01By Colleen Cloonan Swain: Women’s Leadership Development and Advocacy Associate Mercy International Association: Mercy Global Action at the UN: This past December, I was honored to attend the 24th Session of the Conference of Parities of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP 24. One of the main agenda items for this year’s conference was the finalization of the “Katowice Rulebook” which defines how climate action in the Paris Agreement is to be implemented and accounted for decades to come. Going into the conference, I knew these were ambitious goals but they were achievable with international cooperation and commitment.

 What were the Outcomes?



  • Within the final text of the “Katowice Rulebook” there is no mention of human 02rights, despite the recognition of human rights within the preamble of the Paris Agreement. Negotiators were not willing to mix social policies and climate policies despite the two influencing one another.
  • Finance, the next contentious theme of COP 24, resulted in permissive texts giving wealthier Member States more flexibility with their contributions and reporting. Agreements were made to conduct negotiations on climate finance every two years after 2020.
  • Despite widespread support and recognition of the 1.5° IPCC report, four Member States (Russia, Saudi Arabia, United States, and Kuwait) were not willing to heed the urgency and need for increased ambition to stay below this temperature limit. As a result, the final text does not “welcome” the report but welcomed its “’timely completion” and “invited” countries to make use of the report in subsequent discussions at the UNFCCC’ (See CarbonBrief).
  • Although talk emphasized increased ambitions towards reducing carbon emissions, some Member States fell into the trap of placing profits over the people themselves. One strong testimony against this was from 15-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who stated “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.” Watch her full speech here..


03Despite setbacks there were some positives at COP 24 as well.

For one, Member States agreed to the launch of a facilitative working group that will scale up consideration of the experiences of local communities and indigenous peoples with climate change and efforts to respond to it. Additionally, decisions will also be made at COP 25 in Chile regarding the Escazu Agreement, Latin America and the Caribbean’s first regional environmental treaty, which aims to protect the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. These are important steps in the right direction as human rights and environmental defenders continue to risk their lives across the world.

There were also many inspiring showcases of ecosystem-based approaches and systems to aid waste reduction and promote sustainable consumption and production in many country pavilions, as well as knowledge from local communities shared (See useful resources on page 4). Lastly, the voices of civil society and youth were both strong and motivational in both the ministerial plenary sessions and events. The large presence of both civil society and youth focused discussions on ‘people over profit/polluters’ and the urgency to increase climate ambition (see picture above).

Beyond COP24

 Read more:

CarbonBrief Clear on Climate

Climate Action Network International:



6At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, on 21 December 2015, world leaders who are Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a landmark agreement to accelerate actions and commit needed resources for a sustainable low carbon future. Progress towards achieving these goals has been very slow coming. Experts are now warning that we are running out of time to save our planet from the destructive impacts of climate change. The effects of climate change are upon us. Extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes, heat waves, earthquakes, etc., are being recorded at an alarming rate in different parts of the world that even climate change skeptics are now beginning to believe that all is not well.

From December 2 – 15, world leaders, experts, activists, and other stakeholders will 7gather again in Katowice, Poland, for the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24), to deliberate on a collective action plan to realize those critical commitments made by all the countries of the world in Paris, in 2015.

Read more:

‘COP 24’ UN Climate Change Conference: What’s at Stake and What you Need to Know:

UNFCCC Katowice Climate Change Conference:



5The Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 10 – 11 December 2018. This unprecedented event which is convened under the auspices of the UN General Assembly will also attract thousands of stakeholders from civil society organizations, academia, the private sector, and numerous other groups. Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu will be in Marrakesh to represent SNDatUN NGO Office at the conference. The Sisters of Notre-Dame de Namur will collaborate with five other non-governmental organizations and the Government of Nigeria to co-sponsor a parallel event on the sidelines of the conference. Our parallel event will focus on the importance of strengthening non-state actors’ cooperation and partnership in the implementation of the global compact for migration.

Read more:

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at a glance:


4The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of WWII in 1945. Some of the principal objectives for founding the organization as outlined in the preamble of the UN Charter were; “to prevent the occurrence of future atrocities by affirming faith in fundamental human rights, in dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small and the commitment to promote better standard of life in larger freedom.” These fundamental human rights are all captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10th December 1948. This day is observed every year as the International Human Rights Day. The UN will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December 2018.

