Youth Climate Strike


Sr. Amarchi Ez

There were several climate-related events around New York and beyond ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit. One such event worth noting is the Youth Climate Strike which took place on 20th September in over 150 countries across the globe. An estimated 4 million young and not-so-young people around the world participated in the youth climate strike. Many Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur marched in solidarity with the


Sr. Amarachi Ezeonu at the NYC Climate Strike


young people in cities like New York, Ipswich, Washington DC, Boston, and other cities across the US and beyond. It was a privilege to march with so many young people for “Our Common Home” The NYC march culminated with Greta Thunberg’s speech. Greta is a 16-year old Swedish climate activist who has galvanized a massive global movement on the environment since she first began her activism in front of the Swedish parliament about a year ago. Click HERE to watch Greta’s NYC speech.




4The UN Climate Action Summit with the theme, “Climate Action Summit 2019: A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win” was convened by the Secretary-General on 23 September. The aim of the summit according to the UNSG, was to challenge states, regions, cities, companies, investors, and citizens to step up action in the areas of the energy transition, climate finance, and carbon pricing, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local efforts, and resilience.

The UNSG indicated before the summit that only countries that came with policy plans to reduce carbon emissions are allowed to address the summit. In his words, “I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero by mid-century.”

A report released by the UN Development Programme just ahead of the summit warns that climate change is heating harder and sooner than forecast. Many scientists believe that the climate situation has now reached a crisis or an emergency level.

Read more: The UN Climate Summit:

Greta Thunberg (Young Climate Activist) at the Opening of the Climate Action Summit:

The 2019 UN Climate Report, “The Heat is On”:



2In September each year, heads of states and governments of the 193 member countries of the United Nations gather in New York for the UN General Assembly. As one of the six principal organs of the UN, the General Assembly (GA), draws equal representation from all Member States of the organization. The GA is led by the president who is elected on a rotational basis from among the Member States every year. In early June 2019, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Mr. Tijani Muhammad Bande was elected president of the 74th General Assembly. In his inaugural speech at the opening of the 74th Session of the GA, Mr. Bande outlined his priorities in the coming year as the GA president. These include; peace and security, poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action, and inclusion.

Alongside the traditional General Debate (when heads of states and governments deliver


Un General Assembly Hall:  UN Photo

their speeches), the UN Secretary-General (UNSG), Antonio Guterres, also convened five meetings covering critical global issues from 24-27 September. These meetings were; the Climate Action Summit, high-level conference on Universal Health Coverage, and the high-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Others were the high-level dialogue on Financing for Development, and the high-level Review of Progress made in Addressing the Priorities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway.

Read more:

The 74th UNGA Session:


1The 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference was held in the US Salt Lake City, Utah, from August 26 – 28. This conference which is the prime event in the civil society organizations (CSO) agenda at the UN, often attracts thousands of members of the CSOs from around the world. Over 6,000 people registered for the Utah conference; however, only about 4,000 were able to attend. The UN civil society conference offers civil society organizations the opportunity to spotlight global issues of importance. The theme for the 2019 conference was “Building inclusive and sustainable cities and communities” (#10 goal of the Sustainable Development Goals).

Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, the NGO-UN representative for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, participated in the Salt Lake City conference.

Read more:

UN Secretary-General’s message to the conference:

Outcome Statement from members of Civil Society Organizations:

You Climate Compact:


7The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of the East-West Province initiated a Ministry at the Texas Border offering opportunities for our Sisters to volunteer.   By the end of this year, 41 sisters will have served in McAllen, Texas in a Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Brownsville Diocese. Collectively, they welcomed thousands of Central Americans during their unforgettable time there. Some of these Sisters share their reflections with us.

Sister Claire Pierz: My trip to McAllen was filled with many moving opportunities to8 experience the plight of people coming to our country—the kindest most patient people you could want to meet and so grateful for everything. At one point, I held a baby for a mother so she could eat her breakfast. One man even offered to pay for his soup. They were so grateful… even for a smiling welcoming face.

Sister Denise Rajotte: Over the last two months, two experiences have stayed in my mind and heart: a stream of faces of asylees runs in my head numerous times during each day and a sense of singlemindedness, communion with all the asylees and a clear focus on the needs of the present day. Indeed, a blessing!

9Sister Mary Friel: A beautiful Mayan mother Maria, with her teenage son had walked to the Mexican/US border in 15 days, fleeing violence and fear of forced membership in gangs… a young Honduran father said how his parents, aunt, uncle and two cousins had been shot dead. I was in tears, and he was too…

Sister Betsy Flynn: …we could hear the cries of small children… screams of troubled children, hungry children, and babies… I listened to the cries of the poor, and these cries opened my heart to the hope and courage of their mothers and fathers…risking their lives for the hope of a better life and future for their families.

