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Feature Article, 12 April 2008

Window on the world

Patrick Nicholson

Pope Benedict’s visit to New York is expected to highlight the Vatican’s

commitment to the UN. But what of the hundreds of Catholic NGOs based in New York

which lobby on issues such as education, justice and poverty? Are they a

Catholic bloc or myriad voices for the voiceless?

On a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York in 2006, Archbishop

John Baptist Odama, of Gulu in Uganda, poignantly addressed members of the

Security Council, telling them: “I come here to bring the cry of the children,

the cry of their mothers, and the cry of their families to the ears of the

people who matter.”

Uganda was then in the twentieth year of a long, brutal and largely

unreported civil war. Its worst feature was the abduction of 20,000 children by the

rebels to be used as forced labourers, sex slaves and soldiers. The archbishop

was asking for outside help to end the conflict and he got it. With increased

support from the international community, a peace process was launched.

Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organisation for 162 national Catholic

relief and development charities, had helped to arrange the archbishop’s trip

to the United Nations. It is one example of a wide variety of work carried out

by Catholic organisations there.

“Every day we work in a relentless crisis of challenging opportunities and

urgent competing priorities,” says Joe Donnelly, head of the Caritas delegation

at the UN in New York, as he shuttles between meetings on Iraq, Colombia and

the Millennium Development Goals.

His office looks across to the UN, with its landmark Secretariat tower and

domed General Assembly building. It is here that the Security Council and

General Assembly meet to address urgent crises of peace, human security and

development affecting the lives of millions of people around the world.

“The General Assembly and the Security Council don’t have any windows,” Mr

Donnelly points out, “so we provide them with a window on the world. We’re a

grass-roots global organisation and so can give the diplomats and UN staff a

sense of the reality on the ground. We act as a bridge between governance and

policy to members of our network in local communities everywhere.”

Amid the jargon and the bureaucracy, reportedly not as bad in the wake of

reforms launched by the current Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, deals are struck

and international law is shaped. Hoping to affect the outcome of these

negotiations are various advocacy groups, from industry lobbyists to non-governmental

organisations (NGOs) campaigning on anything from the arms trade to the

economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

Hundreds of Catholic organisations, lay and Religious, from all over the

world are accredited to the United Nations systems in New York, Geneva, Paris,

Vienna and Nairobi. Some, like the Catholic Association for Peace, were actively

engaged with other Christian groups in San Francisco when the UN Charter was

drafted in 1945.

“Catholic organisations are very vibrant at the moment,” says Sr Dorothy

Farley, a Dominican who has headed the International Catholic Organisation

Information Centre for the past 13 years.

Her office provides Catholic agencies at the UN with accreditation details,

advises them about whom to talk to on what issues, and sets up briefings with

national Catholic staff and experts on health, education, environment, de

velopment and poverty matters, often in dialogue with diplomats and UN executives.

During her time at the centre she has seen its members double to 42. “There is

great variety,” she says. “There are Franciscans, the Catholic Medical Mission

Board, the Society of Vincent de Paul, the International Federation of

Catholic Universities. The list goes on.”

NGOs are accredited to the department of public information or to the

Economic and Social Council, or to both. “Catholic NGOs at the UN have been active

advocates on the alleviation of poverty, access to primary education,

empowerment of women and climate change,” says Isolda Oca, information officer at the

Department of Public Information. “They are effective. They come to conferences,

briefings, workshops, and high-level meetings at the General Assembly.”

Though NGOs are not allowed to address the General Assembly, those with

accreditation to the Economic and Social Council and consultative status, like

Caritas, can be called upon to speak as experts.

Sr Eileen Gannon represents the Dominican Leadership Conference at the UN.

She says her job is to bring the voice, experience and concerns of the Dominican

family to this global forum on issues around the Millennium Development

Goals, the UN’s anti-poverty targets.

“Justice, poverty, fair trade and sustainability are global issues,” she

says. “They are local issues as well, and our work at the UN complements the good

work done by our sisters and brothers where they live. Global policies are

lived locally and we make the connection.”

The nuts and bolts of being a representative mean submitting briefings to UN

committees, attending NGO working groups, meeting General Assembly and

Security Council members and, most significantly, giving them off-the-record

briefings. Achieving change can at times seem a slow, laborious process, but this has

borne fruit in the past. Caritas representatives at Special Sessions on HIV

and Aids at the UN General Assembly have helped to lobby governments to increase

funding and commit to providing universal access to prevention, treatment and

care. Their words have been incorporated in final declarations.

The key to success is not being part of a Catholic ghetto, but working in

partnership with other colleagues across the NGO spectrum. Catholic NGOs stress

that they are not part of a bloc, but are there to represent the issues that

are vital to their organisations on the ground. However, they do bring an

important moral dimension to their work.

In an interview with The Tablet, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent

Observer of the Holy See to the UN, told me that the Catholic NGOs’ relationship

with the Holy See is not merely functional: “Rather, they tend to incarnate

different charisms and calls within the Church. In this sense, their mutual

relation is based more on the sense of the ecclesial communion than on

functionality.”

He added that a healthy challenge to Catholic agencies comes from within. “If

they want to be effective, they have to team together, to show cohesion or,

rather, communion and unity on the background of their legitimate pluralism.

Because this is our strength: our word is effective only if we are united,” he

said.

At the end of November, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a Vatican meeting with 85

Catholic international NGOs and expressed support for their work as well as

for the importance of the UN system, though he did warn against “moral

relativism”.

“A growing tendency within the international organisations is to dislike and

discard in principle all semblance of a religious connotation,” said

Archbishop Migliore on the challenges faced by Catholic NGOs at the UN. “The

intolerance does not reside only in certain fundamentalist religious people, but also in

those who – not being believers – do not permit society to be a believer.”

Governments and international institutions have in the past not recognised

the vital role that faith-based organisations have to play in delivering

humanitarian assistance and promoting human development, says Caritas. For instance,

in many African countries the Catholic Church is the primary, if not the sole,

healthcare and education provider. International donors have not taken

advantage of this valuable resource as a way to deliver aid, with only a fraction of

funding going though faith-based organisations.

“We advocate first and foremost not on the basis of our beliefs,” says Dr

Ezio Castelli of the Association of Volunteers in International Service USA

(AVSI-USA), a development agency with a basis in Catholic social teaching. “We are

not advocating for a space to build a ‘Catholic’ school or hospital, but for

governments to recognise the common good of these institutions.”

The UN is beginning to see the potential of faith-based organisations,

especially their role in organising advocacy initiatives internationally, nationally

and locally. UN staff regard campaigns such as the Jubilee Debt Campaign or

Make Poverty History, with their backbone of faith-based organisations, as

setting the standard as they try to deliver on their own Millennium Development

Goals. They also look for expertise on programming from faith-based groups.

Pope Benedict’s visit to the UN in New York to address the General Assembly

will bring into focus many of these issues. Catholic NGOs are hoping for

different things from the Pope: to support their issues around poverty and

development, to maintain the Vatican’s commitment to the UN system as he has done in

the past and, in the words of Dr Castelli, “To be reminded what a Christian is

and means.”

Filed under: Caritas, Church-State, Social Justice

Urbanized World

Holy See: Urbanized World Brings New Challenges
Human Person, Not Money, at Heart of Phenomenon, Says Aide
NEW YORK, APRIL 10, 2008 ( Zenit.org ).-

 

 

As the world’s cities, for the first time in history, boast more inhabitants than the globe’s rural areas, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations says that the needs of urban migrants need to be met.Archbishop Celestino Migliore affirmed this Wednesday at the Economic and Social Council’s 41st session of the Commission on Population and Development. The topic at hand was world population monitoring, focusing on population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development.The archbishop noted the session’s timing “at this historic juncture when, for the first time in history, the number of urban inhabitants will surpass the number of people living in rural areas.””This session therefore calls on us to reflect on this phenomenon and take stock of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead,” he said.

 

 

The prelate affirmed that the urbanization of populations provides new opportunities for economic growth: “With access to higher wages and better social services such as education, health, transportation, communications, safe water supplies and sanitation, migrants from rural to urban settings are more likely to advance their personal and social development.”Still, the Holy See representative urged, “We must place the needs and concerns of peoples first.”

 

 

Archbishop Migliore cautioned against a reversal in priorities.”Placing the human person at the service of economic or environmental considerations creates the inhuman effect of treating people as objects rather than subjects,” he said. “Migration and the urbanization of societies should not be purely measured in terms of their economic impact. In finding ways to address the serious challenges posed by massive internal and transnational migrations, let us not forget that at the heart of this phenomenon is the human person. “Thus we must also address the reasons why people move, the sacrifices they make, the anguish and the hopes that accompany migrants. Migration often places great strain on migrants, as they leave behind families and friends, sociocultural and spiritual networks.”

 

 

Slums

 

Archbishop Migliore cited the secretary-genera’s report in noting the many challenges that also come with urbanization.”Indeed,” he said, “new environmental, social and economic problems emerge with the birth of mega cities. But one of the most pressing and painful consequences of rapid urbanization is the increasing number of people living in urban slums. As recently as 2005, over 840 million people around the world lived in such conditions. Lacking in almost everything, these individuals can lose their sense of self-worth and inherent dignity.”The archbishop noted some of the problems faced by slum-dwellers, “trapped in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty and marginalization.””They squat on state or other people’s properties. They feel powerless to demand even the most basic public services. Children are not in schools, but in waste dumpsites eking out a living from scavenging. Policy makers and civil society actors must put these people and their concerns among the priorities in their decision-making.”

 

 

Archbishop Migliore also contended that residents of rural areas not be forgotten. “If we are to achieve the [millennium development goals] by 2015, greater concern must be given to those communities, in which approximately 675 million still lack access to safe drinking water and 2 billion live without access to basic sanitation. National and international policies would do well to ensure that rural communities have access to higher quality and more accessible social services.”He concluded by affirming the Holy See’s commitment to “addressing the concerns of all migrants and to finding ways to collaborate with all, in order to ensure a proper balance between the just concerns of state and those of individual human beings.””Helping migrants meet their basic needs does not only aid their transition and help keep families together,” the prelate stated. “It is also a positive way to encourage them to become productive, responsible, law-abiding and contributors to the common good of the society.”

 

 

 

Holy See on Urban Growth”Problems Emerge With the Birth of Mega Cities”NEW YORK, APRIL 10, 2008 ( Zenit.org ).-

 

Here is the address given Wednesday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, at the Economic and Social Council’s 41st session of the Commission on Population and Development.

 

 

The meeting discussed world population monitoring, focusing on population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development.* * *

 

 

Mr. Chairman, This session of the Commission on Population and Development comes at this historic juncture when, for the first time in history, the number of urban inhabitants will surpass the number of people living in rural areas. This session therefore calls on us to reflect on this phenomenon and take stock of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.The urbanization of world populations provides new opportunities for economic growth. With access to higher wages and better social services such as education, health, transportation, communications, safe water supplies and sanitation, migrants from rural to urban settings are more likely to advance their personal and social development.When addressing the issues of migration and development, we must place the needs and concerns of peoples first. Placing the human person at the service of economic or environmental considerations creates the inhuman effect of treating people as objects rather than subjects. Migration and the urbanization of societies should not be purely measured in terms of their economic impact. In finding ways to address the serious challenges posed by massive internal and transnational migrations, let us not forget that at the heart of this phenomenon is the human person. Thus we must also address the reasons why people move, the sacrifices they make, the anguish and the hopes that accompany migrants. Migration often places great strain on migrants, as they leave behind families and friends, socio-cultural and spiritual networks. As the secretary-general’s report rightly illustrates, while urbanization has created better opportunities for individuals and their families, the move from agricultural settings to urban centers also create myriad challenges. Indeed, new environmental, social and economic problems emerge with the birth of mega cities. But one of the most pressing and painful consequences of rapid urbanization is the increasing number of people living in urban slums. As recently as 2005 over 840 million people around the world lived in such conditions. Lacking in almost everything, these individuals can lose their sense of self-worth and inherent dignity. They become trapped in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty and marginalization. They squat on state or other people’s properties. They feel powerless to demand even the most basic public services. Children are not in schools, but in waste dumpsites eking out a living from scavenging. Policy makers and civil society actors must put these people and their concerns among the priorities in their decision-making.While urbanization provides a net growth in terms of economic development, we must not lose sight of the daunting challenges that rural communities face, particularly those in developing countries. If we are to achieve the MDGs by 2015, greater concern must be given to those communities, in which approximately 675 million still lack access to safe drinking water and two billion live without access to basic sanitation. National and international policies would do well to ensure that rural communities have access to higher quality and more accessible social services. Mr. Chairman,For its part, the Holy See and its institutions remain committed to addressing the concerns of all migrants and to finding ways to collaborate with all, in order to ensure a proper balance between the just concerns of state and those of individual human beings. Helping migrants meet their basic needs does not only aid their transition and help keep families together. It is also a positive way to encourage them to become productive, responsible, law-abiding and contributors to the common good of the society.Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Filed under: Economic Policy, Migration, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Holy See: Urbanized World Brings New ChallengesHuman Person, Not Money, at Heart of Phenomenon, Says AideNEW YORK, APRIL 10, 2008 ( Zenit.org ).-

