Ezeonu 2016 finalI thank Jean Stoner, SNDdeN, for the tremendous work she did at the United Nations (UN), and for her mentorship. I begin my new job with great sense of enthusiasm as I move into the future with hope, faith and courage. Though I am aware of my inadequacies and the fear of the unknown, I dare into the future with confidence knowing that I have a multitude of good people behind me. Efforts to effect systemic change at the global level often compares to hauling a huge rock up a steep hill on a rainy day. Therefore, I would heed this wise advice of St. Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.” Thank you all in anticipation for your future support. I look forward to any suggestions you may have on how the SNDdeN at UN Office can be of better service. Remember, we are all in this together!


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




 By Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN “While my attendance at the Civil Society Forum organized Eucharia Madueke crop.jpgby the UN Commission for Social Development in February 2016 was certainly a privilege, the outstanding event for me was meeting with a Minister at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations. Along with Maura Browne, SNDdeN Director of Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation, and Jean Stoner, SNDdeN representative at the UN, I was warmly welcomed by Mr. Anthony Bosah.

Bosah.jpgOur discussion with Mr. Bosah was quite informative about the role and functioning of his office at the UN ( but I believe that our impact during the conversation was important as well. Mr. Bosah was interested in learning of our engagement in society, our political involvement, and our stand against land grabbing. Speaking with us, he said, was instructive. We also shared with him about the African Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), an organization established in 1983 by American Catholic missionaries in Africa to promote responsible and just relationships between the United States and African countries. Sisters of Notre Dame have been an active member of AFJN since its beginning.”



Book launch

L to R: Joy Ogwu, Emeka Obiezu and Cecile                                      Meijer at the book launch

At a recent monthly meeting of Catholic sisters, brothers, and priests who are NGO representatives at the United Nations, a new publication was announced: “It Is Good for Us to Be Here: Catholic Religious Institutes as NGOs at the United Nations”, edited by Emeka Xris Obiezu OSA, Joan F.Burke SNDdeN, and Cecile Meijer RSCJ.

In Emeka Obiezu book coverher comments during the book launch, Professor Joy Ogwu, Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, emphasized the many contributions that men and women religious make in their advocacy efforts at the UN. “Groups from catholic traditions, especially those of institutes of religious life, have been the most influential faithbased NGOs. They have not only played a range of positive roles but have also affected UN decision-making and its approach to global issues by the moral and ethical consciousness they bring to the entire process of peace, security, and development. Nowhere is their constructive role in promoting the common good more evident than at the United Nations, the heart of international politics.”



RNGO planning committee for World Interfaith Harmony Week at UN General Assembly

In a world where conflict is often precipitated in the name of religion, NGOs are working hard to foster mutual respect among people of differing faith traditions. The Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations (RNGO) is composed of the representatives of national and international organizations which define their work as religious, spiritual or ethical in nature and are accredited to the UN. RNGO meets regularly to share information and insights about complex issues and events at the UN.

The Committee’s focus is two fold: it serves as a forum to inform and educate our constituencies about the global challenges of our time and the constructive role that the UN can play in addressing those issues, and to exchange and promote shared religious and ethical values in the deliberations of the world organization.  


On my way to a UN meeting in midtown Manhattan a few years ago, I noticed a sign that said, “We’re Here for Good”. These words, posted in the window of the local YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), struck me as describing as well the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the United Nations. Both are also working for good and staying for the long term.

DPI NGO 2015As the UN gets ready to celebrate in 2015 the 70th anniversary of its founding, we are reminded of how much the world has changed since the original 51 countries signed the UN Charter. With 193 member nations today, issues addressed by the UN are significantly more complex than in 1945. The good news is that collaboration and cooperation continue to facilitate change on a regular basis around the world. And we NGOs accredited to the UN work together to advocate governments to honor their global commitments and eliminate inequities wherever they exist.

Nigerian sisters.jpgSisters and Associates of Notre Dame continue to proclaim God’s goodness and minister with those living in poverty as our first Sisters did more than 200 years ago. Our priorities at the UN — Education, Financing for Development, Migration, Poverty Eradication, Sustainable Development, Stopping Human Trafficking, Women and Girls’ Rights — insert us into networks advocating for change and celebrating what is being accomplished. We are here for good in the long term too.

We choose to live with less until all have enough.
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur


Amarachi Grace Ezeonu 1By Amarachi Ezeonu, SNDdeN

A few of the activities of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations include the following roles: policy advocacy, information dissemination, awareness raising, development education, joint operational projects, providing technical expertise, and collaborating with UN agencies, programs and funds. NGOs fulfill these roles individually or by networking with other like-minded groups to form committees and sub-committees on different issues such as Anti-Trafficking of Persons, Working Group on Girls, Financing for Development, Education, Social Development, Poverty Eradication, and various others. NGOs enrich the capability of the UN through providing their field experience and insights to various networks and during UN sessions and associations.

Statements (oral or written) by NGOs at UN sessions are often considered credible and valued because of their expertise and contact with people at the grassroots. According to ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31:

“Written statements relevant to the work of the Council may be submitted by organizations in general consultative status and special status on subjects in which these organizations have a special competence. Such statements shall be circulated by the Secretary General of the United Nations to the members of the council …”

meetingThough most NGOs work with people at the grassroots, however, their presence at the UN is invaluable because this affords them the leverage to also influence policy formulation at global, regional and national levels on some of the issues which directly or indirectly impact on the lives of people these organizations work with. NGOs may not be able to directly challenge member states of the UN who have not lived up to their commitments to the conventions and treaties they have signed and ratified, but these countries are often very aware that the NGOs are watching. Therefore, this monitoring compels them to strive to honor their commitments.

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The last few years have led to a reassessment of the role of faith in development efforts. The influence of religion is rising in most parts of the developing world. This, in turn, has increased the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in development and public life. Because of their deep ties to local communities, their partnerships with powerful religious institutions and FBOs, and their role as cultural influencers, religious leaders (RLs) have also become key stakeholders in development efforts.” – United Nations Development Program Draft Guidelines for Working with Faith-Based Organizations.

Mary Jo FBO articleMany UN Agencies and Permanent Missions have recognized and value the fact that local grassroots communities trust religious NGOs. Religious NGOs are known for efforts to listen and learn from the people they serve; that is why they can act as intermediaries of change for the better in a variety of issues. They find effective ways to educate children, especially girls, in rural and marginal areas. As with many other NGOs they are known for being able to operate “on a shoestring” and are often supported and subsidized by the international faith community. Providing food and shelter is not enough; building the capacity to develop potential in those that they serve is essential, so that leadership soon springs from the population served. The following qualities are recognized by agencies as qualities evidenced by religious NGOs:

  • Long-term sustainable presence: Religious institutions are generally very sustainable. They build and are a crucial repository of long-term social ties.
  • Motivated voluntary service: Religious have a high level of commitment. They motivate action through emphasis on compassion and service; unity and interconnectedness; justice and reconciliation. They see volunteering as part of their calling.

Encouragement of civil society advocacy: FBOs and RLs have extensive networks of congregations, affiliates, organizations, and individuals. These horizontally and vertically organized networks often constitute remarkable channels of communication as well as human and financial resources. These large national constituencies offer the potential to work powerfully in advocacy and reconciliation.



Group discussion


Smiling participants

Twenty-one Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Africa and Latin America participated in a 3-day UN orientation in early July. Along with support staff, they listened to informed and inspiring NGOs speak on Sustainable Development Goals, Mining, Financing for Development, and Girls’ Rights; learned about the UN structure and our SNDatUN Office; and celebrated networking and advocacy on local, national, and international levels. Time for conversation was woven into the workshop format as sisters shared stories and insights on issues from their various countries and ministries. In addition to NGO presentations and group discussions, participants spent a day touring the UN and observing government meetings. Sisters connected across cultures and languages, experienced the international flavor of the UN, and identified ways to network around global issues and engage others when they return home.


Amarachi Grace Ezeonu 1One of my friends called recently and in the course of our conversation I told him that I was on internship with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the United Nations in New York. He was very surprised and wanted to know what the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur do at the United Nations. “I thought you are nuns. What business do you have at the UN?” he asked. I explained to him that though we are a Religious Order, we also are a non-governmental organization (NGO) by virtue of our service to humanity. It is through the capacity of our NGO status that the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are present at the UN. I further explained to my friend that as an NGO, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur possess consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the organs of the United Nations system. My friend sounded even more surprised and wanted to know more about consultative status of NGOs at the UN. “What contributions do NGOs with consultative status make at the UN?” he asked further. I believe that, like my friend, some people may appreciate gaining a little insight concerning the roles non-governmental and civil society organizations play at the United Nations.

The United Nations has maintained partnerships with non-governmental organizations and civil society since its inception in 1945. Though non-governmental organizations relate with the UN system in several ways, my particular focus here is on the NGOs’ relation with ECOSOC. ECOSOC, one of the five organs of the UN, is charged with the responsibility for all the economic and social and development issues that the UN systems encounter. NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status are those engaged in activities related to economic and social development.

The modality for this relationship is clearly provided for in the UN Charter, Chapter X, Article 71. It reads:

“The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made with international organizations and, where appropriate, with national organizations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations concerned.” 

meeting 2The above Article of the UN Charter makes collaboration between the UN and NGOs possible. The number of NGOs with consultative status with ECOSOC has significantly increased from 45 at the foundation of the UN to approximately 3,400 currently. These NGOs affiliate with the UN Secretariat, programs, funds and agencies, as well as consulting with member states of ECOSOC. This relationship is mutually beneficial to both parties.

I am very aware that this article is only a scratch on the surface of the work of NGOs and civil society at the UN. You can read and learn more about UN-NGO relationship from some of the sources I listed below. In the meantime, I will continue this discussion with my friend when we meet. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience life at the UN as an NGO intern. The experience has given me a deeper appreciation of the presence of my Religious Order, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the United Nations. It has also given me great appreciation for the UN system. Though the UN may not be perfect, I still believe it is one of the greatest global achievements of the 20th century!

For more information, go to:   (in Arabic, English, French, Spanish)  (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish)