By Sister Nathanael Lee, LSHF, Missionary Oblates’ Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) 2015–2017 Intern/Fellow. She is from South Korea and a member of the Little Servants of the Holy Family.)

Sr. Nathanael Lee in UN   General Assembly Hall

Sr. Nathanael Lee in UN General Assembly Hall

A major part of my two-year internship with the Justice and Peace ministry at Missionary Oblates – US Province is understanding the workings of the United Nations. For my local congregation back in Seoul, Korea, the UN is considered beyond our scope of work. It is a distant institution and far away from our daily apostolate life. I can hear colleagues from my Order, Little Servants of the Holy Family, saying, “Why in the world would a Catholic Sister need to go to the United Nations?” Needless to say, my colleagues are always ready to serve the poor and keen on caring for those most abandoned right in our neighborhood. We as an Order have no problem with a ‘so-called’ grassroots level approach to human problems.

Before this recent visit to the United Nations, my knowledge of indigenous people was confined to images from the 1986 British film ‘Mission’ and 1990 American film ‘Dances with Wolves’. From my perspective they both present a stereotypical view of indigenous people. South Korea ethnically is a pretty homogeneous society, so I have very little knowledge of indigenous issues. It may be surprising to some people to know that this was the first time I heard about “rights” for Indigenous people. I was not only ignorant as a global citizen, but I also had a narrow perception of the concept of minority. So recently participating in the UN Indigenous Forum simultaneously exposed me to two new things: the UN system and the issue of indigenous rights.

The 15th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues took place in New York City from May 9-20, 2016. I was amazed to see a large number of indigenous people proudly wearing their traditional attire in the General Assembly hall and raising their voice. Their stories were equally fascinating and agonizing – homicide, massacres, evacuation, and displacement, etc. These were stories I never hear about through the mainstream media. I wondered “why”, considering a resolution on the rights of indigenous peoples was declared and adopted by the UN in 2007. For me, the UN was the perfect place to begin absorbing this totally new subject matter. I was learning by listening to real indigenous people in their own voices, reading through official conference documents, and participating in side-events.

Here in Washington, D.C., through the Oblate JPIC office, I have learned how to approach global and national issues that begin at the grassroots level. The link from grassroots to national then international promotes a “no one left behind” strategy. It is like the Good Shepherd who goes after one-lost sheep until he finds it among the hundred. (Cf. Luke 15:4) In my case, ‘a woman religious from a small local congregation goes to the United Nations’ sounds unrealistic somehow at the beginning. Having said that, I am confident now about persuading my Little Servants of the Holy Family Sisters on just how appropriate it is for us to engage with the UN on behalf of voiceless people in desperate need. It was a tremendous privilege to participate in the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I am grateful to VIVAT International, an accredited member of the UN, for bringing me as part of their delegation. I appreciate all people who strive and search for one lost sheep until they find it.

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By Veronica Mwangangi, IBVM, SNDatUN delegate to UNCTAD 14:

At the UNCTAD 14 Conference I will interact and share ideas with people of different nationalities on the economic challenges that affect trade and development. I hope, by the end of the conference, that it will be clear what action plans we need to put in place to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Sébastien Nkoa, OP, SNDatUN delegate to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (
UNCTAD): I am interested to know how the international community and UNCTAD in particular will work to implement both the Sustainable Development Goals and Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the financing road map to achieve the SDGs. We are the ones to make our future bright or dark. I hope through my UN conference participation to shed my contribution of light to make our world a better place.

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Celine CheronoBy Celine Cherono, IBVM, SNDatUN delegate to UNCTAD 14Inspired by Nelson Mandela, I have a dream to campaign relentlessly for an end to extreme poverty. UNCTAD 14 is my golden opportunity. Indeed many people have been trapped in the prison of man-made poverty and their freedom depends on my actions. I really want human persons to live in a world free from poverty, for as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. Therefore I want to gain more skills so that my dream can blossom.

My motivation is this sad reality. You find young girls from age 9 giving birth! A child giving birth to a child! She is not even aware of what motherhood entails… It’s so painful… I have witnessed this even from my close relatives and my own sister and I know the pain. The mother of an immature mother takes responsibility. In most cases, they are rejected and for them to survive, they get other men who cheat on them, impregnate them and dump them. So, as they look for money to raise their kids through the dirty means of prostitution, another child arrives and another one and another one. All because of poverty.

With this harsh and painful reality, my dream is to reach out to at least one in 2017, educate her on life issues, then begin a small business for her. I am already sacrificing part of my personal funds towards this so that she may enjoy the freedom of human dignity. I have come to realize that the world is eager for actions not words. Therefore I am acting with courage and vision.

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Wamuyu WachiraBy Wamuyu Wachira, IBVM, SNDatUN delegate to UNCTAD 14: As a lecturer in Peace and Conflict studies, I have been lecturing on topics such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the deliberations of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, The Hyogo Conference, Japan on Disaster Management, peace and economic development and women, peace and development, and the role of the Civil Society in sustainable peacebuilding. Therefore, when I heard about the UNCTAD 14 conference I was very interested and was very grateful when I was invited and selected as a delegate.

During this meeting I will be interested in discussions on the following issues among others: Economic and political empowerment of women especially in the African continent. Topics such as the perception of women’s role and how to improve women’s bargaining positions, promoting gender equality, affirmative actions especially for girls, and marginalised and women’s access to productive resources will be of interest to me.

The other area of interest is on youth, especially in the African continent. I will be interested in discussions especially in the area of their contribution to socio-economic and political development. Areas of interest will therefore be youth unemployment and underemployment. These issues are of essence to me because if they are not addressed they could suffocate the potential of youth as transforming and agents of change. Hence, through this conference I hope the deliberations made will be actualized and harnessed. I am hopeful that there will be discussions on some of the ways of doing this; for instance, through training, new technology and education.

Care of our common mother earth is also an area of interest for me. I am therefore looking forward to discussions on food security, trade, and the impact of new wars, especially the ‘war on terror’, and which if not addressed could hamper the actualization of the sustainable development goals.

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UNCTAD 14: new ideas birthed and potent ones awakened to action

Eunice NdabiBy Eunice Ndabih, IBVM, SNDatUN delegate to UNCTAD 14Every opportunity is a learning experience and once an opportunity presents itself, it’s upon me to make use of it or else it may be once in a lifetime chance – should I miss? This is the motivation behind my interest in participating in this conference that is a global platform in which the participants are voices, eyes, and ears of their respective states.

In the year 2009, I had a chance to represent my university campus at a workshop organized by international movement of catholic students on gender and women’s empowerment as a way of reducing poverty in Africa. It was a workshop to come up with an action plan in response to the MDGs but also to exercise our motto of preferential option for the poor. The fruits of that workshop are still viable to the present as later we were asked to discern on a project in which we would respond to what we had gained. After sharing with my colleagues back on the campus, we agreed upon sponsoring some needy girls through school and we started with two girls who are now completing their secondary education.

My participation in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is a chance to meet and be part of a global mind in which new ideas are birthed and potent ones awakened to action. I am a delegate of not only my country Kenya but of a wider community of the christian fraternity as a religious sister. I am grateful for the opportunity.

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DPI/NGO Conference: Education for Global Citizenship

The sixty-sixth Department of Public Information (DPI)/Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference will take place in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, from 30 May to 1 June 2016. Organised by the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, NGO community, Government of the Republic of Korea, and National Organizing Committee of Korea, this year’s Conference will focus on Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together.

Participants will consider three pillars of education:
1. Formal Education
2. Informal Education and Training
3. Advocacy and Public Information

According to Conference organizers, “The Conference aims at harnessing expertise across a wide spectrum of civil society organizations to unleash a range of education initiatives that ensure equitable quality education as well as lifelong learning opportunities for all.”   

For more information: outreach.un.org/ngorelations/conference-2016/