My experience at UN as NGO
By Sr. Justine Gitanjali Senapati, CSJ
The premises of the United Nations (UN) embodies a world without borders, symbolizing unity and fraternity. Being at UN broadens our horizons and makes us feel that we are ONE people of this beautiful planet, our common home where we share a common destiny.
I see the UN as the heart of the world and crown of consciousness. At its origin after World War II, this biggest organization on the planet was not built with bricks and cement but with the wisdom of our founding fathers to save the succeeding generations from the scourges of wars with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1945 as ethos and guiding principles for the international community to be vigilant and human cognizant.
The years 2015 and 2016 mark the historical landmarks. On September 25, 2015, as many as 193 member states stood together for transforming our world through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on. On April 22, 2016, nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Both the Global Goals set and stimulate worldwide action for the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet with clarion call “Leaving No One Behind.”
The Economic and Social Council is at the heart of the UN system to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental as one of the six main organs of UN. It is the central platform for fostering debate and innovative thinking, forging consensus on ways forward, and coordinating efforts to achieve internationally agreed goals. It is also responsible for the follow-up of Major UN Conferences and Summits.
The League of Nations during its existence had accepted and consulted NGOs known as Civil Society Organizations. These groups participated in the League’s meetings and committees. This paved the way for NGO participation in the UN (Charter Article 71, Chapter 10) from its inception. Now as many as 3,287 NGOs enjoy consultative status with the UN. Among them is my organization with 11,000 committed women who serve in 52 countries of the world.
CONGREGATIONS OF ST. JOSEPH is our official name at UN, having General Consultative Status with ECOSOC. We are one of the major religious NGOs based at New York, representing their own congregations known as Religious at UN (RUN).
We together with the other NGO Committees engage with on Women and Girls, Migration/Refugees, Mining, Water, Poverty eradication, Education, Freedom of Religion, Indigenous Peoples and other thematic issues through the submission of the written and oral statements to UN as collaborative efforts for international policy change initiatives.
I do collaborate with different national NGOs for Universal Periodic Review through UN Mechanisms and attend the Human Rights Councils at Geneva, Switzerland.
This position offers me an opportunity for international travels and visits. I had interactions with the members and youth (universities and schools) as part of my UN educative programs in Latin America, Europe and Asia and work as link between UN and our grassroots initiatives.
I understand the enormity of the issues because I come from one of the world’s poorest region, known as Kandhamal district, Odisha, eastern India. According to the UNDP Odisha Human Development Report 2004, Adivasi (indigenous) and Dalit people in the region live Below Poverty Line with the percentage as high as 92.4 and 88.90.
Kandhamal had witnessed the terrible anti-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008 that displaced 75, 000 people and killed 100. It also saw physical assaults of nuns; one of them whom I met just a few days after her rape. My only brother was fortunate to escape death but remained traumatized for months. This attack was one the biggest attacks on the Christian community in 300 years of India.
As Sisters of St. Joseph, serving the ‘Dear Neighbour’ is our Charism and people are the center of our mission.
The core values and the international characters of UN always draw me as I serve in it but challenge me to be a connector, always representing the global face of my organization. I am humbled to be in it at this critical time of human history and feel indebted to God for belonging to this global gamily of Joseph as well as UN.
(Sr. Justine Gitanjali Senapati, an Indian national based in New York, is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. Since 2014 she serves at UNO as a member of NGO for the Congregations of St. Joseph that includes 30 Independent congregations as Main Global Representatives.)