Grace Amarachi Ezeonu

With joy we welcome Grace Amarachi Ezeonu, SNDdeN, who on September 1 will begin her service as NGO representative for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the United Nations. To this important position Grace brings a strong background in social justice and leadership and a commitment to systemic change and collaboration. Many community experiences in her home country of Nigeria add a special dimension to her understanding of global issues.

JeanStoner cropAs for me, I now conclude six years of service at the UN expressing gratitude for meaningful immersion in the international arena, beneficial networking with other NGOs, and energizing engagement with many visitors and groups about global issues. Dag Hammarskjold said it best: “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!”

Jean Stoner, SNDdeN
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
NGO Representative at the United Nations


Anna ShketBy Anna Shket, Intern in SNDatUN Office

The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan along with its President Ashraf Ghani made its commitment to ensure a transparent, peaceful, and cooperative way towards the improvement of its people’s lives. The year 2015 marks the beginning of the Transformation Decade for the country, set to last till 2024. Afghanistan still faces tremendous challenges, such as diverse extremist groups like ISIS, insurgent groups in the form of Taliban, foreign fighters, illicit economy in the form of narcotics production (13% of GDP), etc. However, the government has been demonstrating its readiness towards a better future which can provide its people with peace, stability and prosperity.

IMG_1454The UN Security Council Meeting on June 22, 2015 on the situation in Afghanistan, meant to demonstrate the commitments of the government, revealed progress and tackled problems. Special Representative of the Security-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Nicholas Hayson noted the progress along with the remaining problems in three areas – economic, security, and political. The progress, as he mentioned, is modest, undervalued due to the enormous difficulties in the country and the region itself. Massive civilian casualties remain present in the country – 4216 civilians killed or injured only this year, and this number includes a considerable amount of children and women. In order to prevent future deaths, continued regional and international cooperation is essential. Together with UN and UNAMA, the international community should not leave the burden of terrorism on the Afghanistan government’s shoulders. Correspondingly, the country requires favorable external environment for promoting the reconciliation process. It is important to realize that the escalating conflict in the country will bring instability to region as a whole, which will have a deteriorating effect on other countries’ security and, consequently, economic stability.

Afghani people are in a long-term process of combating the hardships brought by war. They are finally on the way towards peaceful times. Years of devastating conflict ruined the country’s economy and hopes for the prospects of political stability. Today, ensuring the security in the country means future international investments, new deals and agreements, and overall development of the country. Ongoing clashes between the democratically elected government lead by Ghani and the Taliban along with other political groupings are the barriers towards the future prosperity and peace.

The international community was asked to continue to support the government of Afghanistan during the Transition Decade, which should be a critical point in reconciliation between all Afghani people. In return, the government reaffirmed its commitment to the principals of transparency, accountability, growing participation of women and civil society, protection and promotion of human rights, and strong cooperation on all levels towards a better future.

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Anna ShketBy Anna Shket, Intern in SNDatUN Office  

On May 26, 2015 informal interactive hearings were held with representatives of various NGOs, civil society, major groups and the private sector of the post-2015 development agenda. One of the major thoughts that all speakers brought to the discussions was the partnership of all parties taking part in the process of development, and the inability to work without civil society as a vocal member. New agenda is greatly distinguished from the previous years because it is based on a balanced relationship among all members – “together with no country left behind.” There were several distinct points that speakers put the accent on. First of all, the importance of accountability on local, national and global levels. However, parties were paying attention mostly to answerability and transparency constituents, but I noticed that the enforceability part of accountability did not receive enough attention. Secondly, all parties admit to the importance of climate change and its impact on the ecosystem. It breaks down economy and affects food prices and marine sources. Private business showed its willingness and commitment to cooperate and recognized the necessity to act immediately. Another point that received a lot of attention was gender equality issues. Parties demonstrated a high level of commitment to improve rights of women all over the world.

In my opinion, during both days of discussions there were not enough comments made on strengthening democracy and the rule of law. Interestingly, another crucial aspect that felt left out was conflict resolution. During both days I had several questions on my mind that, unfortunately, only few speakers touched – how can anyone achieve goals such as food security, gender equality, healthy living, and promotion of education in a country where is ongoing conflict? Why is there not enough attention to goals #16 (peaceful societies) and #17 (global partnership) because none of the others are possible without these two? The representative of Republic of Korea made a clear statement that these two goals require more awareness. What are the legal tools to hold governments accountable for their actions and what will happen to ones that fail the promises to establish and follow the goals? How can we trust ambiguous data, when, for example, the hunger report, issued the same day as the discussions were happening, did not include countries that are the largest recipients of the UN humanitarian aid (Somalia, Syria, DRC)? All of the speakers were right saying that Post-2015 agenda requires a holistic approach, but we should witness more attention to the decisive actions from member states in addressing conflicts such as civil wars, refugee crises, and corrupt and abusive governments. Building legitimate and strong institutions at all levels of governance is essential to the process. These issues are to be resolved prior in order to reach all 17 goals.

