Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is an accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations since 2001. In 2007, the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld chose to work for systemic change on an international level at the United Nations and were welcomed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The two groups collaborate on social and sustainable development issues with special attention to the rights of women and girls.
  • Sister Jean Stoner represents the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the United Nations, working primarily on issues related to poverty eradication, sustainable development, financing for development, education, and human trafficking.
  • Sister Mary Jo Toll represents the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld at the United Nations, working principally in the areas of education, migration, human trafficking, sustainable development, and girls' rights.
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Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once,

but of stretching out to mend

the part of the world that is within our reach.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

In what ways are you mending the part of the world that is within your reach?


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.”


This year-long Global Citizen Corps Leadership program works with 1,000’s of international youth leaders who work together to spread the word about root causes of critical global issues by mobilizing others to make a difference. Learn more about the program:  http://www.globalcitizencorps.org/leadership

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