|IBVM in the UN|
General Information about the UN
When you think of United Nations, what comes into your mind? UNICEF, UNHCR, Security Council, UNESCO, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, humanitarian assistance, peace and justice issues etc.? You would be right! The UN is an international organization founded in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War. It is committed to a wide range of issues. The UN website gives some preliminary information about its functions and activities: 'Although best known for peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance, there are many other ways the United Nations and its System (specialized agencies, funds and programmes) affect our lives and make the world a better place. The Organization works on a broad range of fundamental issues, from sustainable development, environment and refugees protection, disaster relief, counter terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, to promoting democracy, human rights, gender equality and the advancement of women, governance, economic and social development and international health, clearing landmines, expanding food production, and more, in order to achieve its goals and coordinate efforts for a safer world for this and future generations.' (The United Nations at a Glance, http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/index.shtml)
UN and Non-Governmental Organisations
Within the UN structure, non-governmental organisations have different degrees of affiliation and advocacy. Since December 2002, IBVM have Associate Status with the Department of Public Information (DPI) as an independent non-governmental organization (NGO). The DPI is under the umbrella of a section of the UN known as 'Civil Society'. Approximately 5,000 organisations work within this cluster of NGOs of the DPI. The DPI plays a coordinating role within the UN Secretariat to reach out to civil society partners around the world. It is proactive in seeking opportunities to support at international, regional, national and community levels.
We are very privileged to have a presence in the UN, since the turn of the 21st century, with Evanne Hunter IBVM (Canadian Province), Doryne Kirby (Canadian Province), Marilla De Souza (Indian Province) and, currently, Anne Kelly (Australian Province). Practically, our status means that IBVM can access significant UN meetings. Communication to and from the IBVM communities and individuals in the provinces and the UN representative is fundamental to our involvement with the international community, enabling strategic contribution to discussions on global policy and strengthening our advocacy role. 'Our presence as an NGO at the United Nations is a sign and symbol of our corporate desire to work collaboratively with others to highlight both the needs of those who are voiceless and marginalized and the issues that threaten planet Earth' (Mary Wright IBVM, former General Leader, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Handbook for Reflection and Planning, May 2006). As members of the international IBVM network, the UN NGO strives to make a connection between direct service of the community and bringing about systemic change in the areas related to peace, justice and integrity of creation. IBVM at the UN seeks to advocate, engage and report on key issues that are essential to our mission: poverty eradication, human rights, women and girls, trafficking of persons, funding for development, HIV/AIDS, care of the environment and climate change.
If you look at the UN website, you will, more than likely, be completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume and scale of areas which are addressed on a global scale. Our present UN NGO Anne Kelly IBVM told IBVMs gathered in Dublin at meetings recently, that she found it all very enriching and yet overpowering. How could you decide on areas which are priorities, when everything which is discussed is of such interest and value internationally and often locally? The Millennium Development Goals are major priorities and will continue to be so. In our General Congregation in Peru 2006, we committed ourselves, as an Institute, to 'sharpen our engagement with the Church and the world' and within that remit there were certain priorities which we identified. Some of these areas are included as Anne's focus for her tenure in the UN:
What does the UN IBVM NGO do?
(The following areas are listed on website of the Australian Province: http://www.loreto.org.au/Home/Our-Story/Our-Global-Misison/Loreto-at-UN.aspx)
To keep informed about current UN policies, resolutions, strategies, alliances and directions.
To determine which knowledge is useful and relevant to IBVM members and their colleagues.
To develop communication tools to convey this knowledge in appropriate ways.
To stimulate communication between members of IBVM networks concerned with global justice: both between themselves and with the UN representative.
To facilitate communication between members and UN agencies, - such as the DPI, UN Women, UNESCO and UNAIDS - and with NGOs concerned about similar issues.
To work collaboratively with members of civil society in keeping poverty eradication and gender equality central to discussions at the UN.
To create supportive events on relevant issues to parallel the activities of major UN commissions and meetings: Social Development, Status of Women, Sustainable Development, Indigenous Peoples, DPI, Finance for Development, Annual Ministerial Reviews and CEDAW (Committee for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women).
Making oral and written interventions at the major commissions.
Informing members of IBVM networks of events and/or conferences that would be useful for them.
Assisting with finding the necessary funds to allow those with a special interest or area of expertise to attend such events and conferences.
To work collaboratively with NGOs and other agencies with a similar fundamental goal.
To raise awareness of global issues within our Loreto networks.
To make the policies, conventions and resolutions of the UN known throughout Loreto international networks.
To promote an understanding of the interconnectedness of all parts of our planet.
To act as a catalyst to prompt actions to achieve the fundamental goal.
What can YOU do?
Our UN IBVM NGO is there for a specific purpose and she has a significant role. This role could be quite a solitary one were it not for the fact that she is influential in her capacity to lobby on various issues, in collaborating with many other organizations, in engaging us to make our priorities known so that they, too, can be part of the global forum. In the Irish Province a few years ago, our schools were all contacted by the UN IBVM NGO to write to the Irish ambassador to the UN, to request him to attend a conference at which Ephigenia Gachiri IBVM (East African Province) was making a presentation on Female Genital Mutilation. Suddenly, we were all lobbying, writing emails and letters. Consequently, it made a difference that this pertinent issue made it to the international arena and gained global significance and was taken seriously. It shows what we can all do, very simply, with little effort. So, think about it. Think about what you can do to liaise with Anne Kelly. Read and discuss what is submitted from the UN IBVM NGO office. Engage with the material. Take an interest in the issues. Consider what actions you can take. Keep informed about issues. Check out some YouTube clips on the issues affecting women and girls in The Girl Effect. Take time to join the UN mailing list. Sign online petitions for aspects of the millennium goals. Lobby your local and European politicians. Support the Mary Ward International Fundraising efforts for projects for education, sustainability, and empowerment of women. Have a themed coffee morning. Form an advocacy group for an issue about which you are passionate. Don't wait for someone else to do it; it may then be too late. The important thing is not to consider the UN as something remote and out there, with little relevance to life. It has every relevance to life in the struggles which humanity and the environment face in all corners of the world.
We can also consider the issues emerging in Irish society – and there are many different issues – which need to be highlighted and that could get some representation on the international stage. Maybe we could start by identifying these, getting the facts of the situation, finding people who have interests in these areas, collaborating with existing organizations in our own country to campaign to have them addressed, and using our NGO status at the UN to give these issues priority. We have an NGO at the UN who would be delighted to engage us and with us any time. Thank you, Anne!