to a big proportion of Women and Girls in this region and this leads to much suffering and even death.

FINAL  DAY:

The Moderator summarised all the vital points which needed to be included in the Draft Declaration from the Forum.

I recall the following:

  1. Women’s Rights are Human Rights.
  2. Austerity affects women and girls disproportionately.
  3. Militarization causes gross violations of Human Rights of women and girls and they should be included in Peace Talks
  4. An end to child marriage, FGM, and non – registration of Births and Marriages.
  5. Partnership with Men and Boys.
  6. An end to disproportionate amount of unpaid Care Work.
  7. Increase of women in decision – making roles. Pay Parity.
  8. Much greater efforts in Prevention, Protection and follow-up Services for victims of Domestic Violence and Trafficking
  9. Affordable and accessible Child Care.
  10. Training of Judiciary, Police, Army, Health Providers and the Media.
  11. The vital importance of Education.
  12. There was a constant cry for IMPLEMENTATION of the Law for Women’s Equality.

Full copy of the Draft Declaration and Recommendations from:  http://beijing20.ngocsw-geneva.ch

3rdOn Nov. 6 and 7 we had the Beijing +20 Regional Review Intergovernmental Meeting of the 56 countries of the ECE. As I said, each country had to send in a report on their governments’ progress in advancing the Equality of Women. As expected, there was great disparity of results, especially where there had been wars and political upheavals, as in N. Ireland or Serbia or undemocratic regimes as well as underdevelopment.

Each country had its specially labelled seating area so I waited for our Irish Justice and Equality Minister to arrive! In her place came Mr. John Hurley, Principal Officer, Gender Equality Division of her Dept. so I made his acquaintance with points from our Government’s Report (which was very comprehensive and detailed). He was quite amenable to my reminders of the gaps in it! I was amazed how similar my points were to those in the Women’s Draft Declaration above. These were:

  1. Refuges and Services for victims of Domestic Violence.
  2. Affordable Child Care for all, but esp. for disadvantaged families.( I was reminded this came under the new Child and Family Agency now)
  3. Direct Provision and Asylum Seekers.
  4. Stereotyping in Media and poor reporting of Women’s Sport and discrimination in resources.
  5. Action on Trafficking as in Nordic model.
  6. More Women in Decision-Making Roles, CEOs, Boards, Politics and Business, both Public and Private sectors. Pay Parity. He assured me there would be Quotas in the next elections.
  7. Training of Judiciary, court officials, lawyers etc. in areas of Discrimination and Violence against Women and quick access to Justice.
  8. Gender Equality in Army, Gardai and all Security services as well as the combating of all forms of sexism.
  9. Education in Human Rights and Gender Equality at all stages from pre-school onwards.
  10. The unacceptable burden of Care by women to be remunerated.
  11. The Istanbul Convention to be ratified.

Again, all the countries’ speakers named their achievements and the big challenges they faced in progressing Women’s Gender Equality. The disparities were obvious, yet each claimed efforts for Gender Equality during the past 20 years and paid tribute to the work of Women NGOs and asked them to continue to work with all agencies for change.

Most of the speakers were Women, describing particular situations in their own country.

There were sample ads. against Violence:

  • “HOMES WITHOUT VIOLENCE. KITCHENS WITHOUT VIOLENCE. PLAYROOMS WITHOUT VIOLENCE. BEDROOMS WITHOUT VIOLENCE.” This from Belarus.
  • Video of man with boxing gloves, from Israel.

All admitted that the commitments of Beijing 1995 Platform for Action have not been fulfilled and that the Economic and Financial Crisis had disproportionately affected Women. Laws are good but they are not enough. Partnership with Business was recommended. A woman working in CERN informed us that she leads a team of four women and three men there.

The Recommendations from this Regional Review mirrored very much those of the Draft Declaration of the Women’s Forum, though they seemed to concentrate more on the Labour Market. The co-chairs’ conclusions, along with all the other Meeting documents, can be accessed at: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=35329

 4thAt the close of these two days we were all pretty tired but satisfied that that the two Conferences were worthwhile in sharing information, re-awakening enthusiasm and spreading support and helpful ideas for keeping up the effort for the Advancement of Women’s Rights and for providing our Declaration for use as advocacy during the 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2015 in New York.

We had some social occasions during the two Conferences. On our first night the city of Geneva hosted a reception for us in the beautiful Ariana Palace During the week there some short musical interludes to cheer our hearts during the long sessions of listening! Finally, on the last night we had an exhibition of national dancing and music during another drinks and sweet tasty morsel reception, which was very enjoyable indeed!

 Written by Sr. Ann Pender
19/11/2014

Jo McCarthy, PBVM - 7th Global Forum on Migration and Development

Jo McCarthyThe 7th Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), held in Stockholm from May 14-16th, 2014, gathered together over 900 delegates from 140 countries and 30 international organizations representing a wide range of civil society organisations, the private sector, international organisations and governments, including Ministries and Departments of Immigration, Development, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Gender Equality, Justice, Integration and Nationals Abroad.    The primary purpose of the Forum is to facilitate a constructive dialogue among governments about migration and development at the international level.

The Civil Society Days of the GFMD which take place immediately prior to the GFMD meeting of Governments help to bring the reality of migrants’ lives to the table in government deliberations and help to inform decisions and policies by bringing another lens other than an economic one to the debate. They also strive to convince Government that it makes economic sense to respect the rights of migrants and ensure that they are fully integrated in society.

The costs of exclusion from services greatly surpass those of inclusion. Inclusive measures that address the realities at local and regional level and invest in the fundamental rights of all persons and universal access to essential services are vital to reduce poverty and social exclusion, improve social cohesion, increase equality and generate inclusive growth.[1]

I was privileged to attend the Civil Society Days of the GFMD on behalf of the IPA this year.  This was a unique opportunity to meet with 220 migrant and civil society leaders from all over the world, together with 80 representatives of governments and international organizations.  On Monday and Tuesday, 12/13 May, we shared our experiences of working with and for migrants on the ground and sought to identify some promising practices where change has been possible in recent years – as well as targets and indicators of how progress will be measured in the coming years.

The results of the sharing were then presented to the 900 delegates at the GFMD 2014 Common Space on May 14th. This session was opened by H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden following which Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt welcomed the delegates.  The United Nations Secretary General (UNSG), Mr. Ban Ki-moon, delivered a key note message emphasising that migration should be a journey of hope, not a perilous gamble in which migrants and their family members risk their lives and livelihoods.

Michele LeVoy, Chair of the Civil Society Days of the 2014 GFMD, then reported on 4 key areas that emerged from the 2 days of sharing:

  1. Migrants in distress
  2. Labor
  3. Children in the context of migration
  4. Post-2015 – the need to move towards people and nature-centred, rights-based development, and corporate accountability. Policies should consider migration in its entire complexity, recognising that the dominant development paradigm produces inequalities that compel migration.

According to UN estimates, over 200 million people are now living permanently or temporarily outside their countries of origin. One out of every 35 people worldwide is currently an international migrant.  This vast number includes migrant workers and their families, refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. However, this does not take into account those of irregular or undocumented status, for which there are no reliable estimates.

Governments are particularly focussed on  remittances, (money sent home by migrants), which are estimated to be three times the size of official global aid budgets, and how this money can be channelled for development.[2]  Migrants’ remittances are important contributors to family and community development when they are used as private transfers.  However, they are not the answer to development policies and should not be used as national policy measures for poverty reduction.  For this reason, Civil Society Days provide an important balance to the GFMD government deliberations, highlighting the importance of putting a human face to the policy debates.  While Governments speak of remittances and national development, my friend Gwen* talks about “my 14 mouths to feed back home”.  Her modest salary as a Care Assistant in a Nursing Home in Cork supports 14 relatives in the Philippines, including her two young children, her parents, her widowed sister and her children and some cousins.  Foreign aid budgets and national development are far removed from her radar.

The situation of vulnerable migrants is another dimension of migration that the Civil Society days bring to the attention of Governments.  While migration is exciting and can be socially and economically rewarding, it also involves distance and disconnection from friends and family and an inevitable feeling of loneliness and isolation while struggling with a new culture and/or language.  This is exacerbated by an immigration framework which is controlling and excluding rather than family friendly with a focus on rights and entitlements.[3]  Maria* has worked as a nurse in Cork for 10 years and as a nurse pays the highest taxes.  However as a migrant worker she is excluded from any social supports or benefits.  When her son attempted suicide, she was unable to work for 3 months due to stress.  During this time, excluded from the social welfare system,  she was dependent on our office and Vincent de Paul for support.

Undocumented migrants, often incorrectly called “illegal”[4], are particularly vulnerable.  They cannot travel for lack of valid documents.   Rose* is undocumented and for 2 years has cared for an elderly couple in their home in Co. Cork.  Rose*, like many migrants, is parenting her 3 young children from a distance, mainly through skype.  On her free day she meets with other undocumented workers, who are supported by a group of Filipino lay associates in Dublin.  Her undocumented friend tells of his pain in accompanying his dying mother on skype.  Filipinos are very family oriented and he asked his mother if he should travel to the Philippines to say goodbye.  But his dying mother reassured him that his children are more important, that he should not travel and lose this opportunity to work in Ireland.  Fr. Daniel Groody rightlydescribes migrants’ spirituality as a spirituality of sacrifice.[5]

Children are among the most vulnerable migrants – It is estimated that globally 1 million children are affected by immigration detention.  Children at risk of immigration detention include those traveling with family members, unaccompanied minor children, asylum-seeking and refugee children, and children whose parents are seeking asylum or refugee status.  At the GFMD Civil Society Days, Michele LeVoy spoke movingly about Noemi Alvarez, a 12 year old Ecuadorian girl, cared for by her grandparents in Ecuador.  Her parents from the Bronx paid a “coyote” (a people smuggler) to bring her to the States for a better education.  She was picked up in Nicaragua and returned to Ecuador.   In March of this year she set off again with another “coyote” and was detained in Mexico and sent to La Casa de la Esperanza (The House of Hope), a detention centre near El Paso. A few days later she was found hanging in the bathroom.  Her alleged suicide is being investigated.

Victoria*, an asylum seeker) called to our office with her 3 week old baby.  She is detained in the Direct Provision Centre in Ireland.  All her meals are provided and she receives €19 per week to support herself and her child.  We are helping her to move to accommodation with the father of her child even though immigration authorities insist that there is no alternative to institutional care in a Direct Provision centre for her child.  Children may remain in these detention centres for 4, 5 years or more.

Migration is often referred to as a journey of hope but the loneliness, isolation and suffering are less often highlighted.  Alan Hilliard graphically describes the darker side of immigration he discovered while working as an Irish Emigrant Chaplain:

Thoseof us who have travelled are fools if we think it is all about bright lights and distraction.  There is the personal journey that needs to be taken account of. One of our workers abroad told me that what they see at times is permanent grieving, being in one place and looking to another.  To occupy this space is a torment.[6]

We must continue to advocate so that it becomes morally and ethically unacceptable that migrants, and especially migrant children, be subjected to this level of suffering and degradation in any of our countries.

As someone who has worked on the ground for many years, this experience was a huge learning curve for me.  Thanks to Elsa from IPA, I had skyped with Sr. Mary Jo Toll, from the NGO Committee on Migration at the UN, a few times prior to the meeting and she had prepared me a little for the experience and during the three days introduced me to her many contacts from different organisations.

I am grateful to the South West Province, Ireland, and Elsa for making it possible for me to attend this event.

[1] Michele LeVoy 21 March 2013, regarding European Commission Recommendation ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’, adopted 20 February 2013

[2] International migrants from developing countries are expected to send $436 billion in remittances to their home countries this year.

* Name changed to protect confidentiality.

[3] McCarthy, C.J., M.A. (Research) 2013

[4] Besides being discriminatory and criminalising, the term ‘illegal migrant’ is also judicially incorrect as a person cannot be ‘illegal’ as irregular migration is an administrative rather than a criminal offence – according to the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM).

[5] Groody, D.G. 2002, Border of Death, Valley of Life

[6] Hilliard, A, 2006. Migration, A Pastoral Response. The Furrow

Ellen Cafferty, PBVM - Conference of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 12-23, 2014

Ellen Cafferty2Participating in the 13th Conference of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was a tremendous privilege and an eye-opener. I went to the Conference from my ministry in Guatemala thinking that the situation of the over 7,000,000 indigenous peoples there was unique; that no government could be as brutal and repressive toward its own people as is the government of Guatemala. However, after listening to government representatives express their countries’ satisfaction with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, then hearing representatives of Indigenous peoples from Canada, Bangladesh, the Pacific Islands,

the Russian Federation, Australia, the United States, the African Caucus, Mexico – to name a few – recount their experiences which clearly refuted their governments’ presentations, I came to realize that the situation in Guatemala only mirrors a tragic global reality.

Despite what the UN Declaration says about Indigenous peoples’ right to “prior, free, and informed consent”  concerning the use of indigenous lands and its resources, on every continent first peoples are forfeiting this right to mega hydro-electric projects and other extracting industries. Reports cited that those who organize themselves to protest such blatant violations are vilified as terrorists, criminalized and punished. The women and girls are sexually abused by mercenaries of said companies, often sequestered, murdered and their bodies dismembered.

During the days of the Conference it became very apparent that indigenous peoples play a key role in conserving the world’s natural resources. 85% of the remaining 5% of our Earth’s first growth forests is in their hands. Even though they live on all continents and in the most remote parts of our planet, they share a common cosmo vision that regards the whole universe as sacred, as one living being of which we are all a part. Even their ceremonies honoring the ancestors and the energies of the east, south, north and west are similar

The women participants clearly played a prominent role in the Conference, both on the leadership team of the Permanent Forum, in the local indigenous organizations and in the spontaneous groups that sprouted up among the participants. This year’s chairperson is as an Inuit woman from Greenland while the “rapporteur” is a woman from a Filipino indigenous community. At the side events the indigenous women, especially the grandmothers, spoke unchallenged of the leading role they play in the conservation of their cultures.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is based on the previous UN Declaration on Human Rights, but only 23 countries have affirmed it. For that reason we spent much time during the second and last week of the Conference looking for ways to implement the Declaration at all levels. At the various meetings we saw how the UN functions through its various agencies, which are critically underfunded. It believes in educating people who then utilize public protest to bring about change.

During the last week of the Conference there were a number of closed sessions which left participants free to attend other UN agencies’ sessions or to meet among themselves. I was glad to have the opportunity to go with Elsa to meetings on the eradication of poverty and the situation in Syria. I also visited the heart rending exhibit marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

I certainly want to thank the IPA, my own congregation, my hostesses at St. Michael’s Convent

In Manhattan and my parish in Guatemala for the opportunity to participate in the Conference, to hear the voices of some of the world’s most impoverished peoples, to grow more aware of what they are suffering and to see better what it is that we all should be about.

The Friday before I returned to Guatemala a group of campesinos of San Jose del Golfo were attacked and beaten by police and army personnel as they guarded the entrance to a mining site against the incursion of heavy land moving machinery. The following Sunday I joined a bus load of parishioners who went to the mining site to show their solidarity with the protesters. These are brave people who are willing to give their lives defending their beloved Mother Earth. I ask myself if I am willing to do the same.

Lilly John, PBVM - Attendance on UN Commissions

Lilly‘The cry of those made poor  and the cry of the Earth  call us to continue the mission of Jesus to bring forth a sustainable society founded on respect for Earth, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace’.(IPA identity statement)

I feel honored to have got a chance to be at the United Nations (UN )as an Intern for four months, as a member of International Presentation Association. I observed various procedures of the UN working system .I got an opportunity  to participate in the U.N. proceedings and to understand how the International Presentation Association(IPA) is actively involved at the Economic and Social Council of the UN with its wide range of membership ,working and involved at the grassroots in 23 countries of the world ,contributing and strengthening the work at the UN.

As I reminisce some of my experiences and the events of the UN ,I would like to express my special thanks to the IPA Directors Srs. Sharon Fagan from the American Conference, Sr. Mary Dean from the Union and Sr.  Maureen Watson  from Australian Society ,for giving me this great opportunity to  be at the UN for four months. I also extend my grateful appreciation to the Indian Leadership Team for freeing me from my responsibilities for the past four months and my community who shouldered the extra responsibility to carry out the mission in my absence. I am deeply grateful to Srs. Elsa Muttathu  the IPA NGO representative at the UN and Sr. Elena Hoye, the IPA Networker for their timely assistance and help in making my stay at   New York  comfortable  and for helping   me to be  part of the  various activities and committees that IPA is actively involved in.

The important UN events that I was privileged to be part of were:-

  • The 52nd session of the Commission on Social Development with its priority theme “promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration, full employment and decent work for all.”
  •  The 9th,10thand 11th sessions of the open working groups on sustainable development Agenda for post 2015.
  • The Thematic debates under the PGA and expert Committees and High level political Forum.
  • The 58th Commission on the status of women from March 10th to 21st of March.
  • 44th session of the Population Commission Development which was held from 7thto 10th April.
  • “The role of Partnerships in the implementation of the post 2015 Development Agenda.-Held on 9th April 2014.
  • Seminar on Development cooperation for changing global scenario
  •  “ Harmony with nature “.An Interactive Dialogue of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Harmony with Nature to commemorate International Mother Earth day.( On 21st April 2014. )
  • Thirteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues with the theme “principles of Good Governance  consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples: Articles 3 to 6 and 46  which was held from 12th to 23rd May .
  • CS0cD- 52“promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration, full employment and decent work for all.”

I was happy to present a case-study of empowerment from among the “kathkari” Tribals in Raigad District with the Intervention of Presentation sisters  through building partnership with   other organizations . Here the people, especially the women have become active participants in emancipating their own  community . The experience at the U.N. made me  understand that whatever we do locally has an impact  at the global level and the importance of working from Local to global and vice versa. It was an empowering and humbling experience for me to interact with the high-level dignitaries, people at the civil society forum and people from all over the world.

The representatives of the civil society forum, networking among themselves, lobbying and advocating with the Governments of different countries on behalf of the people at the grassroots is a great means of  advocacy. The  focus of the discussions were  on post 2015 Sustainable Development goals as the  implementation period for Millennium Development Goals comes to an end.

Sustainable Development Goals  are to lay   special emphasis  on Social Protection floors where no one is left behind, people are placed at the center of Development , equality  and equitable distribution of resources,  employment opportunities for all and economic development to go hand in hand  with Social Integration .  Women, children, youth, disabled and aged are to be focused on a priority basis.

During the CS0cD many side events were organized by NGO forums, UN agencies, and the Government organizations from  various  countries to  advocate and to share about  their involvement with the poor in a unique and innovative way. The side event  hosted by IPA on “migration a win-win situation for all” presented by SR. Virginia wikinson was  very educative and threw light on the challenges faced by the Hispanic community and the various programes undertaken by the sisters towards their economic development and social cohesion. During her sharing, she emphasized that empowering the migrants is not only beneficial for them but also for the host country as well.

A program called ‘water with blessings ‘which trains women who live in remote areas with unsafe water, to have the use of inexpensive but dependable water filtration system was another interesting side event that I attended.

‘Inequality Matters’ is another side event which stressed on equal opportunities and re distribution   of wealth  in order to curb inequality in  our world.

Major learnings

  • I got a greater understanding of the work of the IPA at the Economic and Social Council of the UN. The IPA Assembly directions and policies are being implemented through UN processes by net-working with various NGO Committees. This way, the voices of the people at the grass roots get a hearing through participation of the sisters in various side events. Through partnership with other religious who are working at the UN (RUN), major NGOs, UN agencies and civil Society at large, our I.P.A. work is enhanced.
  • This experience also made me aware of the various global challenges faced by humanity at large and that need a global response. In particular the problems of migration, trafficking in human persons, issues of the rights of Indigenous people    such as eviction from their lands, the Issues of climate change etc. if not heeded, could threaten the very existence of humanity, especially the people living in small Island states.
  • There were also discussions on how to combat the greed of the corporate world and the extracting Industries which not only pollute our mother earth but also exhaust the natural resources which are meant for the future generations too.
  • Another major learning I got was how to influence the policy through written and oral statements at the meetings. For example, during the open working group sessions the NGO Committee on mining met with the Government representatives to speak on behalf of them. IPA too was part of these processes. Likewise there was a big move to bring up the ‘Universal Social Protection Floors ‘   under the goal of Poverty eradication.
  •  Practical experience and knowledge on networking, lobbying and advocacy and the importance of sharing the grass root experiences at the global level are some of the things that I cherish.

Lilly.UNParticipating in policy formulations and monitoring systems. 2014 is a critical year for the UN as the time period for the Millennium development goals is coming to an end. Serious discussions, thematic debates, international dialogues with every stakeholder are being held to set a frame work for the post MDGs. The goals, targets and indicators are to be set for the Sustainable Development for the coming fifteen years (2030).

Connecting the issues from local to global and bringing up the same at the UN level, will help in influencing the global policies and that will in turn have impact on the people who live in poverty and on the margins of society.

My attending various commissions and forums like (Commission on the Status of Women( CSW),Commission on Social Development( CsocD)   and Indigenous forums were an occasion for me to meet with people of  different nationalities during their side events and to understand  the challenges faced by them.

The various committees that IPA is part of NGO Committee on Social Development

  • Financing for Development
  • Poverty Eradication subcommittee and Grassroots task force
  • Working Group on Girls-WGG
  • Working group on indigenous people
  • Working Group on mining
  • Working Group on Migration
  • Subcommittee-youth and children
  • Committee against Trafficking in Persons-STIP
  • Committee on Sustainable Development

Participating in the committee meetings enabled me to understand the magnitude of the problems especially   the issues of Human Trafficking and Migration of people which has a direct impact on people which needs a global and local response simultaneously.

Conclusion

In conclusion , what I witnessed at the UN was  a practical living out of the mission of IPA as it states  that Flowing from  our identity as Presentation women  the  mission of IPA is to channel our  resources so that we can speak and act in partnership with  others for global justice.

As we look forward to the implementation of the SDGs from September 2015, we hope that through UN interventions and processes the extreme poverty will be eradicated and women and children live a life of dignity and equality and we will witness a world where no one will be left behind in development.

The sayings of Nano Nagle  “If I could be of service in saving souls in any part of the world  I would  willingly do all in my power”  becomes a great reality  as we ardently and diligently collaborate  with others to speak and act on behalf of people made poor  all over the world.

I was also happy to witness in Presentation Communities   the Lantern of Nano being held high and burning bright through the lives of the sisters to bring light and hope to the poorest of the poor, the immigrants, the homeless etc.

As I look forward to the future I want to make the 2012 IPA Assembly statement a reality for my personal life as well as in the lives of the members of my community   Impelled by the radical Gospel of Jesus and on fire with the spirit of Nano, we consciously choose to be drawn more deeply in to the mystery of God, the mystery of oneness and the reality of people and earth made poor.  Energized by this evolving consciousness we engage   in expansive partnerships   that move us to personal and systemic transformation”. (2012 IPA Assembly)

Ellen Cafferty, PBVM

Ellen Cafferty2I can only speak as an eyewitness to the efforts toward self-determination of the Mayan people, among whom I have lived and labored during 42 of my 76 years. I admit with some embarrassment that I went to Chiapas, Mexico thinking I was going to teach the people something – after all I was a teacher –but what happened was that the people became my teachers. Their lessons were subtle and unintentional, but little by little they came to form for me a different way of thinking, of seeing all of life in a completely different context than the one into which I had been born and raised.  You may ask what all this has to do with self- determination.  For me it has everything to do with it, for how can we come to self-determination without knowing who we really are? I wasn’t long in Chiapas when a new volunteer and I visited one of the Tzeltal villages. Between activities the people sat with us and if we didn’t speak, we sat in silence, something both of us were uncomfortable with. My companion began commenting on the state of the community school house, which was made from bamboo poles and thatched roofing. “Your school could use fixing up,” he said. Our hosts remained silent, so he continued. “Maybe you could clear more land, plant more corn, sell it and fix the school.”  Finally one of the villagers responded, “When we plant our fields, we ask permission of Mother Earth to break the ground, with the promise that we will take from her only what we need.”  LESSON #1: TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED.But there had been a previous lesson that I had missed till I began thinking about it and that was on the treatment of visitors: LESSON # 2: WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS WHO WE ARE WITH.

After a while I became more observant and asked questions instead of giving answers.  I saw that the men got together to plant their fields, that they didn’t consider them-selves owners of the land and that they interchanged farming plots so that everyone had access to the most fertile areas. LESSON #3:  WE ALL HAVE A RIGHT TO THE GOODS OF MOTHER EARTH. 

When the women did the family laundry in the river, instead of seeing it as a chore they considered it a time to interchange news, to enjoy their younger children splashing in the water and one another’s company. LESSON #4:  LIFE IS MEANT TO BE ENJOYED, EVEN DURING TIMES OF WORK.

One morning in town I noticed a large group of men from Colonia San Antonio coming up the street. One of the men had a chair held by a thump line on his back with a pale young woman tied to the chair. As I watched, one of the groups stopped and told me that the woman, his sister-in-law, was in labor and could not deliver the baby, so they had brought her in to the dispensary. I calculated that every able man of the community was with her and had probably taken a turn carrying the chair during the 12 mile trek into town. LESSON #5: THE PROBLEM OF ONE IS THE PROBLEM OF ALL.   

As I became familiar with the Tzeltal language I learned that the people don’t ask others what they think, they ask what’s in their hearts. To love another is to have pain in the heart and to speak of the Source and Sustainer of life; they speak of and to the HEART OF HEAVEN, HEART OF EARTH. LESSON #6: THE WHOLE UNIVERSE THROBS WITH THE POWER OF LOVE.

One day I asked a teen ager how he had learned to respect life in all its forms, so he told me that as a little boy he had killed a spider. A few nights later he sat at the fire as his grandmother made tortillas. “One day, my child,” she said to him, “you will make a journey and you will come to wide and sweeping a river that you will not be able to cross unless a spider weaves a web for you.” LESSON #7: EVERY CREATURE HAS A REASON FOR BEING.

The Presentation sisters were in Chiapas, Mexico, from 1966 to 1987, a time when Tzeltal farmers from ancestral areas where the land was exhausted and peons from the large ranches were moving into the Lacandon Jungle under the government approved ejido system. The system granted the communal use of but not the ownership of lands.   This experience was certainly one of self-determination but a short lived one.  In 1991, President Carlos Salinas Gortari abrogated the ejido system from the Mexican Constitution, leaving the ejidatarios in the status of squatters. The president’s action was a condition for Mexico signing the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and Canada. Many of the people who had struggled for so long to make a home for them-selves in the jungle and then were deprived of their legal rights to it were those who took another step in self – determination, joining ranks with neighboring Mayan farmers and forming the Zapatista Liberation Movement.

 On January 1, 1994, the day that NAFTA was to go into effect, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation came out of the Lacandon Jungle to astound the Mexican government with its demands for justice for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and to strike a chord of solidarity throughout the world. This year, on January 1st, the 10th anniversary of their first appearance, 30,000 Zapatistas stood silently but with raised fists in the central square of San Cristobal de las Casas, the indigenous  capital of Chiapas,  to let the world know that “la lucha sigue” – the struggle goes on.

In 1991 I went south to join one of my sisters in a parish on the outskirts of Guatemala City. It’s an area like all of that in and around the capital  that  tripled and quadrupled in population during a massive urban migration beginning in the 1980’s, the time of the armed conflict. The exodus from the high lands continues today, bringing the city’s and its surrounding area’s numbers to 5,000,000 people, which is a third of the country’s total population and over half of the entire indigenous population.

The armed conflict was being handled subtlety around the capital but raged on in the interior of the country until 1996. Its result was a genocide that obliterated over 400 indigenous communities from the map of Guatemala, General Efrain Rios Mont, who took over the government in a military coup in 1982, was tried for genocide in a case, which was brought against him by the Ixil people in 2013. He was found guilty, a verdict that caused great rejoicing in most sectors of the country. Sadly, it was then over turned by the national Constitutional Court and is now in the appellate court. Subsequently, Claudia Paz y Paz, the attorney general who brought the case to trial was vilified by the mass media and dismissed from her post several months early.  

It is only lately, as the extracting companies invade the country, that people are becoming aware that the armed conflict had nothing to do with contradictory political ideologies and everything to do with making mineral rich and water rich territories accessible hydro-electric and mining interests.

During the thirty year conflict the people who migrated to Guatemala City were mostly women and children, the men staying  behind to  fight in the Guerrilla movement or in the army; with many, too many dying in the struggle. The displaced children, left alone while their mothers sold what they could on the streets or worked as underpaid domestics, grew up fearfully and many times angrily. They were easily assimilated into the mainstream consumer culture and too often became prey to gangs looking for new members to carry out drug deliveries, extortions, assaults and vicious murders. These young people were paid in drugs, became addicted and so completely alienated from reality.

In the area where I live, Na’oj Maya is one of many small but important programs that offer an alternative to gang membership. Its aim is help Kaqchikel children and adolescents rediscover and value their cultural heritage so that, someday, they can come to self – determination. I’m delighted when I listen to the teen agers play the marimba or learn with the children the treasures of their Kaqchikel language.

Their teacher explains:  “The root word for hair is the root word for roof and the root word for tree top . . . The root word for leg is also the root word for river bed, for our grandmothers and grandfathers saw that the river also walks.  They saw that everything that lives is connected, everything is ONE.

At Na’oj Maya some of the adults read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so I asked them if they had any recommendations for the Conference.One of the elders responded:  If the United Nations could only convince our government to truly recognize these rights, how wonderful it would be.  A mother of a college graduate who hasn’t been able to find work said: If the UN could influence businesses to hire young people and not reject them because they have  Mayan surnames, it would be a great help to our family economy.”  A teen ager who was listening asked, “Can the UN teach people that making money is not the reason for living? That would make the world very different.”

Just over the hill from where Na’oj Maya meets, Kaqchikel farmers are resisting the incursion of CEMENTOS PROGRESSO, the largest cement company in Guatemala. When their road blocks effectively stopped the movement of the company’s heavy machinery into the area, company representatives went into the area and hired enough people at higher- than- average wages to cause infighting and finally division, but a wiser if weakened community goes on resisting.

When the monumental obstacles to self – determination that the indigenous communities face tempt me to discouragement, I try to recall the story of the young David courageously toppling the jeering giant Goliath with only a river stone in a slingshot. Then I believe again that the indigenous peoples and their love of Mother Earth will triumph.

If only all of us could honor their cosmic vision and see the whole universe as our home; if only we would acknowledge the primary right of Mother Earth to self – determination, we may yet survive. The United Nations has many documents that speak this language and that treat these issues but not every government. Our challenge is to make sure that the struggle continues – QUE SIGA LA LUCHA.

Lynette Rodrigues, PBVM - UN-DESA/DSD (Zambia), October 9-11, 2013

In September 2000 world Leaders gathered at the United Nations and agreed to cut global poverty and hunger to half, fight climate change and disease, tackle unsafe water and sanitation, expand education and open doors of opportunity  to girls and women. This is how the Millennium Development goals were born. They form the basis of a global roadmap to be achieved by 2015. Since they were adopted, the Millennium Development Goals have proven to be the most successful global anti-poverty push in history, truly changing the lives of millions of people across the world.

The Future we want  from RIO +20  gave a mandate to  involve all partners who together can make difference   for a better world.    My World. The  United Nations Global Survey for a Better World, started in February 2013.  Led by United Nations and 700 partners across the world, invites  people to vote  for 6 of the 16  issues  which will make  the most difference  to their lives  and the lives of their families. Their votes are being shared with the global  leaders  as they begin the process of defining the new development  goals for the world.