Notwithstanding some missing points, the meeting seemed to be quite informative and positive with all parties ready to work in a team. The moderator of the first roundtable, Nikhil Daffa, mentioned main distinguishing themes of the new outline, such as high expectations and ambitions and transformative and universal agenda from all parties. And we will observe the new steps and efforts of the whole process in its developing. Hopefully, all promises made by private sector and major groups will be redeemed.


Fatima BrimahBy Fatima Brimah, Intern in SNDatUN Office  

I have always believed that the world has become a global village and, as a citizen of the world, I have an obligation to help in bridging gaps of disparity, in supporting and trying to understand diversity, and in playing an important role in the diplomatic corps. During my childhood and undergraduate years, I have been humbled to have had personal and professional experiences within the West African sub-region, Ghana in particular, and they have helped me not only with practical experience but also with developing working knowledge, comprehension and fluency in several languages important in the African continent. It has been a long term goal to someday work with the United Nations and gather as much as I could from that experience to be a better world citizen.

Fatima + AnnanJune 22nd, 2015 was my first day at the United Nations Headquarters’ in New York. My closest friends and family members were equally as excited as I was. A good family friend Naa Shika introduced me to Ms. Jean Stoner, who works with the Sisters of Notre Dame, an NGO affiliated with the United Nations, and they made this whole experience possible. On this day I remember going through the security point very excited, looking forward to this privilege. As I walked in with my supervisor Jean, the first picture I spotted was Kofi Annan’s (former UN secretary general). Being a proud and patriotic citizen of Ghana, I walked straight to my fellow Ghanaian’s portrait and took a “selfie”. I remember taking multiple selfies out of excitement.

With the help of my supervisor Jean, I found my way around the premises. The tour was very informative. I was able capture a lot of beautiful scenery, sculptures and paintings given to the United Nations as gifts from all over the world. The experience was overwhelming. It was a dream come true for me. I have always imagined myself at the United Nations in a meeting with presidents, delegates, civil servants and many others. I was given the privilege to share the same room with people who were trying to make a positive impact in society from all walks of life and all over the world. The moment I received my ID, I knew my dreams had come true. I had a big grin on my face while staring at my ID. I was humbled. I finally made it to the United Nations.



groundOn September 12 people around the world will honor the creativity, dignity, and resilience of communities affected by mining and oil and gas development. Become involved now with The Ground Beneath Our Hearts:

Watch a film about social and environmental conflicts in iron ore extraction in the  Amazon region of northern Brazil with connections to the German auto industry.
Iron ore, journey with no return:

Support enhancement of the International Legal Framework for protecting Human Rights from Corporate Abuse:  (English, español, français, português)

bh_WD_logo_EN_finalOn July 30 learn about and participate in an action to eradicate human trafficking:   (English, español, français, português, Русский)


Alla 1 cropBy Alla Baranovskaya, Intern in SNDatUN Office

As I have attended Informal Hearings with representative of Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society, Major Groups and the Private Sector on the Post-2015 Agenda, I have listened to many great speakers. One speech that caught my attention was given by Ms. Sandra Mullin from the World Lung Foundation and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Alliance. She brought up the issue of tobacco use in the world. She gave the following statistics: tobacco is used the highest among poor countries. The more developed the country, the fewer people demand this drug. This is because least developed countries (LDCs) have higher social pressure which makes quitting almost impossible. Also the prices on cigarettes are relatively affordable. As a Russian immigrant – a country that has been developing in the past decade – I have observed the changes which have occurred during the development process. Smoking is slowly becoming less trendy although it still continues to be a significant problem. The Russian government has taken some actions to reduce tobacco use: cigarette packages have dramatic phrases and pictures of different diseases and birth defects caused by tobacco use.

2014_10_14_warninglabelsNo matter how much we discuss reasons why LDCs use tobacco more than other developed countries, Goal 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” needs to be expanded and explained more clearly. Reducing tobacco use is one of the main components of this Goal, but in order for the world to achieve it we need to make sure we specifically mention “Tobacco use reduction” in the Goal 3 statement. One way to implement tobacco use reduction, mentioned by Ms. Sandra Mullin, is to increase tobacco taxes. Taking the United States as an example, cigarette costs there are much bigger in comparison with LDCs, and we can draw a parallel of how few American people smoke. Laws and restrictions on where people can smoke, high fees on breaking the rules, and social nonacceptance of smokers has made it difficult for a smoking habit to develop for the United States citizens. These techniques need to be shared with the rest of the world to stop tobacco use because it causes a lot of diseases and deaths.


Alla 1 cropBy Alla Baranovskaya, Intern in SNDatUN Office  Being a part of the United Nations is a fascinating experience. The actual feel of it is a lot more interesting than the theory that I have been learning about in the California State University. Standing in the UN building gives you a thrill and excitement that you would never be able to feel without the opportunity of being actually present in the UN headquarters. Here I’ve observed so many different kinds of people. Every time when I make a step in the UN territory it feels like I am stepping in a little version of the world as a whole. Taking in mind that all the people here came from different parts of the world, speak multiple languages, have their own life situation, their own status and agenda, and are all here “united” with one thought: “As human beings we all have to unite with each other in order to achieve a peace in this wonderful world”.

view of UN cropI have learned that there are many different approaches to the United Nations that are taken into consideration: economic, political, communication oriented, and social. However, I would underline that the human factor is one of the most important factors of all. People have to listen to each other, get under each other’s skin in order to understand a possible solution of the issues that are going on right now. The people in the United Nations are here for a cause of solving different ongoing conflicts, reducing poverty, sharing their stories as well as their knowledge with everyone else. They are the ones who are making the actual change. The attendance of so many meetings and events at the United Nations headquarters during the Commissions for Social Development (CSocD) and the Status of Women (CSW) gave me a clear idea how and why the unity of all the people is the “key” to the success in this world. Uniting, we the people are able to change the world, to provide for one another and to fulfill other countries’ needs for things they lack.


We need to be poor with the poor and re-appropriate
a kind and tender relationship with Mother Earth.
Then we will know how to act.
Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, posthumously honored in 2008 with the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, would feel right at home today with the UN’s current efforts to formulate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All of the goal focus areas of Dignity, People, Prosperity, Planet, Justice, and Partnership capture well the energy and commitment she brought to social and ecological change for which she was killed in the Amazon on February 12, 2005.

Today the pastureland where she died holds a simple community center, a community school, a tree nursery, and a small cocoa factory. More than thirty families now live there, collaborating to simultaneously protect the forest and provide a living for the people, ideals for which she gave her life.

“When Sr. Dorothy died, there were 35 basic Christian communities; today there are more than 85. Now the people are unafraid in confronting loggers, gunmen, ranchers or local authorities who threaten the planet and the lives of their families. They have learned to do so with strategies and organized strength. The people challenge injustices and sustain a profound and irrepressible hope and belief in the future, their future, a future they remember and reverence as Sr. Dorothy’s legacy to them.”
Jane Dwyer, SNDdeN, Seeds Bear Fruit in Brazil:

Artwork: Margaret Hoffman, SNDdeN

Artwork: Margaret Hoffman, SNDdeN


milkcow1-kolpingugandaUganda Kolping Society helps people support their families by making loans of cows. Families use some of the milk for themselves and sell the rest, giving them a small but steady income and keeping everyone healthy. Loans are paid back by raising the calves for a year and then passing them to other families. Microfinancing Partners in Africa and Heifer International have similar projects. (choose your language)


Photo: IWMI

Photo: IWMI

For many of us, the term “global finance” conjures up issues both unfamiliar and complex. We feel that discussions on such areas as trade agreements, taxes, sovereign debt workout mechanisms, public/private partnerships, and innovative sources of funding, all part of current Financing for Sustainable Development planning, should be left to the experts. The members of the NGO Committee on Financing for Development believe that civil society, i.e., all of us, are also finance experts because we understand firsthand how unwise financial policies can disastrously affect people and the planet, and how good choices can keep our planet and people healthy. In preparation for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa next July, the Committee has prepared a one-page statement calling for moral and political courage to change economic and social systems:

FfD LogoRevised 2012 (Web)“The many crises our world and peoples face are clear evidence that international budget decision-making and financial systems favor the few to the detriment of the masses, and favor unjust private profits over the health of the planet. Despite significant efforts by the global community to implement the Millennium Development Goals, vast numbers of people still live in poverty, ever-smaller numbers accumulate   outrageous wealth, and indiscriminate growth and consumption destroy the earth.

Financing sustainable development requires political courage. The world has the money and expertise to solve problems, but we have to allocate them better. The problem is not having enough money; it is having enough political courage. Sustainable development is an economic and ethical issue. Pouring funds into weapons instead of medicines and schools is an ill-advised choice that must be challenged. There is no justifiable reason that annual global spending on war and violence should be 600 times greater than spending on peace and social progress, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calculates.”

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