4Member States of the UN meets annually for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) since the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The 2020 forum was, however, held virtually from 7 – 16 July, because of the COVID-19 restrictions. The HLPF serves as an annual stock-taking event to track progress on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the Member States. An integral part of the forum is usually the Voluntary National Views (VNR). The VNR is a process where the Member States share progress made in the implementation of the SDGs in their respective countries. Forty-seven countries gave their voluntary national views during the 2020 HLPF. Among these were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, and a host of others.

The theme for the 2020 HLPF was “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: 5realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development. With just ten years left to 2030, the race against time for achieving the SDGs has begun. The UN Secretary-General declared “a decade of action” during the SDG Summit in September 2019, and called on world leaders to accelerate sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest challenges such as poverty, and gender, climate change, inequality, and host of others.

In the speech given by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed, to mark the closing of the 2020 HLPF, she cautioned that the world was “off the track in achieving the SDGs by 2030, even before the COVID-19 crisis erupted.” Ms. Mohammed recommends increasing investment in public services, showing solidarity on financing, and ‘reshaping’ how people work, learn, live, and consume as some of the measures required to turn the tide around. She urged governments to listen to young people, who are demanding justice and equality, and to invest in an inclusive, networked multilateralism, with the United Nations at the center.

The world is currently at a crossroads – the achievement of the 2030 Agenda is possible but requires accelerated action. The economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have once again underscored the necessity for governments to prioritize investment in the implementation of the 17 SDGs as a matter of urgency.  The COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to humanity, but it also provides an opportunity for change and innovation towards sustainability, if governments show the political will.


Read more:

UN Secretary-General’s 2020 Report:

2020 HLPF:










The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution 73/23 on 3 December 2018, designating 24 January the International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education in promoting peace and sustainable development.


Though progress has been made in the past decades in providing access to education for more children, especially children from less-developed economies, a lot more still needs to be done. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over 258 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school.” This is unacceptable. “Education is a human right, a public good, and a public responsibility.” Therefore, it must not become a tool for reinforcing inequality. Providing “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all” by 2030 is goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by Member States of the UN in 2015. Governments must be held accountable to deliver these goals. Education is key to achieving the SDGs. And as rightly pointed out by the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Ms. Amina Mohammed, “failure to attain the educational needs of the population, equals failure to achieve the SDGs.”

SDG 4: Facts and Figures

  • Enrolment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 percent, 4but 57 million primary age children remain out of school.
  • More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • An estimated 50 percent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.

Read more:

Ten targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 4:

International Day of Education:




Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

By Mary Johnson, SNDdeN; Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Trinity University in Washington, D.C: During the week of November 18, 2019, I had the privilege of visiting our SNDdeN NGO office across the street from the United Nations and accompanying Sr. Amarachi to several events at the UN.  I also had the opportunity to attend events sponsored by UNICEF to mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other activities of concern to NGOs. Sr. Amarachi also introduced me to several sisters who serve in their congregational NGOs in order to gain their perspective on the relationship of Catholic Social Teaching to the work of NGOs of women religious at the UN, part of my research project during my sabbatical.


 I was so inspired by the work of so many NGOs– secular, religious, Catholic, and those staffed by women and men religious–all representing the thought and experience of civil society.  I was also so proud to observe the hard work and obvious influence of the NGO of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the UN.  I will concentrate here on just a few points.

First, the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN seem to run as life-giving, Gospel-oriented stream through the analysis of the agenda of faith-based NGOs.  Global homelessness is now being discussed through the lenses of the SNGs.


Sisters Mary Johnson and Amarachi Ezeonu

Second, the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was marked by several events that included the voices of children and teens, as well as teachers and social workers. While it was very disheartening to be reminded that the United States is the only nation in the world that has not ratified the CRC, several speakers did comment that progress has been made toward the protection of the rights of children worldwide over the last three decades, but much progress remains to be made.

3Third, Sr. Amarachi introduced me to Teresa Blumenstein, the Coordinator of the Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR), a coalition of 18 Catholic organizations which are accredited to the UN. The majority of the organizational members of the coalition are NGOs of religious congregations of women, including the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  The primary aim of JCoR, according to their publications, is “to enhance collaboration among our members, at UN headquarters, and around the world, in our work to address the root causes of poverty, destruction of the natural environment, and unsustainable development.” One method for the Coalition to meet its shared goal is through a series of workshops in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Africa, and India. The workshops include dialogues among the various congregations involving social, political, and economic analyses of regional injustices, with plans for collective action on the local and regional levels, in partnership with their representatives at the UN who work on those issues on the international level.

Finally, Sr. Amarachi and I were surprised to encounter another SNDdeN connection at the UN.  One day as we walked through the UN building, we passed an exhibit entitled “Irish Educators Abroad.”  Several panels highlighted the work of numerous people born in Ireland who served as educators all over the world.  As we viewed the panels, we came upon one on which an SNDdeN was pictured, Sr. Julia McGroarty, who was born in Ireland in 1827 and immigrated with her family to Cincinnati at the age of four.  She is described in the exhibit as a “pioneer in education” for standardizing curriculum in the SNDdeN schools in the US, and for her founding of schools, as well as Trinity College, now Trinity Washington University.


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”:




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:



3By Ms. Salma Sahnoun, Intern, SNDatUN: On 7 June, the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea hosted a conference to commemorate the World Oceans Day (8 June) under the theme: “Gender and the Oceans.” Storytellers and speakers from around the world came to share their perspectives on how to ensure cleaner oceans as well as ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities such as; marine research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking.

Mrs. Aunofo Havea, the founder of Vaka and Moana, was one of the panelists at the conference.  She is also the first licensed female captain in all of Polynesia, and the creator of the “Swimming with Whales Industry” in her native country of Tonga. Mrs. Havea inspired the audience with the story of her struggle to save Whales in the shores of her region since her youth. She shared the experience of the horror she felt as she watched the last whales in the coasts of her country being killed for profit by the seafood industries. This was what inspired her to engage in the advocacy for the preservation of biodiversity in the oceans as she encouraged more women to follow her lead.

Besides the emphasis on the importance of women in advocacy for the health of the oceans, another speaker, Mr. Tun Lin, spoke on the issue of human trafficking. Mr. Tun Lin, (a trafficking survivor from Myanmar) spoke about his personal experience of being sold by a ‘friend’ to fishing vessel operators from Thailand. He was enslaved and forced to work on the fishing boat for 11 years. He could not escape, despite several attempts to do so because of the threat on his family by his traffickers. Mr. Tun Lin narrated his ordeal of being tortured, sometimes with electric shocks.  He eventually escaped in 2014.  Mr. Tun Lin noted that, he was at the United Nations to share his story so that more people would become aware of the prevalence of human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the seafood industry.”

Lastly, Ms. Patima Tungpuchayakul, the co-founder of the Labor Rights Promotion 4Network, also spoke. According to Ms. Tungpuchayakul, the mission of her organization is to investigate human trafficking incidences, to rescue victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. They also offer services such as healthcare, education, and shelter to the victims. Ms. Patima  Tungpuchayakul said that her organization has so far rescued over 5000 children, women, and men who were trafficked and enslaved on fishing vessels. She noted that modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the fishing industry is not just a South Asian problem,  but that it is a global issue.  And as such, she urged the UN to come up with internationally agreed regulatory policy to ensure for just wage, safety, and human rights of men and women who work in the fishing industry.

Read more:


UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea:

The UN World Oceans Day:




15 June is observed as the World Environment Day. The theme for the 2019 Environment Day is, “Beat Air Pollution.” The World Health Organization estimates that over seven million people die each year from illnesses linked to air pollution. Nine out of every ten people around the world breathe bad air. There are several causes of air pollution. While a few are caused by natural events, many are as a result of human activities.  Protecting our environment is crucial to the survival of the human race and other species who share the earth planet with us. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, was unequivocal in his message to world leaders and other stakeholders to mark the 2019 World Environment Day.  His words; “It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution, end fossil fuel subsidies, and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy, not a grey economy.”

Issues related to the environment has continued to gain more attention at the UN since2 the first conference (Conference on the Human Environment) was convened in Stockholm, Sweden, on 5 June 1972. On 5 December of same year, the  General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 5 June as the World Environment Day. The purpose for observing World Environment Day, according to the UN Environmental Programme is to raise awareness and generate political momentum around growing concerns such as the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification, and global warming.

Human beings are both “creatures and moulders of their environment, which gives them physical sustenance and affords them the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual growth” – UN. How are you contributing to creating cleaner air and greener environment where you live?

Read more:

“Breath of Life:” Video by the World Health Organization on how air pollution impacts the human body:

Air pollution – a major global public health issue:




April 22 is observed as the International Mother Earth Day. Mother Earth Day according 3to the United Nations is commemorated each year to remind us that the Earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2009, to designate April 22 as Mother Earth Day in recognition of our collective responsibility as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration; to promote harmony with nature and the Earth, to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity. Since the earth sustains us, we all have a responsibility to protect her. Every single day should, therefore, be Mother Earth Day. So, take an action today to save our beautiful planet from the impending catastrophe of climate change. Celebrate Earth Day today. Think Green! Act Green!

To accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019.

Read more:

UN Earth Day:

UN News :

Mother Earth by Jane Goodall:

ND Seishin High School, Hiroshima, Japan visits the UN


Students in the SNDatUN NY Office


I was quite delighted to welcome students from Notre Dame Seishin High School, Hiroshima, Japan, to the SNDatUN Office in New York, on 28th March 2018. The students were accompanied by Sister Mary Corripio, SNDdeN, and Ms. Aoyama, another faculty member. Below are comments from some of the students on the experience of their visit to the United Nations.



My hometown, Misuzugaoka, has a strong connection, and we are acting to achieve SDGs 11: “SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES.”

Until recently, the conditions of garbage in my city had been terrible.  Crows and cats had always ruined there because the garbage bags were covered by only plastic sheet.  We couldn’t stand these things any longer, so we began to collect recyclable materials by ourselves and selling them. We used the money we made to purchase iron cages.  Now, we put garbage bags in these cages, and see no crows or cats around there.  Finally, we all live in a clean town.  I’m proud of this community.  I hope other cities in similar situation would learn from our city.

In the future, I want to work at the UN and engage myself in making world peace.  Thank you so much for giving us a chance to listen to your lecture. By Riko Fujiwara


I thought about SDG #5: “GENDER EQUALITY”

In the world there are a lot of countries where gender equal society does not yet exist.  In my country, sex abuse or unfair terms of employment still exist.

However, I thought we can’t create sustainable society unless women with ability and knowledge lead the world and create true peace and equal world.

I have heard about efforts by the United Nations to address the problem of gender inequality in the world.  I will try to share all that I saw and heard with my family, friends and other people. By Mizuki Kanou

What impressed me most during my visit to the United Nations was Sustainable Development Goals.  I had never known this project until I went to the United Nations.  This time I went to America for the first time, and I realize the difference between America and Japan.  I thought different countries have different problems.  Japan has many problems, too, so I want to take part in this project and contribute to solving them and building sustainable society.

Thank you for telling us about the United Nations.  By Kaho Ohara


There are many things that had impact on me during my visit to the United Nations Headquarters.  I was especially impressed by a statue which had been exposed to radiation in Nagasaki in 1945 and the guide introduced Hiroshima and Nagasaki for everyone.  I was surprised at this and happy, because I want people all over the world to know about Hiroshima.  I have learned about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, atomic bomb and peace since I was little.  I think that if more people know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we can come a step closer to world peace.  I learned that world peace could be accomplished with all countries and all people in the world, so I will try to do something about it as a person living in the world.  By Saki Nishimoto


Thank you for talking about the UN.

I’m interested in the UN and NGO works, so I was very excited.  I was deeply impressed when I saw the “Non-violence” and “United Nations General Assembly”, which I had watched on TV or read from books.

Now, there are many social issues in the world, and I’m worried about them.  I usually think what I should do especially for refugees and global warming.

I will study hard to develop my language skills and always pay attention to social issues.  Then, I want to be back to the UN again.   By Natsumi Ohara


I was so glad that I could go to the United Nations.  When I knew many commitments which are taken there, I realized again how cool the United Nation is.  When I saw the conference hall that I often see on TV, I was surprised at how large that was and knew from experience that here is the center of the world.

I conjure up visions of the conference atmosphere making many people all over the world discuss many problems.  When I saw that, I did want to work there and work out a lot of problems all over the world.  I got motivation from this experience.

Thank you so much.   By Sumi Sato