“Don’t talk about us without us” is a familiar maxim among NGO representatives at the United Nations to illustrate the importance of the inclusion of voices from the grassroots, especially the population they represent as stakeholders in the negotiation of policies that directly impact these individuals. It implies that real experts on an issue are those who have lived the experience.  

The theme for the 2021 World Day against Trafficking in Persons (30 July), “Victims’ Voices Leads the Way,” highlights the key message that survivors of human trafficking are key actors in the fight against this scourge. A special event to commemorate the World Day organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Permanent Mission of Belarus, on behalf of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, addresses this theme. The event highlighted the importance of listening to and learning from victims and survivors of human trafficking. It drew attention to victims and survivors as key actors in the fight against human trafficking and addresses their crucial role in counter-trafficking conversations and responses; including establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and survivors, and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation. Survivor-advocates, Member States representatives, and other stakeholders were among the speakers at the event. Watch the event HERE

Learn more:

“Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”: A Special Event on World Day against Trafficking in Persons:

Survivors’ stories;

Global Report on Human Trafficking 2020;

World Day against Trafficking in Persons:


Impacts of climate change continue to be felt by communities in almost every corner of the globe.  Record high temperature is being recorded in every continent. During the last days of June 2021, Pacific northwest areas of the US and Canada experienced temperatures never previously observed, with records broken by several degrees Celsius in many places. (World Weather Attribution). Hundreds of lives and property worth billions of dollars are being lost due to unprecedented extreme weather events such as flooding in some parts of Europe, China, India, Bangladesh, to name a few. Extreme high temperature has also sparked wildfires in Australia, Greece, the United States, Turkey, Siberia, etc.  Time is of the essence in tackling climate change. It is now time for governments to act decisively to limit the rate of global warming to save humanity and our beautiful Earth Planet.

For over two and half decades, the UN has brought countries together for the global climate summits – COPs (Conference of the Parties). On 12 December 2015, for the first time, every government agreed to work together to limit global warming well below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In the legally binding international treaty (the Paris Agreement) adopted by 196 Parties, countries committed to producing national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions or ‘NDCs.’ They also agreed that every five years, they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at the time. This will be the crux of the upcoming COP26 which will take place from 31 October to 12 November 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland (delayed for a year due to the pandemic).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming report on 9 August, warning that human activity is unequivocally and indisputably warming the planet. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, describes the report as ‘nothing less than a red code for humanity.’ A former Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in his remarks at the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda, cautioned that “we are the first generation to be able to end poverty and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” He then noted that ‘future generations would judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities.’ Climate change is increasingly becoming an existential threat to the human race and the planet.  COP26 has a particular urgency, and we hope that world leaders will arrive in Glasgow prepared to make some tough decisions to save our beautiful planet – our Common Home.

Read more:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment report:

World Weather Attribution:

UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26):

Paris Agreement:


“Building back better” has become a very commonly used phrase at many United Nations (UN) and other international, regional, and national discourses since after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. But what does building back better look like?  And how can it be done with sensitivity to the needs of people often left at the margins of society? These same groups of people bore the brunt of the pandemic – women and children, minority groups, the youth, people with disabilities, to name a few.

Increased poverty rate and hunger, decreased number of children in school, job losses, increased debt burdens, growing inequalities, and increased human rights violations were some of the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 highlighted by many participants at the just-concluded High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2021 (HLPF). The HLPF 2021 focused on the theme of “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” As many have acknowledged, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the socio-economic disparities within and among countries around the globe.

Some of the solutions to ‘building back better’ proffered by several stakeholders at the HLPF 2021 focused on the importance of social protection systems, sustainable agriculture, digitization, creating new debt relief, financing architecture, and more robust partnership between civil society, the private sector, government, and the international community and many more. The Ministerial Declaration at the end of the HLPF 2021 underscored the need for a resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that can, over the long term, reinforce, stimulate, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. To build back better, governments must consider the needs of every member of the society while respecting the human rights of all. No one must be left behind.

Read more:

Ministerial Declaration:


 As part of an effort to turn around the trajectory on the devastation of our biodiversity, the UN General Assembly, in a resolution adopted on 1 March 2019, declared 2021 -2031 as a “decade on ecosystems restoration.” Clear evidence from the Amazonia in Latin America to the Congo Basin in Central Africa and other regions of the world indicates that our precious ecosystems are being depleted at an alarming rate. This trend spells doom for humanity because ecosystems support all life on Earth. And the healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. As Sister Dorothy Stang had often warned, “the death of the forest is the end of our life.”

We can become part of the solution by doing something (no matter how little) to remedy the situation. So, take action by clicking on this link to pledge to “Restore the Planet.”

Learn more:

UNGA Resolution on Decade on Ecosystems Restoration;

Advocating for ecosystems restoration in the DRC:


12 June was the International Day for the Elimination of Child Labour. It was also the first World Day since the universal ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention No.182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Earlier on 10 June, the UNICEF and ILO released a joint report titled “Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward.” The report indicates that the number of children in child labour has increased to 160 million, an increase of 8.4 million children in the past four years, with more millions at risk due to the impacts of the COVID-19. The UN has also declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

What is child labour? Not all work done by children is considered child labour. The International Labour Organization defines child labour ” as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. 

The information below is an excerpt from the website of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour on the situation of child labour worldwide.

What does child labour look like?  Globally, 152 million children (this number has now increased to 160 million, according to the recent UNICEF/ILO report) aged 5 to 17 are in child labour. About half of the children (72.5 million) perform hazardous work that places their health, safety, or moral development at risk.

  • One in five children in Africa is involved in child labour, making it the region where the risk of child labour is greatest
  • Half of the affected children live in lower-middle and upper-middle-income countries
  • The problem is more prevalent in countries experiencing conflict and disaster
  • 70% of children in child labour work in agriculture, mainly in subsistence and commercial farming and herding livestock
  • A third of children in child labour are entirely outside the education system, and those that do attend school perform poorly

How can we end child labour? With the right policy approaches and practical responses, the end is in sight. Here’s what we need to do:

  • Advance the legal commitment to ending child labour
  • Promote decent work for adults and young people of legal working age
  • Build and extend social protection systems, including floors, to help low-income families
  • Expand access to free, quality public education as the logical alternative to child labour
  • Address child labour in supply chains
  • Protect children in situations of fragility and crisis

Learn more:

UNICEF 2021 report on Child Labour;


Antonio Guteress (right) takes the oath of office for his 2nd term as UNSG administered by Volkan Bozkir, Presedent of the 75th session of the UNGA – UN photo/Eskinder Debebe

The United Nations General Assembly, on 18 June 2021, re-elected Antonio Guterres for a second five-year term as the UN Secretary-General. In his speech on taking the oath of office administered by Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly, Mr. Guterres acknowledged the immense responsibilities bestowed on him at this critical moment in history as the UN Secretary-General. He outlined some of the challenges as the ongoing pandemic, climate change, lawlessness in cyberspace, and geopolitical divide. Mr. Guterres, however, pledged to use his second term to “ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations large and small, to build bridges and to engage relentlessly in confidence-building … and to “seek to inspire hope that we can turn things around, that the impossible is possible.”

It is easier said, but in a very polarized world with a multitude of challenges, Mr. Guterres will need all possible support from every angle of the globe to pilot the affairs of the 193-nation body in the coming five years. We wish him and his deputy, Ms. Amina Mohammed, wisdom, courage, and strength in their very vital role at this crucial moment in history.


The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), an annual gathering of all the Member States of the United Nations to review the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by different countries, will convene virtually for a second year running due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The HLPF 2021 will be held from 6 – 15 July, with the theme; “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” The 2021 HLPF will consider Sustainable Development Goal 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, three on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice, and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships.

Forty-three countries (including Japan and Zimbabwe, where Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have a presence) will be presenting their National Voluntary Report (VNR) to the Member States. As part of the forum, VNR offers an opportunity each year for the Member States to share experiences, successes, challenges, and lessons learned from implementing the SDGs. Civil society organizations and other stakeholders such as the private sector, academia, and others also participate in the HLPF. The UN Secretary-General in September 2019 declared 2020 – 2030 a decade of action to deliver on the Goals. The Decade of Action calls for the “acceleration of sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges — ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality, and closing the finance gap.”

