I 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!
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.
As 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
RESPONSIBLE AND JUST RELATIONSHIPS: VISIT TO NIGERIAN MISSION AT UN
By Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN “While my attendance at the Civil Society Forum organized by 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.
Our discussion with Mr. Bosah was quite informative about the role and functioning of his office at the UN (nigeriaunmission.org) 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.”
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 her 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.”
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. rngos.wordpress.com
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.
As 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.
Sisters 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.
- Believe in Good
- Wake Up: We Are in this Together — 5 minute video (begins at 0:47) (in English only)
We choose to live with less until all have enough.
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
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 …”
Though 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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