Proposals and Perspectives Following Our Time at the UN in Geneva

For the last two years the International Justice, Peace and Integrity with Creation committee of the Global Family of St Joseph has been trying to increase our presence at the Human Rights Council in Genev, as part of our commitments at the United Nations.  This year two of our sisters, one from Algeria and one from Italy attended important meetings there.  Here is the perspective of Sr. Jeannette Londadjim, a native of Chad who is ministering in Algeria.

I would like to offer a personal reflection on how I see our presence in Geneva.

  1. Universal Periodic Review
    Sr. Jeannette

    Every four years, each member nation participates in a Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  These address how countries are complying with treaties they have signed with the UN.  We are able to present reports and verbal testimony to these sessions.

    In general, I would say that the UPR is a “good tool,” exercising a gentle yet strong pressure in a constructive manner, and a school of peace and mutual respect of one nation in regard to another.  It is also a school for us.  It is the school of a word which becomes action in regard to what the other has said, but also the school of a word which welcomes and corrects the other with care, in a constructive way.  The nations had at heart to emphasize the positive points of the nation under review, their improvements.   Yet they insisted equally on the recommendations and efforts needed to improve on the points which were seen as problems in the report. 

    In every case, there was an insistence on the rights of peoples which had not been honored by the country under review.  It is the recurrence of these issues in the different recommendations that reveals the truth of what had not been respected by the nation under review.  What I see as an important fruit of this painstaking exercise is that things are said.  One nation may make a report that does not accurately reflect its own situation regarding human rights, but the other like nations encourage it and express with great respect its shortcomings or limits in human rights.  It is a school of peace, of verbal non-violence and of mutual respect in a constructive dialogue.  It is a wonderful school of listening, dialogue, acceptance of contradictory ideas.

    What is our role as NGO in this place?

    I imagine it is similar in New York.  But it is important to note that the entire world is present in this place.  And to be there is to permit our charism of “love, communion and communication” to be present to all sorts of “dear neighbors.”

    I appreciated the possibility of hearing the words directed to the NGOs, either directly or indirectly, by the ambassadors of different nations at the UN.  This gave the impression of real and direct participation, even if the NGOs are only observers and have no right to decide or vote.  But it is worth the effort to be present because we can bring insights on situations and help to give direction to the reflection and the discussion.

  2. The First Informal Thematic Session on the Rights of Migrants and Refugees

    While there Sr. Jeannette was able to attend several important input sessions on issues.

    What I will remember from this workshop is the importance of participating in this type of reflection which seeks to find ways and means to develop ideas and practical and workable solutions for the protection of human rights.  It seems to me that it is in such places that we can bring our concrete experiences with our proposed responses because we are working directly and daily (through our sisters as the grassroots) on issues and with the persons concerned.

    I also note the importance of networking but especially in regard to our public voice.  This means communicating, informing.  I heard this as a call.    We need to communicate and sensitize our sisters but also the societies in which we live and where we are inserted.  We need to communicate and give information on our struggles at the UN to defend the rights of different persons: those living in poverty, women, children, trafficking victims, migrants, etc.  Our sisters often say that they do not know what we are doing at the UN.  This calls for publicity both internal to our congregations and in those places where we are working with the grassroots.

    Finally, it is important to have data.  If we are at the UN, the principal focus of our actions is to see that  those texts and treaties ratified by the countries where we live are enforced.  It means seeing that we live up to them nationally and internationally.  And for this, it is important to collect data.  Without good data, others can deny the phenomena or situations that we are denouncing or trying to change.  Without data it is impossible to evaluate progress or regression.  And without data, no defense can be given. I believe that speaking for others is the second focus or our presence at the UN.  This supposes that our sisters have formation in this viewpoint.  When we defend a case we need to have verifiable components. And for this, learning how to gather data, analyze it, etc. . . is important.

    In order for our presence at the UN to be credible in the eyes of our sisters at the grassroots throughout the world, there is a whole system, a manner of working, for us to construct and put in place together so this might function.  It is a long term project and we must rely on the experience of our presence in New York and gradually put a system in place to avoid hearing the questions which are raised at this time on how we can reach out to and engage the grassroots.

  3. Meetings with Persons and NGOs

    We were not able to meet with many persons, but those whom we met and the discussions we had, were very encouraging.   What was very clear is that others are ready and willing to help us, give us information, integrate us in those places they have created so that we can participate in the work of the UN and bring our charism, which is proper to the Sisters of St. Joseph.

    It also came out that for us to determine the unique path of our mission in the midst of this welcoming diversity, we need to define our mission.  It seems to me that a regular presence and observation must be done at the same time as our forming and progressively putting into place our system for working NGO – GRASSROOTS – NGO. This is so that little by little our work becomes effective in our way of acting and working together.  This system is essential for us to communicate with our sisters what is being done and to receive from them what they are doing on the ground – all in an interactive manner.

    Sister Jeanette Londadjim