Sister Mary Alice McCabe: …we have met an army of volunteers, St. Joseph Sisters of Philly, Anglican Deacons-Trinity on the Border, Rabbis, pastors, groups of Presbyterians and Methodists and many local folks like Marcia who dedicated her week off to the respite center. …the clinic gave over the counter meds …the Doctor pulled out her wallet and gave personal money to Sr. Maryann to run to the drugstore for more boxes of medicine.

Sister Ginny Scally: The gentle father I met was from Nicaragua. Gangs had murdered


Sr. Denis Raiotte & Mary Friel

his aunt, uncle, and two cousins. He had a job, but it paid next to nothing. He made a choice with his wife, to flee with his family, to the United States. He desired only to work hard to earn decent money so they could have “a future full of hope” … and a semblance of dignity and honor.

We thank each sister for her profound and touching reflections.  There will be a continuation of these reflections in August. We extend our gratitude to Sisters Ellen Dabrieo, Judith Flahavan, Betsy Flynn, and Mary Alice McCabe for their initiative, planning, organization and on-going vision of this much-needed ministry. Prayers and donations for supplies at the Center will always be appreciated.

My warmest appreciation too, to Sister Rita Raboin, who generously edited and organized these reflections.





5By Salma Hamida Sahnoun, Intern, SNDatUN: In 2017, an estimated 271 million people, or 5.5 percent of the global population aged 15-64, had used drugs in the previous year. In 2019,  35 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders. The above statistics are taken from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). To raise awareness on the urgency of the issue, the UNODC launched the  2019 World Drug Report on June 26.  The World Drug Report is a yearly publication that presents an assessment of the global drug problems, with a focus on the illicit drug situation. It also provides information on trends in the production, trafficking, and use of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamines. The report is based on data collected and prepared by Governments, the UNODC, and other international institutions that attempt to identify trends in the evolution of global illicit drug markets. Through the World Drug Report, UNODC aims to enhance Member States’ understanding of illegal global drug trends and increase awareness on the need for a more systematic collection and reporting of data relating to illicit drugs.

According to the report, only 2 in 10 people who need drug addiction treatment receive 2it, and over 70,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2017. This is unacceptable, especially when there are effective treatments for addiction. To deal with the issue of drug addiction society needs to put an end to the culture of stigmatization of drug addicts. Much of the stigma of addiction borders around the presumption that drug abuse is a moral failing, and that using the drug is an issue of free will. But, current scientific evidence shows that addiction is similar to other chronic illnesses. Addiction is a medical issue with both mental and physical manifestations, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes. So why can we treat cardiovascular problems, but we cannot treat addiction?

Read more:

2019 World Drug Report:




For the fourth year since the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the UN hosted the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals from 9 – 18 July 2019. The theme for the 2019 HLPF is “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” The High-Level Political Forum is the UN central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Global Agenda. The HLPF provides for the full and active participation of all Member States of the UN, UN specialized agencies, Civil Society Organizations, and other stakeholders.

collageA vital component of the HLPF is the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) of the SDGs. The VNR provides an opportunity for the follow-up and review of the implementation of the SDGs by the Member States. This year, forty-seven countries presented their national voluntary review for the second time since the adoption of the SDGs. 2019 also marks the completion of the first cycle of the HLPF. The following SDGs; 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17 were reviewed.

One of the highlights of the HLPF and most UN conferences is that these provide the


Sr. Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN

occasion for governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to sponsor side-events on relevant topics at the margin of these conferences. So, on 9th July, SNDatUN, Society of the Sacred Heart at the UN, International Presentation Association, Associated Country Women of the World, and the Justice Coalition of Religious at the UN (a coalition of 20 Catholic Religious NGOs of women and men accredited to the UN), co-sponsored a side event.  Our side event with the title; “SDG4: Quality Education is at the Heart of Sustainable Development,” had four panelists who spoke on the theme from the viewpoint of their respective organizations


Representatives of the co-sponsoring NGO’s

Sister Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN, presented the Notre Dame perspective. She gave an overview of the two hundred plus years efforts of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in providing quality education to children and adults in five continents where the SNDdeN have a presence. Sister Kristin who is also the founder and principal of Notre Dame Virtual School (NDVS) then focused the rest of her presentation on the NDVS, explaining how she uses technology to create awareness about the 2030 Global Agenda and other social justice issues. Through the NDVS, Sr. Kristin also makes educational resources available to Notre Dame schools (students and teachers) around the world. According to Sister, NDVS offers her the space to do what St. Julie instructed the Sisters; “to teach whatever is necessary to equip the students for life.”

The SNDatUN NGO Office is grateful to Sister Kristin, for her very insightful presentation on the work of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in providing quality education. We were also honored to welcome Sister Karen Hokanson, who accompanied her twin-sister, Kristin. It was quite an enriching experience. At the end of the very interactive session, the participants presented some policy recommendations which we intend to integrate into our advocacy strategy at the UN.

Read more:

2019 High-Level Political Forum of Sustainable Development: