NGO ASSOCIATED WITH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL (ECOSOC) AT THE UNITED NATIONS
At the centre of the UN development system, we conduct cutting-edge analysis, agree on global norms and advocate for progress. Our collective solutions advance sustainable development. The NGO Committee for Social Development is a branch of ECOSOC. Below is an example of the way our NGO is working within ECOSOC through the Civil Society Forum.
Cynthia Matthew CJ, one of our representatives at the UN, is the Secretary of this Civil Society Forum. Below is her brief Curriculum Vitae:
Before moving to New York in 2017 to take up her role as NGO Representative, Cynthia practiced law and was a member of advocates Association at Patna High Court, India. She was also a member of Buxar District Bar Association where she practiced in the District Court. Closely connected with this aspect of her work was that of Director of the NGO – Chirag Education, Culture and Health Awareness Center, working with Dalit women, children and youth in the State of Bihar and a member of Prison Ministry India (PMI,) a voluntary organization working for the welfare of the prisoners. She is a member of the Religious Forum for Justice and Peace, India, where she has also acted as secretary. She has been the social action coordination for her organization Congregation of Jesus (CJ) Patna, India, and a member of Asian Movement of Women Religious against Human Trafficking (AMRAT). She recently worked with the local District Consumer Protection Council and District Vigilant Committee for inspecting Cable & Television Channel operators. Cynthia holds Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Bachelor of Law (LLB), degrees.
Civil Society Forum 2023
The Commission for Social Development has been the key UN body in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.
The 61st session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD61) will take place from 7th to 16th February 2023 in a hybrid (in-person and digital) format and will address the following Priority Theme: Inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 for sustainable livelihood, well-being, and dignity for all: eradicating poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions to achieve the 2030 agenda.
About the Civil Society Forum
During the UN Commission for Social Development, the NGO Committee is dedicated to raising awareness on the Priority Theme and bringing the voices, experiences, and recommendations from the grassroots. The NGO Committee holds a Civil Society Forum and other capacity-building and network events on the occasion of the Commission. The NGO Committee runs on a full volunteering program and all events, website & social media platforms are voluntarily managed. Below are Five Action Plans the group hopes to present at this year’s Forum.
Commission on Social Development Advocacy Priorities for full and productive employment and Decent Work:
1. Address growing economic and social inequality through universal protections, wage policies and formalisation of work
We call upon member states of the United Nations to:
▪ Recognize, redistribute and support unpaid care work with social protection systems and floors and reaffirm that care work is a collective responsibility to be equally shared among men and women, and across society.
▪ Promote formalization of work so that all workers’ rights are protected both in the informal economy and self-employment.
▪ Insist on equal pay for work of equal value between men and women,and establish non-discriminatory livable wages.
▪ Create “Decent Work” by legislation and regulations assuring safe and secure work environments free from abuse, harassment and violence.
▪ Commit to the global implementation of Universal Social Protection Systems and floors, recognized as a way to reduce inequalities, alleviate poverty and honor social inclusion.
▪ Increase sustainable employment opportunities and productivity of labor for low income groups in rural and agricultural areas.
▪ Maximize the benefits of labor migration for origin and destination countries and protect and promote labor rights for all migrant workers, and in particular women migrant workers.
▪ Promote and facilitate the unionization of workers to ensure their protection and rights.
2. Enact inclusive, people centred and gender-sensitive policies and programs
We call upon member states of the United Nations to:
▪ Increase participation of people living in poverty, seeking employment, or needing education and up-skilling in the development of policies and programs to affirm human dignity and eliminate all discriminations.
▪ Encourage transparency and accountability in a rights based approach evaluating gender sensitivity, sustainability, and inclusivity of all program development. ▪ Strengthen trust and reliability through accountability mechanisms between communities, institutions, and other stakeholders, and create safe spaces to empower all members of society to be part of a social dialogue on the ongoing process of sustainable development.
3. Provide Education, skilling, upskilling and digital training for all.
We call upon member states of the United Nations to
▪ Ensure affordable access to quality and life-long education so that all people can reach their potential as individuals and contribute to the transformation of a peaceful, prosperous, and human-rights based society.
▪ Ensure a safe working environment and decent pay for educators, and a safe, equitable, inclusive, and healthy learning environment for students.
▪ Promote universal access to the internet and digital technology, as a public good and a right for all.
▪ Provide digital training and mobile technology for all, including persons with disabilities, women and girls, and older adults to eliminate the digital divide.
4. Invest in initiatives and policies for human capital creation and redistribution
We call upon member states of the United Nations to:
▪ Invest in human capital through universal health care, education, job training, housing, universal social protections, and in sustainable resilient infrastructure and technology
▪ Extend debt relief and forgiveness for the least developed countries based on values of justice and solidarity
▪ Establish “A Global Fund for Social Protections” to support the least developed countries through official development assistance, increased international cooperation on taxation, and contributions from international financial
5. Highlight and energize the movement towards a renewed social contract at the World Summit in 2025
We call upon member states of the United Nations to:
▪ Forge a “Renewed” Social Contract anchored in human rights for a new era in which people, states and other actors work together to foster trust, increase participation and inclusion, and redefine human progress and development.
▪ Fully support the call of the Secretary-General’s proposal to hold a World Social Summit at the highest political level in 2025 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration
From Janet and Cynthia: We would also like to remind you that you will be able to follow the 61st Session of the Commission on Social Development (CSocD) and the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on UN WebTV
Who else is at the United Nations?
Loreto Convent Msongari Students Visit the UN
Eight students and their teacher from Loreto Convent Msongari visited the UN NGO office after participating at the World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions at Yale University in November. Loreto Convent Msongari has been participating in this event since 2017. The World Scholar’s Cup is an annual international team academic program with students participating from over 65 countries. Forty students participated at the regional level out of which eight students proceeded to the Global Round in Bangkok, Thailand. With dedicated support from the parents and the school, the team qualified to participate in the final level: the Tournament of Champions from 11 – 16 November 2022.
They came to New York on their final day to visit the UN and our office. We organised for the students and their teacher to visit the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations and to have a tour of the UN headquarters. They met with the Deputy Ambassador Michael Kiboino, Education Attaché Andrew Buop and other Mission staff. The students had a lively conversation with the Deputy Ambassador and other staff about their work at the UN and how they could be part of this work.
The students appreciated this UN experience that complemented the skills they gained from the academic activity of the World Scholars Cup that included writing, research, analytical, evaluation, oral and debating skills. The same skills that are required in advocating at the UN. Two of the students in the group have since joined the Mary Ward Youth Advocacy Program with one facilitating a group that are writing the oral statement that will be delivered at the 67th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women in March 2023.
Who else is in the News?
Irish Times 28th December 2022 sent by Brian O’Toole from the International Presentation Justice Desk in Dublin
Sr. Orla Treacy has spent 17 years running schools and a health centre in South Sudan, and is slowly seeing a change in a country that likes to marry off girls fast. This interesting article shows the courage and leadership of religious congregations as they work to improve the lives of women and girls in Africa in line with our International Presentation Association (IPA) commitments.
“In South Sudan, cows are often worth more than women, but young girls there, helped by Irish Loreto Sisters nuns, are changing attitudes slowly. “It’s the cows,” says Sr Orla Treacy, “When a girl gets married she is married in exchange for cows. It is still a daily challenge. There are still issues around families not wanting their daughters to be educated.”
In a culture where cows are worth more than women, an Irish nun has dedicated herself to educating girls.
Article: Patsy McGarry who is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times
Orla Treacy has spent 17 years running schools and a health centre in South Sudan, and is slowly seeing a change in a country that likes to marry off girls fast. In South Sudan, cows are often worth more than women, but young girls there, helped by Irish Loreto Sisters nuns, are changing attitudes slowly. “It’s the cows,” says Sr Orla Treacy, “When a girl gets married she is married in exchange for cows. It is still a daily challenge. There are still issues around families not wanting their daughters to be educated.”
Just over half of all South Sudanese girls are in arranged marriages by the time they reach 18. A 10th of all girls are married off when they are just 15. And the pressure comes not just from men. Aunts and elders often believe that a daughter needs a good marriage early. “If she’s 23 years of age and she’s still studying, she is already past it,” says the Irish nun.
Today, 49-year-old Sr Orla is the director of a primary and secondary school and a healthcare centre, in Rumbek, northwest of the capital, Juba: “We have been threatened at gunpoint, we have been insulted, all number of problems because [they are women] and should be sacrificed for the sake of the greater good. Technically it’s a boarding school, but I call it a women’s refuge.”
In the beginning, the Loreto nuns encouraged local fathers to pledge that they would let their daughters finish school, says Sr Orla, who has served in Rumbek for over 17 years. However, extended family members such as uncles would often turn up at the gates of the school demanding that their teenage niece be released for marriage.
She sees hope, though. Now, it is the girls themselves who are demanding the right to be educated: “In the early years, we were the ones having to push it a bit, but less and less now do we have to. We support them, we walk beside them, but they generally can do it themselves now,” the nun, who is from Bray, Co. Wicklow, tells The Irish Times.
In an effort to help newly arrived students to stay the course, the nuns pair a new girl with a second-year student who minds her during her first year. In turn, the second-year “mother” student is paired with a third year “grandmother” student. If the new student faces pressure to quit, then her school ‘family” will sit and talk to her about whether she wants to marry or stay in school. “They become a huge panel of support,” Sr Orla says.
In recent months, the South Sudanese civil authorities have published legislation to stop early forced marriages: “They want all boys and girls in school. They want to build up education. That is huge for us,” says Sr Orla, who has had to reject heavy criticism that education is taking young women away from traditional Sudanese culture.
Three Irish nuns, including Sr Orla, were invited in 2005 to set up the Rumbek school by an Italian bishop who was then in charge of the diocese, who wanted to empower young women: “He was very clear: he had the plans, he had the donor, he just needed the congregation to come and do it,” she recalls. Today, it has 360 girls from all over South Sudan.
On to university
Locals were unhappy because their own daughters were not able to go to the school as they had no primary education, so in 2010 the sisters started a primary school. Today, it has 1,400 boys and girls and is also a teacher training school. In 2016, the nuns added a
health centre, staffed by Kenyan nuns. Today, it has two clinical officers, one midwife, and three nurses. In August, they served 5,000 patients.
Secondary school graduates have gone on to university – often up to 12 per year – and come back as teachers, or nurses. However, many graduates are now “getting good jobs with NGOs. NGOs are always looking for young women to work with them.
When she got there, she found an empty field, not the buildings promised by the bishop. It took two years to get the buildings up
There is no lack of employment when they qualify. One of the clinic’s nurses is now her family’s main breadwinner: “No one is now forcing her into an arranged marriage,” says the Irish nun.
Sr Orla never imagined then she would end up in charge of a school in a war-torn state in east Africa. When she first told friends and siblings that she wanted to become a nun, they told her she was crazy: “I thought I was crazy too. I realised it wasn’t fashionable or popular to become a nun at that time. I talked to one of my [four] brothers and he told me to travel the world and then see how I felt.”
So she did. She studied to become a religion teacher at the Mater Dei Institute in Dublin. Following her final year there, she worked with the Loreto Sisters in Calcutta in India, where she was appalled by the poverty. Having returned to Ireland, she taught religion in the Presentation Brothers in Cork City, but two years on she “realised that life wasn’t for me” and instead became a nun.
Having accepted the invitation to come to Rumbek in 2005, Sr Orla set off telling her family she would be home by the end of the year. When she got there, she found an empty field, not the buildings promised by the bishop. It took two years to get the buildings up. Four years later, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Four years after that, the country was ravaged by civil war that left two million people displaced.
Hunger remains a huge problem: “When we started the primary school we used to feed the kids, but now we feed everybody,” she says, though famine is not “an immediate” concern. Next month, though, will bring challenges: “We are still within a war mentality, so insecurity is still a big reality for us. When we harvest, we only harvest enough for a few months and by January everything is gone. That’s when the hunger comes.”
Right now, she thinks she is probably the youngest of the 150 Irish Loreto sisters, who have an average age in the early 70s. Honoured frequently for her work, notably by President Michael D. Higgins, who gave her a Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad, Sr Orla stays sanguine about awards: “I’m not big into that kind of thing, but we’ve a great team.
“If this is going to help to promote the mission in terms of donors, then do it and keep smiling.” That’s the mantra, she says, adding that Rumbek is “an incredible story” and “extraordinary journey. So, to be part of that and to be able to be a face for it at the moment, to ensure that we can continue the work, is an important thing for us.”
Who has the last word ?
Pope Benedict XVI and the United Nations
On April 18, 2008, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI visited the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where he met with then-Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Srgjan Kerim. The Holy Father addressed the General Assembly and the Staff of the United Nations:
“The founding principles of the Organization – the desire for peace, the quest for justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance – express the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitute the ideals which should underpin international relations.”
Pope Francis January 2023
To usher in the New Year, The Holy Father, Pope Francis, delivered the address on the 56th World Day of Peace. He reflected on lessons learned from the pandemic and our ability to solve interconnected moral, social, political, and economic problems with a sense of responsibility and compassion for others.
“Only by responding generously to these situations, with an altruism inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love, will we be able to build a new world and contribute to the extension of his kingdom, which is a kingdom of love, justice and peace.”
And let us not forget………