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur will be co-sponsoring an event on 14 July, at 7:30 AM EST, with the title, “The impacts of extractivism on the SDGs and Covid-19 recovery.” To access the event on 14 July, click on the following link

Learn more:

High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development 2021;

Follow the HLPF on UN WWBTV from July 5-16:


Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’ has, since its release in 2015, generated tremendous interest among Catholics and non-Catholics, inspiring many to reflect on the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic justice. Different study and reflection groups on the Laudato Si’ have emerged around the world.

Laudato Si Week, which celebrates the encyclical anniversary, offers such an opportunity for Catholics to reflect on some of the pertinent subjects related to economic, social, and environmental justice. Pope Francis invites the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to participate in the Laudato Si’ Week 2021, held 16-24 May. Laudato Si’ Week 2021 was an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the future with hope.

Below are the themes for each day of the Laudato Si’ Week and the link to some of the webinars.

17 May: Critical Opportunities in 2021 to create change: call for integral path:

18 May: Laudato Si Dialogue on Education:

19 May: Laudato Si Dialogue on Energy and Fossil fuel;

20 May: Sowing Hope for Our Planet/ Creation Care Prayer Network;

21 May: Global Action Day for Our Common Home:

22 May: Laudato Si’ Festival “Songs for Creation”:

23 May: (Pentecost) Praying Gathering:

24 May: Roundtable about WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in Catholic health care facilities:

25 May: Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

Learn more:

Laudato Si Week 2021:

Five top Laudato Si’ Week 2021 highlights:


The devastating economic impact of the COVID pandemic has left many governments struggling to fund critical social programmes such as healthcare, education, housing, etc. However, the financial crunch has had little or no effect on global military spending. According to a report released on 26 April 2021 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the global military expenditure rose to nearly $2 trillion in 2020, an increase of 2.6 percent from 2019.

Ironically, the five largest spenders in military weapons, the US, China, Russia, the UK, and India, are members of the UN Security Council. While the first four countries are among the Permanent Members of the Council, India is currently serving as a non-permanent member. The Director, Arms and Security Programs at the Center for International Policy, William D. Hartung, poignantly points out that, “at a time when a global pandemic, climate change, and racial and economic injustice pose the greatest risks to human lives and livelihood, the increase in global military expenditure in 2020 marks a dismal failure by policymakers across the world to address the most urgent challenges we face.”

Courtesy: SIPRI

Conspicuously stationed close to the visitors’ entrance into the United Nations Headquarters in New York is the iconic “Knotted Gun.”  The “knotted gun,” which symbolizes non-violence, was sculpted by Carl Fredrik Reutersward shortly following the assassination of the famous musician John Lennox in 1980 and donated to the UN by the mission of Luxembourg in 1988.  

There are two kinds of virus currently ravaging the world; the COVID-19 and violence. Regrettably, as many families struggle each day to get by due to the economic impact of the pandemic, governments continue to spend recklessly on weapons of death. The former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said over a decade ago that “the world is over-armed, and peace is underfunded.” This saying continues to ring true. The post-COVID era is the time for governments to knot the guns and redirect all resources to improve their citizens’ wellbeing.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:


In commemoration of the World Day Against Child Labor (12 June), International Day of the African Child (16 June), and the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor (2021), Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the UN with several NGOs is co-sponsoring a virtual event with the NGO Mining Working Group at the UN, with the title, “Unraveling child labor in the mining industry in the Congo Basin.” The event will take place on 18 June 2021, at 9:00 PM ET/14:00 UTC. Simultaneous French translation will be available for French speakers. Please join us for this crucial webinar which will feature insights from policy analysts on the difficulties with implementing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) mining code, a social work practitioner who offers psychological and social assistance to children in Kolwezi a mining community in the DRC.  Panelists will also discuss the relevance of international frameworks like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the ILO Conventions on Child Labor, and the Sustainable Development Goals to child labor. Together, discussants will provide policymakers and civil society advocates guidance on the pathway to eradicating child labor in the DRC mines.