Seventy years on, the principles enshrined in the UDHR are still as relevant as they were in 1948. The UDHR has been translated into 513 languages, making it the most translated document in history.

Learn more:

Video: History of the UDHR:

Short articles on each of the 30 Articles of the UDHR:



UN Conference Hall.  UN Photo

One of the merits of our accreditation to the United Nations is that it avails Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and our affiliates opportunities for participating in many of the UN forums, commissions, and conferences. Three of such major UN conferences usually takes place in the first quarter of each year. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Associates of Notre Dame or our other affiliates can apply through the SNDatUN NGO office to attend any of these UN meetings. There is no fee to attend these sessions, but participants are responsible for their housing, food, and transportation. Funds are available to assist Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Latin America and Africa. If you are interested in attending any of the major UN meetings in New York in 2019, contact Sister Grace Amarachi Ezeonu as soon as possible at  You can also follow UN meetings by webcast at Below are some of the major UN sessions taking place between February and April 2019.


  • 11 – 21 February, 2019: 57th Session of the Commission on Social Development (New York).                                                                                                                          Priority theme: Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.”
  • 11 – 22 March 2019: 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (New York).
    Priority theme: “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”
  • 22 April – 3 May 2019: 18th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (New York)                                                                                   Theme: “Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission, and protection.”



1“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence, and insecurity, the world cannot pride itself on being fair and equal.” These were the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, at an event to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day is observed every year on November 25 to raise awareness on gender-based violence. The theme for the 2018 celebration is Orange the World: #HearMeToo. The color orange is used to draw global attention to the pandemic issue of violence against women, while the hashtag is encouraged to amplify the message of survivors and activists and to put them at the centre of the conversation.

Below are some alarming figures from the UN, highlighting the prevalence of violence against women and girls:

  • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner
  • Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care
  • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances
  • 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 42 of these women and girls are sexually exploited
  • Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.

Are you aware of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which begins every year on 25th November and ends on 10th December (International Human Rights Day)? According to the UN Women, 16 Days of Activism is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.  The theme of the 2018 campaign is “End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.”

What can you do from where you are to contribute to ending violence against women and girls?

Read more:

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:




Sr. Jeannette and the women

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur first went from the United States to La Savane, Haiti, in 2009, at the request of Monseigneur Alix VERRIER, Bishop of the Diocese of les Cayes. La Savane is one of the 32 slums in the Les Cayes Province, with a population of about 25,000 inhabitants. This was according to a study done in 2009 by a team of interdisciplinary researchers. Haiti is described as the poorest country in the Northern Hemisphere. The country also faces constant challenges with natural disasters, such tropical storms, lightning, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. These factors exacerbate the already deplorable economic and social conditions of the population. Women in La Savane, as in many parts of Haiti are the worst affected by the economic and social conditions in the country. Many of these women are single mothers, and with little or no education, most of them cannot provide for the basic needs of their children. As a result, many children as young as six, roam the streets begging or scavenging for food from dumpsites. This situation, unfortunately, exposes the children to situations of exploitation and abuse.

Sister Jeannette Pierre-Louis, SNDdeN has continued to respond to the needs of the


Women in a culinary art class


women and children of La Savane, since 2009. She administers the Notre Dame Family Education Center where about 120 women are enrolled in the basic literacy program, culinary and pastry art, sewing, embroidery and floral art. With the skills these women acquire from the center, they are able to start their own small businesses through which they generate some income to feed their families and pay tuition for their children. Many of the women now make uniforms for their children, and clothes for themselves and other families members. About 50 children, aged, 6 to 12 are also currently enrolled in the Notre Dame Family Education Center. The children learn basic reading, writing, and Math. In addition to learning to read and write, the children also engage in sporting and other extra-curricular activities. They receive one free meal a day from the center as well.


Children having their meal

Thanks to Sister Jeannette’s determination, and support from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Notre Dame Associates, Notre Dame Americorp Volunteers, and donors, most of the children at the Notre Dame Family Education Center who probably would never have had an opportunity in life for a formal education, can now read and write. Quite characteristic for a Sister of Notre Dame, Sr. Jeannette believes that “every child has a right to education because education is key to a brighter future.” Sr. Jeannette continues to proclaim God’s loving care   and goodness to the people of La Savane, Haiti.


Watch Video of Sister Jeannette Pierre-Louis in La Savane, Haiti: