By Ines Prisca Bikindou, SNDdeN “I work at St. Julie Billiart Hospital in Ngidinga, Democratic Republic of Congo, as an accountant and cashier. It is my first experience in this town where the population is predominantly poor, so that to pay for hospitalization is really hard. The political situation is sad, the majority of the population poor, the wages they receive cannot reach the end of the month, and to the east of the country there is always war, so we live in total insecurity. But God who is good always protects us. Despite the situation of life, God gives us the courage to move forward and we do not lose confidence that what we create is stronger.”
A recent report by the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo indicates that legislation passed on the national level in various countries, including the United States, is helping to curb illegal activities in eastern Congo. Individuals are making a difference too. The Enough Project shares that “actor and activist Jeffrey Wright’s mining company, Taia Lion Resources, is helping take the conflict out of conflict minerals. His company’s approach in Sierra Leone has parallels for eastern Congo, where the fight to control the lucrative minerals trade is fueling the world’s deadliest war.”
Watch Jeffrey Wright’s compelling 3-minute video > http://bit.ly/PCOfeB (in English)
Jeffrey Wright: Creating Conflict-Free Companies for the 21st Century (huffingtonpost.com)
Reflections from 150 persons around the world
On the occasion of World Water Day in March, an NGO briefing entitled “H2 Uh-O: The Rights and Wrongs of Water in Rio+20” focused on issues around fairness and sustainability with regard to water. During preliminary negotiations on the Rio+20 draft some countries are asking to replace the words “right to water” with “right to access to water”. But simple access to water is not enough – water must also be affordable, and people have a right to access and affordability. Some countries like Colombia have even spelled out the human right to water in their constitutions.
Nations which cooperate in regards to waters they share, as Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal do with their shared Senegal River, are models for others. Many NGOs are concerned that privatization of water may block distributive justice since the market tends to focus on economic profit rather than environmental protection and equitable use of resources. “If the wars of the twentieth century were fought over oil, the wars of this century will be fought over water.” Ismail Serageldin, former vice-president of the World Bank
Anyone who solves the problem of water deserves not one Nobel Prize but two –
one for science and the other for peace.
John F. Kennedy
Wonderful news — the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three women peacekeepers from Liberia and Yemen. Read more at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/07/us-nobel-peace-idUSTRE7963KM20111007
In February we welcomed to the UN Sister Chantal Metena Iniongi, a lawyer from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Chantal attended the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). She stayed in Brooklyn with Mary Jo Toll SND Coesfeld, immersed herself in UN gender equality issues, and learned about life in New York City. Sharing in English as well as French, Chantal brought to CSW her legal expertise, ministry with abused women and girls, and personal experience of living in the war-torn country of Congo.
Mary Jo and Chantal stay warm during a cold NY winter
Chantal’s words: “I am really happy right now for learning more about women empowerment in the CSW because I was thinking that being a woman is a very dangerous thing … It is the women’s experience in my country that justify my uncomfortable way of considering women because in each conflict, more victims are women. They can’t in many cases do whatever they want and they can’t do all that men do. They are sacrificed and it seems that the humanity belongs only to men. In the CSW, women showed me through the conferences, the workshops that women are equal of men and can be and do as well as men.”
Adopted in 1979, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) bans “Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women … of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” Seven UN member states — Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, and the United States — have not ratified (accepted a legal obligation to fulfill the document).
According to the agreement, each signatory member’s implementation is reviewed every four years by the CEDAW Committee. Countries in which Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and Coesfeld serve and which will be reviewed this year are Italy and Korea; next year Brazil, Congo, Indonesia, Mexico, and Zimbabwe will be reviewed. We are asking Sisters in these countries for their input on this human rights issue for women and girls as we prepare to attend preparatory and review sessions to be held in New York this July and August. Learn about CEDAW and its review processes at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/
The recent United Nations authorization of military strikes in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire is the result of an emerging understanding of the “Responsibility to Protect” or R2P. This significant UN action is taken only after repeated attempts at appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means have failed. Even though the United Nations charter recognizes as preeminent the sovereignty of each nation, member states are more quickly taking strong action to intervene in order to protect the lives of citizens who are being attacked by their own governments. Diplomats are seeing the legal and moral dimensions of protecting civilians even when it means stepping into the internal affairs of other countries.
This new understanding follows from the 2005 adoption of a UN resolution to assist the international community to prevent genocide. “There is a new trend in the Security Council in which the responsibility to protect principle is gaining a new hold,” said Stéphane Crouzat, spokesman for the French mission to the United Nations. Invoking past conflicts in Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia, he added: “There is a desire to intervene before war crimes or ethnic cleansing can take place.”