In February 2019, the Congregations of St. Joseph at the United Nations NGO invited four Sisters of St. Joseph from Latin America to participate in the 57th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD). This year’s priority theme was “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.” Throughout the event, the UN focused on the emerging issues of “empowerment of people affected by natural and human-made disasters to reduce inequality: Addressing the differential impact on persons with disabilities, older persons and youth.”
For this event, the NGO sponsored four sisters from Latin America to spend a week in New York and attend CSocD. Sisters Nilva dal Bello (Chambéry-Brazil), Heidi Aguirre Enriques (Lyon-Mexico), Rita Bosch (Argentina-Buenos Aires), and Paulina Oviedo (Cuneo-Argentina) attended as representatives of the JPIC network of Sisters of St. Joseph in Latin America. Sisters Sue Wilson and Joan Atkinson (Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada) and Varka Kalaydzhieva from the justice office of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto also attended CSocD.
During this week-long immersion, the sisters attended daily sessions at the UN and had lively discussions during lunch and dinner about the day’s activities. These debriefing sessions served as an opportunity for the sisters to connect the day’s events with what the situation is like in their country. With the assistance of a translator, sisters were able to share their struggles and fears, while also discussing their hopes for positive change. Many of the sisters stated that these discussions were a highlight of their time at the UN and strengthened their connections to the global Joseph family.
Prior to the event, the NGO submitted an official statement to the UN, which then becomes part of the public record. The statement used the experiences of Sisters of St. Joseph across the world to discuss the social and economic exclusion of certain groups. The report also affirmed the importance of universal social protections for “child and family benefits, maternity benefits and parental leave, unemployment support, education and skills-training, employment injury benefits, health protections, and benefits in sickness as well as old-age, disability and survivors’ benefits.”
In addition to submitting a statement to the UN, the NGO had the opportunity to present an intervention and question during an interactive dialogue with senior officials of the UN system on the priority theme. Sr. Sue represented the NGO and addressed the trend of countries utilizing fewer funds to address inequality. She spoke passionately about the transfer of wealth and how this has left governments with fewer funds and fewer resources to address this growing issue. Additionally, Sr. Sue asked panelists to identify what governments are doing to fix these issues and what they recommend to ensure that social protections meet human rights standards.
CSocD represented an important learning opportunity for the Congregations of St. Joseph NGO. In addition to the informative sessions at the UN, the in-between times spent with one another provided connections and hope for each of the attendees. Though the sisters from Latin America are now back in their respective countries, the Congregations of St. Joseph NGO is working to ensure connections between the sisters and on-the-ground NGOs, who could benefit greatly from their informed input.