As the world’s cities, for the first time in history, boast more inhabitants than the globe’s rural areas, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations says that the needs of urban migrants need to be met.Archbishop Celestino Migliore affirmed this Wednesday at the Economic and Social Council’s 41st session of the Commission on Population and Development. The topic at hand was world population monitoring, focusing on population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development.The archbishop noted the session’s timing “at this historic juncture when, for the first time in history, the number of urban inhabitants will surpass the number of people living in rural areas.””This session therefore calls on us to reflect on this phenomenon and take stock of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead,” he said.

The prelate affirmed that the urbanization of populations provides new opportunities for economic growth: “With access to higher wages and better social services such as education, health, transportation, communications, safe water supplies and sanitation, migrants from rural to urban settings are more likely to advance their personal and social development.”Still, the Holy See representative urged, “We must place the needs and concerns of peoples first.”

Archbishop Migliore cautioned against a reversal in priorities.”Placing the human person at the service of economic or environmental considerations creates the inhuman effect of treating people as objects rather than subjects,” he said. “Migration and the urbanization of societies should not be purely measured in terms of their economic impact. In finding ways to address the serious challenges posed by massive internal and transnational migrations, let us not forget that at the heart of this phenomenon is the human person. “Thus we must also address the reasons why people move, the sacrifices they make, the anguish and the hopes that accompany migrants. Migration often places great strain on migrants, as they leave behind families and friends, sociocultural and spiritual networks.”

Slums
Archbishop Migliore cited the secretary-genera’s report in noting the many challenges that also come with urbanization.”Indeed,” he said, “new environmental, social and economic problems emerge with the birth of mega cities. But one of the most pressing and painful consequences of rapid urbanization is the increasing number of people living in urban slums. As recently as 2005, over 840 million people around the world lived in such conditions. Lacking in almost everything, these individuals can lose their sense of self-worth and inherent dignity.”The archbishop noted some of the problems faced by slum-dwellers, “trapped in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty and marginalization.””They squat on state or other people’s properties. They feel powerless to demand even the most basic public services. Children are not in schools, but in waste dumpsites eking out a living from scavenging. Policy makers and civil society actors must put these people and their concerns among the priorities in their decision-making.”

Archbishop Migliore also contended that residents of rural areas not be forgotten. “If we are to achieve the [millennium development goals] by 2015, greater concern must be given to those communities, in which approximately 675 million still lack access to safe drinking water and 2 billion live without access to basic sanitation. National and international policies would do well to ensure that rural communities have access to higher quality and more accessible social services.”He concluded by affirming the Holy See’s commitment to “addressing the concerns of all migrants and to finding ways to collaborate with all, in order to ensure a proper balance between the just concerns of state and those of individual human beings.””Helping migrants meet their basic needs does not only aid their transition and help keep families together,” the prelate stated. “It is also a positive way to encourage them to become productive, responsible, law-abiding and contributors to the common good of the society.”

Holy See on Urban Growth”Problems Emerge With the Birth of Mega Cities”NEW YORK, APRIL 10, 2008 ( Zenit.org ).-
Here is the address given Wednesday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, at the Economic and Social Council’s 41st session of the Commission on Population and Development.

The meeting discussed world population monitoring, focusing on population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development.* * *

Mr. Chairman, This session of the Commission on Population and Development comes at this historic juncture when, for the first time in history, the number of urban inhabitants will surpass the number of people living in rural areas. This session therefore calls on us to reflect on this phenomenon and take stock of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.The urbanization of world populations provides new opportunities for economic growth. With access to higher wages and better social services such as education, health, transportation, communications, safe water supplies and sanitation, migrants from rural to urban settings are more likely to advance their personal and social development.When addressing the issues of migration and development, we must place the needs and concerns of peoples first. Placing the human person at the service of economic or environmental considerations creates the inhuman effect of treating people as objects rather than subjects. Migration and the urbanization of societies should not be purely measured in terms of their economic impact. In finding ways to address the serious challenges posed by massive internal and transnational migrations, let us not forget that at the heart of this phenomenon is the human person. Thus we must also address the reasons why people move, the sacrifices they make, the anguish and the hopes that accompany migrants. Migration often places great strain on migrants, as they leave behind families and friends, socio-cultural and spiritual networks. As the secretary-general’s report rightly illustrates, while urbanization has created better opportunities for individuals and their families, the move from agricultural settings to urban centers also create myriad challenges. Indeed, new environmental, social and economic problems emerge with the birth of mega cities. But one of the most pressing and painful consequences of rapid urbanization is the increasing number of people living in urban slums. As recently as 2005 over 840 million people around the world lived in such conditions. Lacking in almost everything, these individuals can lose their sense of self-worth and inherent dignity. They become trapped in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty and marginalization. They squat on state or other people’s properties. They feel powerless to demand even the most basic public services. Children are not in schools, but in waste dumpsites eking out a living from scavenging. Policy makers and civil society actors must put these people and their concerns among the priorities in their decision-making.While urbanization provides a net growth in terms of economic development, we must not lose sight of the daunting challenges that rural communities face, particularly those in developing countries. If we are to achieve the MDGs by 2015, greater concern must be given to those communities, in which approximately 675 million still lack access to safe drinking water and two billion live without access to basic sanitation. National and international policies would do well to ensure that rural communities have access to higher quality and more accessible social services. Mr. Chairman,For its part, the Holy See and its institutions remain committed to addressing the concerns of all migrants and to finding ways to collaborate with all, in order to ensure a proper balance between the just concerns of state and those of individual human beings. Helping migrants meet their basic needs does not only aid their transition and help keep families together. It is also a positive way to encourage them to become productive, responsible, law-abiding and contributors to the common good of the society.Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Filed under: Migration, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Catholic University of America Archives Web site: 1919 US Bishops Social Reconstruction

The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at
Catholic University in Washington, D.C. is pleased to announce a free new
primary document website on the Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction of 1919. Written by Father John A. Ryan and released by the National Catholic War Council (the forerunner of the National Catholic Welfare Conference), the Bishops’ Program offered a guide for overhauling America’s politics, society, and economy based on Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and a variety of American influences.

The site explores the Bishops’ Program, from its origins in the uncertainty of the immediate post-World War One period, to the ideas that informed its author Father John A.Ryan, through its reception by the Catholic community and the broader public upon its release.

The Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction site contains:

1. Thirty-five documents and more than two dozen photographs related to the National Catholic War Council.

2. Background information on the creation of the Bishops’ Program.

3. A Chronology of events surrounding the creation of the plan toward
placing it in broader historical context.

4. A Further Reading list for deeper exploration of the Program.

5. A History Standards page for teacher who wish to integrate the site
documents into the U.S. History curriculum.

6. A So What? section suggesting broader themes and issues the site
illuminates.

The site is part of the American Catholic History Classroom at the Catholic University Archives and can be found at:

http://libraries.cua.edu/achrcua/bishops/1919_wel.html

Filed under: Church-State, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

ARCHBISHOP TOMASI: HUMAN RIGHTS, THE FIGHT AGAINST RACISM

ARCHBISHOP TOMASI: HUMAN RIGHTS, THE FIGHT AGAINST RACISM

Vatican City, 4 APR 2008 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, gave a speech to the advisory committee during the seventh session of the Human Rights Council that took place in Geneva from 3 to 28 March.

Archbishop Tomasi, who spoke on intercultural dialogue and human rights on 18 March at a round table discussion, affirmed that “to each right corresponds a duty. In this interaction of rights and duties and in the pursuit of the common good, communities are formed and protected”.

That is why, he added, “the task then is to provide an enabling environment where the person can flourish without undue discrimination. Religious freedom, in many ways, is a symbol of this type of environment that sustains both individual persons and the community”.

In another speech concerning racism given at the Human Rights Council on 19 March, the permanent observer of the Holy See pointed out that “the question of pluralism in contemporary societies and the fight against racism can find a solution in an environment where the persons enjoy all human rights, civil and political as well as social, cultural and economic”.

“Tolerance alone does not suffice;” he continued. “Everyone should acknowledge both the difference and the equality with the other person to find solutions to the practical problems of living together”.

Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that “racism and intolerance should be combated through concerted practical measures”. In this context, he affirmed that “education, that favors mutual knowledge, that builds confidence and sustains the implementation of human rights, can serve as a critical vehicle for effective dialogue. Other concrete ways,” he concluded, “are the improvement of the United Nations early warning mechanisms related to this issue”.

DELSS/HUMAN RIGHTS/TOMASI VIS 080404 (300)

Filed under: Social Justice