We must turn toward the poor and gather them in…
since that’s the principal end of our Institute.
Françoise Blin de Bourdon (Mother St. Joseph)
Co-foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur




In New York City, ten years after September 11, 2001, two new square pools, angled diagonally to each other in the footprints of the World Trade Center buildings, now carry the etched names of those who died during the attacks. Fountains cascade down the inside walls of these two pools, creating a sense of refreshment and peace that comes only from falling water. Trees surround the pools with greenery and new life. Read more:  http://bit.ly/u5CKYH (English only)

September 11What is special about this memorial is that the honored names are not engraved in alphabetical order but by relationship. The names of those who died in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC are in clusters, so that co-workers, friends, family, first responders to the attacks, and passengers on the same planes, are placed near each other now as they touched each other in life.

The designers of this memorial got it right. What is most important after all is relationship and that is what is being emphasized at the September 11 Memorial. Our work at the United Nations is also one of relationships, inspiring and equipping people for international citizenship. When we work on major global issues of our time such as social protection for all, an end to trafficking in persons, empowerment of women and girls, climate change, we do this because we are in relationship with all peoples across national boundaries. We live in a world community of partnership with each other and with our earth.



Magalena SepulvedaLast month Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, presented her 2011 report. In this account she focused on the growing frequency with which Member States are adopting laws, regulations, and practices that punish those living in poverty. View her complete report at http://bit.ly/tYwO47  (English only)

Some highlights of her report:

Persons living in poverty are not to blame for their situation; accordingly, States must not punish or penalize them for it. Rather, States must adopt wide-reaching measures and policies designed to eliminate the conditions that cause, exacerbate or perpetuate poverty, and ensure the realization of all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of those living in poverty.

The policies that penalize the poor come from deeply entrenched prejudices and stereotypes that have permeated public policies. Penalization measures respond to discriminatory stereotypes that assume that persons living in poverty are lazy, irresponsible, indifferent to their children’s health and education, dishonest, undeserving and even criminal.

As a consequence of the discrimination and stigma that they suffer, persons living in poverty often develop fear of and even hostility towards public authorities, and have little confidence in the institutions that should assist them. Too often, they are treated with disrespect or condescension by policymakers, civil servants, social workers, law enforcement officials, teachers and health-care providers, who may fail to recognize and support the efforts that persons living in poverty are making to improve their lives.

Invitation to reflection, discussion, and action

  1. Describe any of the discriminatory practices in the Special Rapporteur’s report that you have witnessed or experienced yourself.
  2. How do organizations to which you belong help assure legal rights for all and advocate with local or national authorities to change discriminatory laws and practices?
  3. What are some actions NGOs might take to address these problems on an international level through the UN system?

Send your responses to SNDatUN@sndden.org