Dominican NGO news from a visiting correspondent
By Mary Virginia Leach, OP
On my first morning walk down 42nd Street, NYC, to our Dominican NGO office, I passed a stylish window display at a Kenneth Cole store with mannequins wearing his chic clothing. The statement painted on the window said, “How you see the world depends on how you look.” Kenneth, of course, wants us to “see the world” attired in his designer fashions. For me, his tagline has been a reminder that my time at the UN invites me to look differently, to view issues and situations of concern in our world from the mindset of many member nations that see things differently from the USA’s vantage. How one sees the world does depend on the lenses through which one looks!
I am Mary Virginia Leach, OP, a Dominican from Mission San Jose, California, spending a part of my sabbatical year learning more about our Dominican presence at the UN and grateful for the opportunity to see our world differently. Such a renewed respect I have for the ongoing blessings, challenges, and effort needed to “make real” the ideals of the United Nations Charter—a charter that, in essence, underscores the goals for all nations:
- To work for prevailing peace
- To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights for all
- To promote social progress, better standards of life in larger freedom
My orientation (with some delightful college students from Marymount University in Southern California, spending their spring break at the UN) included excellent sessions led by well-informed speakers on:
- The Millennium Development Goals
- Human Rights – and the UN Human Rights Commission
- Issues: Trafficking In Persons, Homelessness and Poverty, Indigenous Peoples
- Social Development
- Sustainable Development and Climate Change
- Financing for Development
- One nation’s efforts to achieve Millennium Goals (by the former ambassador of Zambia)
In addition to these orientation classes, I have spent time:
- Getting my “official” UN admittance badge (a special keepsake!)
- Sitting in on sessions of UN reps laboriously working through a lengthy “outcome document” in preparation for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled to occur in Brazil this coming June.
- Experiencing a briefing on “The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Honoring the Heroes, Resisters and Survivors;” this session was particularly moving as I learned that virtually every country in North, Central, and South America participated in African slave trade to some degree --- stories of resistance were inspiring! Display boards in the UN foyer for this topic are also impressive.
- Participating on “International Water Day” in an interactive discussion led by a panel of speakers on the topic of water RIGHTS (vs. water “access”) for all people; this event, sponsored by “Franciscans International, A Voice at the UN,” approached the issue of water and sanitation as a basic human right from both a social justice and environmental stance.
- Learning much at a session called “The Movement for Food Sovereignty” with speakers from La Via Campesina (working around the world for the rights of small family farmers, mostly women). Also contributing was a rep from “ETC Group,” an action group concerned about erosion, technology, and the concentration of big businesses seeking to commodify our planet. The talk left me with a new awareness of the negative role of technology in the “Green Economy” (translation: geo-piracy) and the greed of the 10 largest companies of the world who are in control of 73 percent of the world’s seeds.
There’s been much more, and it’s all such valuable content. Some days my head is swimming and my heart is heavy about so many issues. I find myself uplifted by the core creed of the UN focus… and wishing if only the human propensity for individualism, power, and economic greed didn’t get in the way!
Margaret Mayce, OP (DLC/Amityville)
NGO in Special Consultative Status at the United Nations
Dominican Leadership Conference
211 East 43 St. Rm 704
New York, NY 10017