The 16 issues  have been built up  from the priorities expressed by poor people in existing research and polling and they cover the existing Millennium Goals plus issues of sustainability, security, governance, and transparency. Now over one million people in 194 countries have already taken part and made their voices heard.

We can contribute by participating and enable everyone’s voice to be heard especially world’s poorest and marginalized.

Fatima nominated me and I was invited by UN-DESA/DSD to  participate in the workshop on mainstreaming sustainable development into national development strategies which was held from 9-11 October 2013 in New York.

 

The main objective of the Workshop was to provide a platform for sharing of cutting edge knowledge on sustainable development to enhance the capacity of Government officials and civil society to effectively integrate sustainable development pillars and principles into national development planning and implementation. We also made  ten minutes country presentation.   It was an opportunity to share our experiences and learn from each other’s. I particularly appreciated the sharing of experiences, including good practices and challenges and gaps, in implementation of integrated sustainable development issues. Some of the countries  have taken serious steps and strategically planned for their countries and we were able to see the results of their implementation.  We also appreciated the discussions we had on country-level capacity building needs, including the tools and mechanisms that may be needed to effectively integrate sustainable development into policy planning and programming. At the end of the workshop,we provided recommendations to DSD/DESA on what would be the strategic approaches to adopt for  capacity development, given the current processes underway for the development of the post 2015 agenda, the SDGs and DESA’s role in the inter  governmental process.

On the 11th  October  was the Day of the Girl. The event was held at the ECOSOC chamber.  Both Fatima and  Elsa were involved in  preparing for the event.  The  girls  were invited and some of the girls spoke courageously of their situation. The voice of the girl  who spoke about  her  status as undocumented  immigrant in U.S  touched my heart.  She said “ I am undocumented, Unafraid, and unapologetic” . it was again another privilege to be at this event. I am grateful to Fatima and Elsa for making it possible for me to attend this event.

Lynette Rodrigues pbvm (Zambia)

Lucy van Kessel, PBVM - Short Term Represntative at UN, July 2013

Conscious of our interconnectedness with all creation, especially with those made poor, and our commitment to bring

information and experience from those engaged in grassroots ministry to our IPA personnel at the UN, the first powerful message I took from time at the UN is the importance of listening to the voices of those made poor. The ATD fourth world invited people living in poverty to speak to us at the UN. The core message was to listen to them, to what they wanted and needed and to heed that, rather than making decisions about what is best for them. The corollary of that is the challenge to connect with those made poor, to converse with them and hear what they say they need. As one speaker said “We know what we need and it is not ‘charity’, we want education for our children and we want to heard”.

This links closely with a second key message I take from my time at the UN: Sr Joan O’Sullivan said Mary Robinson – former President of Ireland and now Special Envoy of the Secretary General to the African Women – spoke to Presentation Sisters in Ireland. They asked what she recommended for them. Her response: “I would like to see more of you go where some of you are” which I read as an affirmation of Presentation People who live and ‘work’ with people in need and a challenge to the rest of us to think about how we may best serve those in greatest need, be it through prayer, letter writing, knitting, listening, being with, etc.

A third reflection is how to energise the UN Alumni to share our learning and encourage other Presentation People to join working groups to gather information for Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR), for Commissions, Forums and especially to contribute to planning for the post 2015 sustainable development goals. A data base of Presentation activities in the 22 countries in which we operate would be a useful start, so that we tap into the expertise of so many of our members.

For example, if each country focussed on equality for women and girls, which is truly gospel and human rights, if we collected good and bad stories, gathered local data and related this to what each government promised in its last UPR that would contribute to a powerful message to government and increase the moral pressure for positive change. Many of us deal with migration and violence against women and girls – imagine what could be achieved if we worked with other groups to present hard evidence and recommendations for so many people who suffer today, partially due to our inactivity! As an active anti-trafficker said to me “we are all complicit in human trafficking through what we buy and what we don’t do!” OUCH!

The ‘miracle’ of the UN is that it is the only place on earth where 193 countries have an equal voice in the General Assembly, in the UPR and with Special Rappoteurs. It is the only secular place to which we can bring gospel, moral values and pressure on all countries, and we Religious and Presentation People have a special role because we are not seeking power, prestige or control. We are simply seeking the well being of all earth and her peoples in the light of the gospel.

The UN celebrates, recognises and appreciates such a diversity of peoples and activities: Autism day when people with autism told us “accept and respect diversity, try imitating our behaviour instead of trying to make us become like you”; Transatlantic Slavery day when we heard how slaves kept the US economy alive for many years; Harmony day honouring nature and recognising she has rights; Arms Trade Treaty day when countries committed to limiting some arms trade after 30 years; Journalists Day remembering journalists who die to bring truth to us; Malala Day, most recently, when Malala passionately pleaded for countries to commit to education for all children. http://webtv.un.org/watch/malala-yousafzai-addresses-united-nations-youth-assembly/2542094251001/ These are only a few.

People are the heart of the UN: IPA working as a team, reflecting and planning each week together, sharing learning and encouraging each other, really benefit from having short-term representatives starting at the same time; UNANIMA bringing joy, celebration and vibrant energy to the office; Religious at the UN (RUN)  praying and networking together inspiring one another; women from Chechnya speaking about DIShonour killings of young girls and women; Indigenous people speaking about brutality at mine sites; Palestinian film makers telling their stories; youth representatives seeking influence in the UN; UN guards who help and whom you get to know quite well… and so it goes. Many personal meetings are a gift and an inspiration – so often with people wanting a sustainable, equitable, just world in which every person has their basic needs met, social protection and worthwhile work.

Then there are the commissions, consultations, high level panels, open working groups, forums, meetings, side events, all apart from NGO committees and sub-committees. The plethora of ECOSOC, DPI, Human Rights and other departments can be quite daunting. The key is to investigate, focus on one or two, check out the department structure and which NGO meetings relate to it and decide where to focus. This is difficult because, for example, human rights have 10 departments alone, but it is essential in making the most of the short-term opportunity.

It is sometimes difficult to remember that the focus of activity is to advocate with ‘member states’/ governments to honour basic human rights commitments and to link this with our Presentation mission ‘speaking and acting in partnership with others for global justice’. It is essential to get to know government members and to continue relating to them at grassroots level after finishing at the UN. If our grassroots working groups are able to draft a page on specific issues, such as children’s education, which could be as used to educate local Presentation People and be taken to local politicians for advocacy, it would be very valuable.

Each of us, Presentation People has a responsibility and role in relation to IPA at the UN.

  • Congregation Leadership teams can encourage Presentation People to apply for the experience of being a short-term representative at the UN;
  • Ensure that material from IPA at the UN is passed on to all Presentation People at grassroots;
  • Visit the UN and see what IPA does there, if close by.

ü  UN Alumni can share their learning, network and stay informed;

ü  Join working groups, contribute and encourage others to participate.

All Presentation People can check the IPA webpage regularly, comment, encourage others to view it;

Pray, pray, pray for personal and systemic transformation to gospel living (human rights) for all peoples and the earth;

Consider joining working groups, contributing a ministry story, data or personal reflection to IPA.

My personal commitment is to prepare education material to share especially for young women; to participate in working groups and network with others when preparing material for IPA at the UN; to find ways of listening to grass roots people; and to encourage Congregation Leaders to send NGO short-term representatives to the UN. It is a challenging experience and a great opportunity to learn, to grow and to appreciate a whole world of other viewpoints.

My time at the UN has been a gift for which I am truly grateful.

Lucy van Kessel

Dina Potter, PBVM - An IPA/United Nations Experience

Thank you!

I would like to begin by saying thank you to our Presentation Congregations and my U.S Province for allowing me to participate as an IPA Short Term Representative at the United Nations (U.N.) in New York City. It was a wonderfully unique and global experience and I would definitely recommend it as it was very much an eye opening experience. It was a way of connecting the local with the global and vice versa and deepening one’s awareness of the interconnectedness of the two. (For what we do locally truly affects the world globally and vice versa!) My eight months at the U.N. connected very much with our IPA Identity Statement including the areas of ‘respect for Earth, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.’ It was also a time of furthering our IPA mission, moving along our direction statement and carrying out our IPA commitments as I hope you will see as you continue to read.

Personal Note

As I sifted through my journal, various notes and papers involving the U.N., I first discovered these words I had written in my journal before going to the U.N. “Do not fear, go forth keeping in mind and letting it sink into the depths of your heart, to listen attentively, pay attention, chew it, digest it, and let the outcome flow into being-being a voice for the voiceless, for our mother earth, God’s creatures both minute and enormous, all peoples no matter race, religion, culture and/or language especially those most on the margins. Speak the truth to power, do it only because it is right, do it for God and God’s creatures and yes I am the least likely but that’s OK. If I am open, God will give me the graces.” With this having been said I will do my best to give a glimpse of my time with IPA at the U.N.

Reality of Climate Change

My time in New York City gave me a greater awareness of the reality of climate change. A tornado watch (unusual for this area) greeted my arrival into the city. Within a short period of time, beginning on October 29, Hurricane Sandy hit (we were very blessed in comparison with others), the following week we had a day of snow and shortly after spring had returned. The reality of climate change here in New York is definitely one example of what is happening around our world and is very much in the midst of many of the conversations going on at the U.N.   

First Event Attended at the U.N.    

My first event attended was titled, “World Peace and the Ecological Crisis: A Buddhist Wisdom” by Master Jinje Sunim. He spoke in Korean and it was translated into English. From his talk we heard, “Seon meditation teaches global peace, harmony and equality, as well as a healthy ecological environment, can be achieved by keeping our minds right and understanding that You and I are not Two but One. We must also understand that the same “Oneness” exists between the global habitat and the individual, because human beings and nature are mutually inter-dependent.” His talk was very much in unison with our own way of life in the phrases we so often use and strive to live by, ‘the Mystery of Oneness’ (from IPA direction statement) and ‘the Spirituality of Being in Communion’. (Union Congregational Gathering Document)

U.N. Dynamics!

There are three main sectors playing unique roles at the United Nations. The 193 UN member states who are policy makers, the UN Agencies and Programmes and Funds who provide their expertise to the policy making and carry out the programmes on the ground, and then civil society who plays the role of influencing policies through various strategies. One such strategy is organizing themselves as various NGO Committees on different issues. NGO Committees that I regularly participated in included the Subcommittee for the Eradication of Poverty, Committee on Migration, Working Group on Girls (WGG) and the Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons (STIP). These groups met monthly, provided great information in relation to their particular area of concern and also invited those attending to participate and contribute in various ways.

Participation in Commissions

IPA, along with nearly four thousand other NGOs, has its consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Its subsidiary bodies are Commissions which are intergovernmental bodies. Some of its Commissions include the:  Commission for Social Development (CSocD), Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII). I was blessed with the opportunity to attend each of these Commissions and to participate in various ways. IPA in collaboration with others organized special events for three of the four Commissions above. (not a simple task!)

Commission on the Status of Women

As short term representatives one of our first tasks was to write a position paper (no more than 1500 words) in preparation for the CSW, the theme being, ‘Elimination and Prevention of all Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls’. This was a time consuming task as three of us  first attended various sessions on this issue, then did a lot of reading and research and finally organized and put it on paper. We learned a lot in the process and were pleased that seven other organizations endorsed it prior to the final due date. Below are four statistics we learned in completing this task.

1. As many as 7 in 10 women around the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

2. Every day almost 800 women die from complications of pregnancy due to lack of prenatal and post natal care.

3. Every year an estimate of 10 million girls are married before the age of 18. (some as young as 8)

4. In least developed countries approximately 25 million school children do not attend school. Girls represent 54 % of the total number.

The Commission for Social Development

The Commission I was most directly involved with was the Commission for Social Development. I was one of four people who collated the responses to the questionnaires sent out by the Subcommittee for the Eradication of Poverty. These questionnaires (168 responses from 59 countries) were on the participation of persons living in poverty in decisions affecting their lives. This collation was sent to Magdalena Sepulveda-‘U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights’ to be used for her upcoming report. This collation was presented at a side event and I was blessed with the opportunity to do it. In preparation for this event I helped format a flyer for publicity, completed a summary of the collation for distribution during the Commission, prepared a power point to be presented at the side event and wrote an oral statement to be presented during the Commission. These are some of the advocacy tools through which NGOs interact with the U.N. Member States and Agencies.

Partnerships-A Key Word at the U.N.

The above side event titled, ‘Grass Root Voices Do Have Choices; Human Rights + Participation = Empowerment’ was sponsored by IPA and co-sponsored by the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and ATD Fourth World. The panel included the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, the Director of Center for Economic and Social Rights, a moderator from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a young lady from ATD Fourth World and myself. It was a great learning process in the area of advocacy and in ‘widening the tent to further the IPA mission.’ (2012 IPA Assembly Commitment) It was also a wonderful example of our IPA Mission, to ‘speak and act in partnership with others for global justice.’

Seven Key Learning’s

1. Education is the key. Specific areas of education that have been emerging at the U.N. include human rights education, global citizenship and environment/sustainability. Recently there was a Resolution adopted by the General Assembly (66/137) United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. In this declaration it states, ‘Human rights education and training is a lifelong process that concerns all ages.’ Article 4 of this resolution states, ‘Human Rights education and training should be based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant treaties and instruments.’ It has become apparent that society would greatly benefit if school curriculums include such areas as human rights learningwhich isdefined as: ‘An ongoing, never ending, process of integrating the learning of human rights as a way of life, relevant to people’s daily concerns, cutting through all sectors of society.’ Also of great importance is global citizenship that teaches deep concern for the other, respect for life, for truth, justice, sharing, peace and respect for nature. (These values are quite contrary to those of the prevailing dominant world order, which glorifies wealth and private profit.) Last but not least a focus on our environment and ways to live more sustainably, better caring for and tending to our mother Earth and all her people.

2. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a relatively new and unique human rights mechanism (since 2007) of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) aiming at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 U.N. Member States. Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all U.N. Member States is reviewed every 4 years (48 States are reviewed each year during three UPR sessions dedicated to 16 States each). The result of each review is reflected in an “outcome report” listing the recommendations made to the State under review (SuR) including those that it accepted and which it will have to implement before the next review. The UPR is a full-circle process comprising of three key stages: 1. Review of the human rights situation of the SuR 2. Implementation between two reviews (4 years) of the recommendations accepted and voluntary pledges and commitments by the SuR 3. Reporting at the next review on the implementation of those recommendations and pledges and on the human rights situation in the country since the previous review. This is a great tool for NGO’s to hold their governments accountable.

3. The Social Protection Floor (SPF) is a socio-economic development policy concept and a crisis management tool. It promotes a solid foundation for economic growth, provides a societal insurance against perpetuating poverty and mitigates the effects of economic shocks and crisis. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Labour Organization Conventions are international instruments that have recognized these essential social rights and have been used as the legal basis to support the SPF. Founded on a rights-based approach, the SPF encourages countries to aim towards a universal standard of social protection coverage. Since the context of each country differs in terms of institutional capacity, political ideologies, financial resources, economic structure and cultural values, each floor is defined by individual countries. Building from past social protection programs, the SPF promotes a more coordinated design and implementation of social and labour policies in order to guarantee a country-defined basic set of social rights, services and facilities that every person should enjoy. NGO’s are advocating for this Social Protection Floor through the work of various committees. For more information see http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/social-security/lang–en/index.htm

4. The Doctrine of Discovery is a key premise for non-Indigenous government claims to legitimacy on and sovereignty over Indigenous lands and territories. What is found in this doctrine? It is a criteria for claiming land, an example being European monarchies treated indigenous land as unoccupied as long as Christians were not present. It is also a coercion and subjugation of whole peoples as the Christian European governments sought to subdue, enslave and convert peoples. Elements of the Doctrine have rationalized heinous behaviors against Indigenous Peoples through the centuries. Forced removals such as the Trail of Tears, the seizure of natural resource and the destruction of traditional languages and cultures are examples of implementation of the concepts of discovery and dominance. The Vatican papal bulls of the 15th and 16th centuries actively encouraged the subjugation of Indigenous nations, and the secularization of the doctrine in the United States and elsewhere perpetuated subjugation and its consequences. What effect does this doctrine have at this time? A few examples are its assumption about who is sovereign allows policies to develop without the full knowledge and prior informed consent of indigenous peoples. Also diminished protection of human rights is evident as there is no indigenous jurisdiction over crimes committed on their reservations by non-natives. There are NGO’s who are currently formulating a letter to be signed by others and sent to the Vatican in regard to this very unjust doctrine.

5. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on April 2, 2013 (a long time coming). The vote was 153 in favor. Iran, Syria and North Korea opposed, and the rest abstaining formally or by absence. On June 3, at a UN Ceremony the ATT was opened for signatures. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by fifty of the states that signed the ATT. The purpose of this treaty is to prevent transfers of weapons whenever there is a substantial risk of violations of human rights, violation of the humanitarian laws of war, and/or gender based violence, etc. and especially to stop illegal transfers/smuggling.

6. The Upcoming High Level Dialogue (HLD) on Migration and Development is in October 2013) Here are a few key points from the first draft of the IPA Position for the HLD. What is most essential to this High Level Dialogue are the voices of the migrants themselves. Two among these voices are: Nancy who left her country due to extremely harsh economic conditions and Paula who left her country as she was told if she quit the gang, she or a family member would be killed. They both left due to an urgent need and hoping for a better life.

Though some migration is voluntary, large numbers of people flee their country or region to escape persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation, or other situations that endanger their lives, freedom or livelihood. Globally there are more than 214 million international migrants and another 740 million internal migrants. Nearly half of the world’s migrants are women. Migration today is a cross cutting challenge relevant to all countries in all regions, whether as countries of origin, transit or destination or any combination of the three.

The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development-Programme of Action in Cairo are very important documents concerning migration. See www.migrantwatch.org/about_the_convention/1990Convention.html & www.iisd.ca/cairo.html. Despite these documents the International Organization for Migration (IOM) states, “Migration remains inadequately reflected in development frameworks and broader sectoral policies, both at the national and local levels and in global development agendas. Migration policies do not ensure adequate protection of the human rights of all migrants.”

The theme of the most recent Commission on Population and Development, 46th session, was New Trends in Migration and Demographic Aspects; hence migration is trying to find its way in at the U.N. If you have an interest in migration please do consider giving input on the draft of the IPA position on migration and/or getting involved in the International Working Group on Migration and Development. A communication was sent out previously by Marlette about this opportunity.

7. A lot of time and energy have been focused on the progress of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) by the target date of 2015 as well as looking ahead to the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The current MDG’s are: 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 2 Achieve universal primary education 3 Promote gender equality and empower women 4 Reduce child mortality 5. Improve maternal health 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases 7 Ensure environmental sustainability 8 Develop a global partnership for development Great progress has been made towards these goals but there is still work to be done to ensure meeting them by 2015. The U.N. is also looking ahead to the next set of goals in the Post 2015 Development Agenda and have very much broadened the participation in this process by involving NGO’s in the process and reaching out through technology to many countries and especially people living in poverty. See www.worldwewant2015.org My last meeting attended at the U.N. was on this Post 2015 Development Agenda and it was one of the most positive meetings I attended during my time at the U.N.

Conclusion

The question that I began asking early on during my time at the UN was how do I connect the grass roots (local) to the U.N. (global) and vice versa? And it is a question I continue to ask and reflect on. Answers to this question are most important if we are truly going to be involved in systemic change. Included below are a few thoughts on this question as well as possible ways of advancing the IPA Mission:

Create space for contemplation (Commitment from the 2012 IPA Assembly)-Wherever we are, whether at the United Nations or in our local communities, creating space for contemplation is key. Spending time in silence, with the Gospel and our IPA Identity, Mission and Direction, reflecting and sharing are a great way of connecting the local to the global and vice versa. (On a weekly basis we gathered at the IPA Office for shared prayer as well as our learning’s and this was most helpful.)

Visiting the IPA website weekly and encouraging others to do the same(If time is limited scanning the headlines and what is in bold will keep one up to date on some of what is happening on the global level.)

When the opportunity presents itself completing questionnaires/surveys in consultation with people whom you work with can be a great way of connecting the local with the global and vice versa.

Involvement in one of the following:

  • The Post 2015 Development Agenda
  • Involvement in the UPR process
  • Involvement in one of the International Working Groups

Prior to being a short term representative it would be advantageous to have at least a month to prepare for the experience. For me attending the IPA Assembly was a great preparation. (when possible I would definitely recommend it)

Inviting and involving not only Presentation Sisters but Presentation People to be involved in any of the above

Inviting, involving and collaborating with other like minded groups

Again I thank our Congregations and my Province for allowing me to serve in this manner and would definitely recommend it!

Noreen Perelli, PBVM - Short-term Representative at the United Nations

I started at the UN on 1 October 2012 and finished at the end of March 2013. What I knew then and what I know now are two different things. Before I started I knew that:

  • the UN was a building on 42nd Street and 1st Avenue
  • in my youth I went on a tour of the UN
  • the UN was established in 1945 after the Second World War when a Charter was written in San Francisco
  • its purpose was to maintain international peace and security
  • a group called NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) was connected with the UN
  • Sharon O sent out memos through IPA Connections to keep us abreast of the happenings at the UN
  • Maria Lopez was responsible for getting IPA NGO status at the UN.

Now after six months of involvement there is much more that I know. To me the UN is like one big jigsaw puzzle. When you begin to do a puzzle, you find a nice table, throw out the pieces, look for the four corners, pick out the outside pieces, gather the pieces of the same color, look at the picture on the cover and begin.

And so it is with the UN. I now realize the complexity of the whole system; that it has a language all its own and that you would need a special dictionary of abbreviations to understand what is being said. Last October I heard about the MDG goals, about ECOSOC, about CEDAW, Social Protection Floor, UPR and Civil Society. Now that I’m finished, some of these pieces are falling into place. The UN has a written Charter and Eleanor Roosevelt was the backbone behind it. It contains 19 chapters with several articles in each chapter. In Chapter 10, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Art. 71 is the only place that mentions non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – only one small article but these groups have a very strong presence.

Most religious congregations are NGOs at the UN – IPA being one of them. IPA shares an office with another group of religious at 211 East 43rd Street. It is from there that we compute, meet and have our lunch. From there we go to the NLB (North Lawn Building) or the Church Center Building, the Salvation Army building on 52nd Street or The Bahai Office near-by for meetings and conferences. On special occasions we assemble in the General Assembly Hall. The General Assembly Hall is the place you usually see on TV if some important person is speaking at the UN. Each day we go through security screening to get beyond the Visitor Center. Without your blue tag you get nowhere. A group called RUN meets every month. RUN is “Religious at the UN”.  My second day there I attended a meeting. I was the first one to enter the room. Another lady came in and I asked her what RUN stood for. She told me and I realized that she was a religious also. About ten minutes later more women came in and the talking was non-stop. I knew then that I was at the right place. We’re all alike.

The UN is composed of 193 member states with the Holy See and Palestine as non status members. That means that they have input but no voting privileges. One of the highlights of my time there was on Thursday November 29,  International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The UN system is divided into six parts: General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Secretariat, Trusteeship Council, and International Court of Justice. It is interesting to note that former President George Bush is not free to go into any country he wishes. The International Court of Justice would be able to charge him with war crimes. Each part has its own abbreviation and its own website. The Economic and Social Council is where NGOs fit in. There are about ten NGO Committees:  Social Development, Sustainable Development, Financing for Development, Status of Women, Working Group on Girls, Migration, Stop Trafficking, Indigenous People, Ageing, and Human Rights. Each committee has monthly meetings. Each committee has sub-committees. During my six months I tried to attend at least one committee and sub-committee meeting.

IPA as a NGO started with Maria Lopez pbvm. It was she who did the paper work and got us accepted as a member. At one session I attended I watched how organizations were being reviewed for special consultative status. All NGO groups go through this process. Countries, after reading the applications on a huge screen, would ask questions. For example, an organization called Second Amendment Foundation was questioned on the right to bear arms. There is no place for this at the UN. It violates the right to life. Cuba questioned how this organization connects with the UN. If no country questions, the organization is accepted.

IPA’s mission as an NGO is a conscious awareness of the sacredness of earth and its people. All we do at the community level in our ministries flows out to local, national and international levels. At different sessions governments prepare statements of what their country is doing for the betterment of earth and people. It is one thing to say but another to implement. A few years ago a mechanism called UPR (Universal Periodic Review) was adopted whereby each country evaluates itself on its record of human rights and its evaluation is reviewed by other countries. About two months ago there was a short editorial in the Daily News “Israel in the Dock”. Israel declined to take part in the UPR process because they did not want to be reviewed by member countries they considered inferior to them. If I had read that last October I would not have a clue as to what the editorial was about. The UPR of any country can be found on the internet. All people have basic human rights – women, children, indigenous peoples and migrants. The earth has rights. Under all these headings comes trafficking, traditional and cultural practices which discriminate against women and children, fracking, land grabbing and mining. All people have the right to water, food and education.  Some of us use these to excess while others around the world have so little. The unequal distribution of the basic needs of life is a huge problem facing all of us. All these issues are a part of the UN function.

Another new term I learned was “the Social Protection Floor”. This initiative was spearheaded by ILO (International Labor Organization). This concept states that no one should live below a certain income level and everyone should have access to basic health services, primary education, housing, water, sanitation and other essential services.

I heard a lot about MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Not to sound ignorant I looked it up on my computer. By 2015 all 189 (at the time), now 193 United Nations Member states have pledged their countries to eight Millennium Goals: 1. eradicate poverty, 2. achieve universal primary education, 3.  promote gender equality, 4.  reduce child mortality, 5.  improve maternal health, 6. combat HIV/AIDS, 7. ensure environmental sustainability, 8. develop a global partnership for development. When you go on the guided tour of the UN there are eight huge picture displays on the wall of the second floor of the General Assembly. They depict the eight Millennium Development Goals.

What do countries do at the UN? Delegates from each country have their own seats in the various meeting rooms. NGOs sit in the back. If a meeting is closed or informal NGOs are not invited. For example, at the recent CSW57 Commission, delegates worked on a draft outcome document with input from regional caucus meetings. From the draft outcome document an official outcome document is written and governments will agree on a final outcome document. This document will serve as a main policy guide for the UN. It is hoped that after all this work countries will implement the outcomes. The United States accepted the document with one small exception. They wanted something in the document that recognized Gay, Lesbian and Transgenders. A proposed date is set, for example, Post 2015, Rio+20.

During my six months I realized that a lot of issues have special days; for example, International Day of the Girl Child, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, UN 67th birthday, International Day for Persons with Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Day, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Water Day, Happiness Day, World Radio Day. You name it and the UN has it.

My interests during the past six months were on Sustainable Development, Media and Pornography, and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict. Under Sustainable Development, there were panels and discussions on biodiversity, cooperatives, water, agriculture and food security, land deprivation, flood drought information, empowerment of women in rural farming, equitable distribution of food, and many other topics. One meeting was from a speaker from the Committee on World Food Security. Another session featured a gentleman who had a PhD in Water Management. I was a part of the sub committee on Sustainable Development entitled Integrity of Earth. This was made up of about twelve sisters from various congregations. One important issue going on in NYC was the building of Senior Housing with Hydroponics Gardening on the roof tops. There was an article in the Daily News. Another meeting talked about “Edible Churchyards”.

The Media and Pornography group met to discuss pictures, videos, films dealing with pornography. Abigail Disney, grand-daughter of Walt, met with the group at the time of CSW57.

Several times during the past six months there were events about the Palestinian conflict.  We viewed a series of excellent films. “The Gatekeeper” was an Oscar nomination. The highlight of my six month stay was the voting for the Palestinian state for full UN status. The voting in the General Assembly Hall was very emotional; 143 Yes, 9 No (the USA voted no) and 41 abstentions.

In February we had the Commission for Social Development. Its theme was Promoting Empowerment of People in Achieving Poverty Eradication, Social Integration and Full Employment and Decent Work for All.  During this time much was said about ageing, youth and disabilities. The NGO Committee on Social Development made up of mostly religious men and women wrote an excellent Civil Society Declaration-2013. (ngosocialdevelopment@gmail.com) The subtitles – Empowerment, Participation, Social Protection Floors, Poverty Eradication in a Post 2015 World, Education and Resources for Human Development were the main topics covered.

In March the Commission on the Status of Women took up two weeks. Its theme was Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls. There was a Consultation Day on Sunday and handbooks were distributed. Over six hundred side events were scheduled. IPA featured two youth from India. About 3,000 women from all over the globe were present for the event. Much was learned but for myself I felt that there was too much of the same thing said over and over again.

When I started in October I began to type briefly each day’s events. Now it is easy for me to go through where I was and what I did on any given day. I have learned quite a bit. My time is up and I will be returning home but there is a lot more to say. I hope in the future that this experience has not ended but only begun. I have a lot of materials and information to share. I know now that there is much more to the UN than a building on 42nd Street and 1st Avenue.

Rosemary Grundy, PBVM - Rio+20 IPA Representative's Report on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development

 Click here for the report written by Rosemary Grundy pbvm (pdf 635Kb), July 2012.

Maura McCarthy, PBVM- A Circle Tour of the International Presentation Association and the United Nations, May 2012

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.”

(Is 49:15, see also 44:21)

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As Margaret Scott discusses in The Eucharist and Social Justice, “… the Body of Christ … is both troubled and mortal. It is being dismembered by over-consumption and over-competition for fossil fuel and resources. Seas rise, deserts expand, and floods and hurricanes become more frequent and more intense. Climate induced famines, drought, and conflict are threatening the goals for development for billions of the world’s poorest people.” From the hinterlands of Bolivia, to a migrant mission in Florida, to the hidden poor of Iowa, New York, Philadelphia, and other places I have only heard about, the reality must not escape from memory…

 

We are Presentation women who share the charism of our foundress, Nano Nagle.
We reach out in faith, in a spirit of hospitality, compassion and simplicity to all of creation.
The cry of those made poor and the cry of the Earth call us to continue the mission of Jesus
to bring forth a sustainable society founded on respect for Earth, universal human rights,
economic justice and a culture of peace.

(From the 2003 Assembly)

 

Three or four times I made the famed Circle Boat Tour of New York with some of my IPA teammates. This wonderful tour is offered as a courtesy to Sisters with “Nun Tickets”. I love the narration of the various early ethnic areas, all with the struggles they represent of immigrants beginning life anew. My family’s ancestors are part of this history and well as several audacious Presentation foundresses who passed through the New York area on their way to pioneering missions. The “Circle Tour of New York” strikes me as a good analogy for my experience of the International Presentation Association and of the United Nations. The international “Presentation circle” began for me in 1970, when we spent some days in the Newburgh Presentation mission of Las Minas in Caracas, Venezuela on our way to begin a new mission in Bolivia. Then in 1972, Therese Corkery and I met Paula Cormier in Siquani, Peru after we had bid farewell to Ileen Sweeney, who was forced to return because of illness. Paula was passing out handouts at a pastoral workshop when we recognized the Presentation ring! The Latin American Association of Presentation Sisters was for me the precursor of the International Presentation Association. We lived out this association concretely in Bolivia with the collaborative efforts of Margaret McCarthy, Laura Urbano, and Myra Remily, Presentations from the Union, New Windsor, and Aberdeen, respectively. Later, broadening our tent, we shared mission with Peggy Ryan OP from Sinsinawa WI, who also joined our Bolivian team accompanying the Indigenous Guarani. The two of us were invited to attend the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2007 by Sharon Altendorf of Fargo, the IPA coordinator at that time.

What a delight it was for me to meet for the first time Fatima Rodrigo, our IPA coordinator from India, who met me at La Guardia Airport on September 29, and accompanied me to St Anthony’s. Then Mary Ivers from Ireland and Ecuador, an old APLA friend, met me at the door that first night. From my third floor room at St Anthony’s, I could observe The Soho News, the Village Cobbler, and the Village Tailor and Cobbler on the street below.

My very first experience with other NGOs happened the next day at the UNANIMA anniversary celebration featuring Catherine Ferguson, one of the foundresses of this coalition of 18 congregations serving with ECOSOC at the United Nations. The coalition presented a special award to a Canadian woman, Jessica Ernst, who dared to confront the extractive industries in her country with the devastation they were causing by polluting the soil and water through fracking the subsoil rock to extract petroleum. The only water available for drinking became manifestly flammable! This graphic discourse caused me to study further the impacts the extractive industries!

On Monday morning October 2, Fatima accompanied me to get my UN badge and then invited me and Mary Ivers to attend a Task Force on the Eradication of Poverty slated to prepare the Civil Society Forum in preparation for the UN Commission for Social Development. Winifred Doherty and Fatima Rodrigo, co chairs the previous year, had appointed 2 new co-chairs for the forum day on January 31: Dina Marandola and Ming Chang. The Civil Society Forum preceded the Commission for Social Development slated for February 1 to 10 of this year. Mary Ivers and I followed this task force with great interest, witnessing the great dedication of the co-chairs and an immense amount of work behind the scenes by the ex-co-chairs, Fatima Rodrigo and Winifred Doherty, a Good Shepherd Sister.

Soon Elsa Muttathu arrived from India with the great experience of training leaders in her native land. Mary McFadden, so well known to the Australian Presentations, through her educational and hospital ministry, completed our office personnel. Very soon we came to observe the great devotion and executive skills of Fatima Rodrigo. Each Monday Fatima distributed to us the important meetings of the week and their locations. This scheduling, as well as the orientation sessions featuring other NGO religious men and women at the UN, was shared with other new interns in the adjoining offices.

The Civil Society Forum on January 31, was an excellent preparation for the Civil Society Commission with emphasis on the social protection floor, so essential to those made poor in every country in the world. The forum was a large convergence of civil society, the World Bank and other UN agencies, and member states. During the forum NGO members presented the Bureau with thousands of e-mail and hand signed signatures supporting the petition for a world-wide social protection floor. This signature campaign was directed by Fatima Rodrigo.

During the Civil Society Commission the International Presentation Association participated in two side events featuring Elsa Muttatthu and Mary Ivers explaining how elements of the social protection floor were already being implemented in India and Ecuador. They added that some essential aspects still needed attention in these countries. The IPA team was very proud that these events were so well attended and certainly incited interest in the social protection floor. Fatima choreographed both events brilliantly.

Another remarkable activity at the UN was the work on international migration. This was in preparation for an high level meeting in Geneva, attended by other NGOs. Several of us from various NGOs worked with Sister Mary Jo Toll to revise international guidelines for the protection of migrants. Mary Jo had worked many years with migrants from Mexico and Central America before coming to the United Nations We were especially distressed with the many issues regarding migration: criminalization of crossing borders without documentation, racial profiling, lack of health provisions for migrants and their children, numerous detentions, deficient education for the children of migrants, deplorable wages, unsafe working conditions, harassment and sexual abuse of women. Evidently The Convention on the Rights of Migrants is most often not supported by national laws. The Convention is dismally limited because the national sovereignty of the member states keeps it from being mandatory. Since migrants are forced to cross borders illegally, their very presence in a country means that they are deprived of political, social, and economic rights. Since they do not enjoy citizenship in their adopted country, political organization becomes impossible.

We were blessed with the presence of several Presentations participating in the 2 week session of the Fifty-Sixth Commission on the Status of Women from February 26 until March 9 2012. Among these were Marcella Cruz, our Chilean Presentation doing mission in Ecuador, Joetta Vanneman, our Dubuque Presentation doing justice ministry in Kentucky, Brid O’Brien, the niece of Cecelia O’Brien PBVM, from Ireland, Mary Niccarato, from New Windsor, and Laura Urbano, another New Windsor Presentation doing mission in Bolivia. The IPA team, with the coordination of Fatima Rodrigo, presented a side event entitled Investing in Girls: Progress Made … Gaps Identified … Possibilities Ahead. The event was well attended and took place in the 8th floor of the Church Center. Brid O’Brien, a young woman activist moderated the event with great dynamism, I had the honor of presenting a power point comparing the Agreed Conclusions of the 2008 CSW, with progress made in benefit of girls in these 4 years, Maria Lopez painted the scenario of girls in Cuba, Winifred Doherty gave some fascinating highlights from the Working Group on Girls, Maria Lopez highlighted the life of girls in Cuba, and Gaynel Curry of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented the work of the UN in regard to girls. Brid O’Brien directed a very intriguing interactive dialogue.

 

This photo was taken after the event as we were packing to return to the office.
Left to right: Maura McCarthy, Laura Urbano, Fatima Rodrigo, Mary Naccarato, Mary Ivers, Maria Lopez, Mary McFadden, Brid O’Brien, Winifred Doherty, and Gaynel Curry

 

During the course of our attending meetings together, Mary Ivers and I were able to meet several Sisters from Latin America also working with NGOs at the UN. We began getting together with them, sharing our stories and experiences in Latin America and they initiated a clear decision to link the voices of their Latin and Indigenous Sisters with the NGO advocacy negotiations at the UN. This initiative was shared at a RUN meeting (Religious at the UN). The purpose, at least in the beginning stages, was to make the concerns of the Latin Americans heard at the forthcoming summit in Rio de Janeiro. The group included Maria Antonieta from Chile, Griselda Martinez from Mexico, Yolanda Sanchez from Colombia, Zelia Cordero from Brazil, in addition to Mary Ivers from Ecuador, and I from Bolivia. The Latin American Sisters were able to meet with groups in Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Brazil to engage in the cause of the impoverished masses for the Rio+20 Summit.

One “outing” together as an IPA team was a train trip to the Atlantic coast of New Jersey to the mission of Sandy Butler PBVM from New Found land. One of the memorable incidents of this journey was to watch our Indian Sisters, Fatima and Elsa, wade into the great, cold Atlantic with such delight!

I was overjoyed to entertain Jennifer Rausch, our PBVM Dubuque IA Congregational President, for Holy Week and Easter. This was her very first trip to the city of New York. Jennifer and I experienced the stunning performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in the Broadway area. Fatima assisted Jennifer is obtaining a grounds pass to the UN; we had a grand tour, including the Security Council and the General Assembly Hall. The IPA team had scheduled a meeting to discuss the negotiations of the Outcome Document for Rio+20.

We then were able to attend a fascinating gathering on autism in which a photographer mother presented a fantastic study of her autistic daughter.

We also travelled on the Staten Island Ferry with Mary McFadden to visit the Staten Island Presentations in their new motherhouse. We visited the original graveyard of the early New York Presentations. At one point in our travels, Jennifer and I we became separated on the subway, so that Jennifer was able to testify to the friendly helpfulness of the New Yorkers!

I began to attend the meetings with the Committee on Indigenous Issues early on in my time with the IPA. At the beginning of each meeting we guarded some moments of silence in honor of the original inhabitants of this land. Somewhat by coincidence, I was invited to participate in the Indigenous caucus for the Outcome Document for Rio+20. Joji Carino, the chair of the Indigenous caucus, needed an interpreter for a side event that they were sponsoring one evening. Miguel Palacin Quispe, the coordinator of the Andean Indigenous Organizations needed someone to interpret his message from Spanish to English. Helen Ojario, a Carmelite friend from St Anthony’s, assured her that I would be willing to do this. This became a gift or me because they invited me to accompany them in their caucus.

Their key messages for Rio+20 were the integration of a fourth pillar to the social, economic, and environmental pillars. This pillar is culture. This reflects the way indigenous peoples live in harmony with nature for a good life. They also insisted that the document be based on human and Indigenous rights, self-determination and self-governance, territoriality and autonomy, traditional knowledge, food sovereignty, (including local seeds), and local economies.

The Doctrine of Discovery, the central theme of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, left me thunderstruck to recognize that Indigenous people live daily with the impact and repercussions of these racial and discriminating documents. All over the world Indigenous Peoples are over-represented among the excluded and disadvantaged. Huge percentages live in poverty, lacking clean water, adequate housing, education, employment. Patterns of domination and oppression continue to afflict Indigenous Peoples. Christopher Columbus and other adventurers were instructed to “discover and conquer,” “subdue” and “acquire” these distant lands, known to the Indigenous as “Abya Yala” or “a land in its full maturity”. Courts seldom rule in favor of Indigenous rights.

 

The peoples of Abya Yala make their recommendation to the states of the world–

  • Revalorization of the ancestral food production, and of the woman as the principal producers of foods, responsible for the nutrition of families, food sovereignty
  • The healing of Mother Earth, recuperating our soils and water sources, our land, soil, seeds, and animals
  • Rejection of genetically modified seeds, nonorganic foods, and biofuels
  • Respect for our territorial rights to protect the sovereignty of our lands
  • Our right to financial programs for indigenous people to guarantee markets
  • Avoidance of armed conflict in our lands and territories
  • Juridical protection for our lands and rights
  • Declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.

My sentiment upon completing these 8 months in New York at the IPA office and the UN is profound gratitude to the International Presentation Association, to my sisters all over the world whom I have had the enormous privilege of representing. I was always so proud to introduce myself at nongovernmental meetings as a member of the International Presentation Association! I am grateful to my Dubuque congregation for sponsoring me for an additional two months, in order to participate actively in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, solemn matters which have consumed some grand years of my life. Thank youso much!

 

Our extended UN/IPA Team: Maura McCarthy, Mary McFadden, Brid O’Brien, Laura Urbano, Mary Naccarato, Fatima Rodrigo, Mary Ivers, Elsa Muttathu

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Click here to download a pdf copy of Maura’s report for printing.

Elsa Mutthatu, PBVM- From the Portals of the United Nations, May 2012

A flourishing humanity on a thriving Earth in an evolving universe, all together filled with the glory of God – such is the theological vision and praxis we are being called to in this critical age of Earth’s distress.

Elizabeth A Johnson CSJ

 

It has been a gift and a blessing, quite unexpected, to be at the United Nations with Fatima Rodrigo, our NGO representative and other short term representatives, Mary Ivers, Ecuador, Maura McCarthy, Dubuque USA and Mary McFadden, Australia. A wonderful experience, indeed, of the International Presentation family and the wider net work of religious and secular organisations sharing a common vision.

On arrival in New York, I was delighted to meet Fatima who brought me straight to St Antony’s Convent on Prince Street, Manhattan. Since I had read Maura’s article on her experience, I could relate to the new environment at the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany where a number of sisters from different Congregations shared life in community. Soon Mary and Maura took me under their wings and educated me in the ways of the house, subways and the rest. I got the impression that life at the UN was very demanding in terms of reading, research, attending meetings intelligently, and contributing to the IPA work, and I was intimidated. Finding my way around the UN conference rooms, Salvation Army, and UN Church Centre has been challenging, but everyone has been gracious and helpful.

Looking back on the six months, it is like seeing the world from a totally new perspective, making the connections between the local and the global, getting to know my Presentation identity from a much larger experience.

The UN is a mini-universe. The whole world is here in a miniature. In one sense it is an ideal world. It is also a place where the creative tension between what is and what is possible is ever present. Here Governments of the world and civil society interface each other mediated by the Bureaux (group of ministers from five countries working with the secretariat and member states) and the UN secretariat. They call for accountability and movement “one pace beyond” in the care of the earth and the vulnerable people of the earth. This is a place of unending negotiations between Governments, Civil Society, Business, Industry, Science and Technology. We walk alongside a minister or an ambassador and sit side-by-side as equals. Opposing interests co-exist here. Countries that distrust each other in the homeland work together as friends, like India and China or India and Pakistan when it comes to their regional interests. Likewise, in a negative sense, the Holy See will side with Russia and Iran to keep gender and reproductive health rights of women out of any texts at the UN. Civil society and business will sit at the same table talking about sustainable development though their understanding of the concepts and interests are as far apart as the East is from the West.

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Major UN Events in which I participated from November 2011 to April 2012:

2011

November – Introduced to the UN and attended a number of different sessions open to the Civil Society

December 6 – Civil Society Forum on Financing For Development (FFD)

December 7, 8 – Fifth High Level Dialogue on Financing For Development

December 15, 16 – Second Intercessional for Rio 2012 conference

2012

January 16-18 – Informal Informals in preparation for Rio+20

January 25-27 – Initial discussions on the Zero Draft outcome document

January 31 – Civil Society Forum on Commission for Social Development (CSD)

February 1-10 – 50th session of the Commission for Social Development – priority theme being Poverty Eradication

February 27- March 9 – 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – Priority theme: Role of Rural Women in Poverty Eradication

March 12, 13 – Special High Level meeting of ECOSOC with the Breton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organisations and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

March 14 – Expert group meeting on Transfer Pricing and Capacity Development

March 15 – ECOSOC special meeting on International Cooperation in Tax Matters

April 23-30 – Third Intercessional in preparation for Rio+20

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NGO Education and Briefings

The day before a major commission commences, there is always an orientation for the Civil Society, organised by the Stakeholder forum and Secretariat of the concerned UN departments to educate participants on the status and strategies of advocacy which are highly informative. Sometimes they pack into one day what could take a month to unravel. The UN departments have been at pains to organise any number of short education sessions on social communication and other relevant topics to bring the Civil Society up-to-date. Daily briefings during the commissions keep us updated.

Side Events

Every commission provides an opportunity for NGOs, Governments and UN entities to organise side events. It has been one of the most difficult tasks to choose from one dozen excellent side events a day where we are exposed to the experiences and world views of people worldwide. Side events sponsored or co-sponsored by IPA and where we were involved as panellists or organisers were empowering and energising.

NGO Committees and Working Groups

On the third Wednesday of every month we see the religious at the UN really on the run as the various committees meet that day to stock-take and plan for the upcoming programs. It is hard to keep up with it all staying clear-headed! Each NGO committee has working groups and task forces that take up certain aspects of the responsibilities. I tried to stay constant with the advocacy working group for sustainable development, working groups on climate change, and poverty eradication. I also joined some of the working groups of the Committee on Poverty Eradication in preparation for the Commission on Social Development. Some distractions with my passport, visa etc related to the Human Right’s Training Program in Canada prevented my full participation.

Mission Visits

I was part of the team that did research on India’s position in relation to sustainable development and the advocacy visit to the Indian Mission. I was also invited to join the visit to the US Mission. This experience made me realise the importance of being equipped with good researched information and clarity on our own position as well as the standpoint of the country in order to do effective advocacy. Before each visit a lot of preparatory work was done in the group. Debriefing sessions after the visits helped to critically look at our strategies and improve for the next visit.

Any occasion where I was actively involved and participated, like being part of the panel on Participatory Approaches to Poverty Eradication, preparing oral and written statements, being part of the mission visits, helping Fatima with Quadrennial Report and IPA display board for the Congregational Gathering of Union, I found very educative and empowering.

My Observations and Major Learnings from the UN Experience:

  • IPA as part of the Civil Society is a significant player in policy formation at the UN. The DPI and ECOSOC accreditation is a privilege and a responsibility to participate in the UN processes, to speak and act on behalf of the Earth and those made poor. Fatima and Marlette have been unrelenting in their effort to make sure that our voices are heard at every possible forum. This demands multi-dimensional attentive listening, studying trends, thorough research, identifying allies and strategic interventions. While our sisters from the Western world, Australia and Africa have been very responsive to IPA issues at the country level and contributing to the discussions, we from the Asian countries have not been giving enough input from our countries regarding burning issues affecting our people.
  • While Religious at the UN (RUN) play a major role in terms of research and advocacy, we are just one of the 20+ clusters of the NGO major group which is one of nine major groups and as such we network with other major groups such as Women’s Major Group, Indigenous Peoples, Trade Unions, Farmers, Youth and Children, etc on issues. Unless there is sufficient involvement and input from the country level it is difficult to work effectively at the UN. It is people who come from the grassroots who make a difference to the debates at the forums in terms of the perspectives they bring.
  • The Secretariat of ECOSOC and DPI is deeply committed to keeping people and the Earth at the centre of development and they effectively partner with civil society in organising education programs, sharing information and guiding the members. They have managed to get the member states to agree to share the negotiating texts with the participating Civil Society in Rio+20 so that they know the text in progress and strategise their advocacy.
  • IPA maintains a very cordial relationship with the UN secretariat and its different departments like NGLS (Non Governmental Liaison Section), DPI (Department of Public Information), UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) and UNDP (United Nations Development Program), and is highly regarded by the staff and other NGOs.
  • IPA influences UN policies through the written and oral statements submitted before every commission on the priority theme or one of the sub-themes, by participating in the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at country level, submitting shadow reports to UN on Human Rights, serving on the executive committees for different commissions, sponsoring and co-sponsoring side events and getting people from the grassroots to share experiences. Personal visits to country Missions, Bureaux members, and hosting luncheons and breakfasts for member states are effective advocacy strategies. IPA has been very active in organising some of these.
  • But where IPA stands out head and shoulders above others is in the most forward looking and challenging questions Fatima poses to the UN Secretary General, Bureaux members and member states at every session at which she is present. I have been amazed at Fatima’s in-depth knowledge of UN systems, structures and processes. She seems as much at home with it as fish at sea.
  • At the UN NGOs work as a network of networks. Every commission has its own NGO committees and each committee its own working groups and task force. Sometimes there is duplication, but it is an effective way to get more people involved. At times an element of competition or domination casts a shadow on the wonderful work done by religious.
  • About 80 percent of the religious NGO representatives at the UN are from the Western hemisphere. They are excellent in book and internet research, scholarship, relationship with officials and are articulate. But I found the global and especially the Asian and African perspectives missing and sometimes prejudicial. A balanced representation from the South and North would be ideal and more beneficial as each one seems to be largely caught up with their own countries.
  • Infiltration of the values and influence of the corporate business community into every aspect of the UN is a cause of major concern.

It has been a great privilege to be with the International Presentations to experience our oneness as Nano’s daughters. At IPA UN we have worked together as one team encouraging, supporting and at times challenging each other as sisters and friends and really feeling proud of one another and our common heritage. My sincere thanks to IPA for giving me this opportunity to be part of the New Windsor, Dubuque, Aberdeen and Newfoundland sisters and experience their sisterly love and hospitality. Visits from Jennifer Rauch, leader of the Dubuque sisters, Laura Urbano, Marcela Cruz, Joetta Venneman and Mary Naccarato added to our joy and learning. Our times of celebrations and shared reflections were cherished moments. The time we had with Sandy Butler at Emmaus House in New Jersy was one of releasing our free spirits in the joy of communion with each other and nature.

Working with an international group of religious women and men from different Congregations and some very committed secular representatives of both religious and civil society groups at the UN was equally enriching.

The UN experience has given me a clearer understanding that every local issue has a global cause and consequence and every global decision is going to impact the local positively or negatively. Hence the need for us to be rooted in our local communities with a global perspective. Everything we do or don’t do and how we do it counts. The UN is a political space and we bring into it the politics of the reign of God from our involvement with local communities internationally.

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Some Recommendations:

Since the timing for the short-term representatives is fixed from September to March, it will be good if all the three or four can come more or less at the same time as it would be less taxing on the NGO Representative in terms of arranging orientation and faciltating enculturation.

I would also think it may be good to have a second set of people joining the short-term when one batch is finished, though it could be highly demanding on the NGO Representative, as well as on the finances.

It will be good for all those who have been short-term representatives to connect at some level to give greater leverage to our work at the UN and greater coordination internationally. They could also be working in greater collaboration with the national justice contacts.

Since Geneva is the center for Human Rights at UN, we could think of shifting the IPA Networker’s office to Geneva to have IPA presence there.

It is good for the IPA NGO Representative and the Networker to particpate in more important International programs of the UN held in other countries, while encouraging participation of the members.

Greater particpation of competent members could be enlisted in the preparation of written and oral statements if the themes and guidelines are circulated in advance.

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For those who will be doing the short-term:

To make the best use of the experience both for the individual and IPA I suggest that the person:-

  • Knows at least six months in advance of her mission as short term representative
  • Gets to know UN and what will be happening at the UN while she/he will be there, for example, one needs an awareness of what commisions will meet on what priority themes
  • Tries to do as much focused reading as possible both on IPA issues and on the related UN themes
  • Spends some time for grassroots experience and research on some of the issues at the country level
  • Interacts with others who have the expertise and the UN experience
  • Finds out about the national governments’ position on the issues and identifies national leaders responsible for the specific areas
  • Does some advocacy at the local level
  • Is prepared to make a 45-minute presentation on good practices, challenges etc. during Commission side events or to other NGOs.

The better prepared one is, the greater the possibility of particpation and learning. Don’t go to the UN unprepared!

I am deeply grateful to IPA leadership, Union leadership, and the Indian Unit for blessing me with this rich experience. Thanks to Fatima for her great patience and intelligent guidance, to Marlette for her meticulous planning and timely actions to facilitate my travel and accommodation and the life-givng interactions we have had, to my companions on the six-months’ journey – Mary Ivers, Maura McCarthy and Mary McFadden for their friendship and shared struggles and joys.

 

Humanity alone is called to assist God, humankind is called to co-create.”

Hildegard of Bingen

 

Click here to download a pdf copy of Elsa’s report for printing.

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