Update from UNANIMA International
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Update: January 2016

UNANIMA is proud to announce that the recipient of our 2016 Woman of Courage Award is Meera Karunananthan! Meerawas born in Sri Lanka and educated in Quebec, Canada, and is truly a global citizen with a global conscience. Fearlessly, she led a two-year global coalition for the human right to water to be named in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—there was no member state too big or small for her to engage! Her campaign is lauded as one of the strongest rights-based campaigns during the negotiations for a new sustainable development agenda! Meera organizes the Council of Canadians’ public access-to-water campaign, called the Blue Planet Project. She mobilizes public opposition to privatization of water and bulk water exports while organizing grassroots political movements in many countries.
Meera is a young, water justice warrior who has helped people and planet immensely in her advocacy and action. We are inspired by her courage, determination, and leadership. We are confident that the work she put forward on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will continue to help hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
Our Woman of Courage Award is given annually to a woman, nominated by a UNANIMA congregation, who has displayed courage through her actions in the face of adversity; whose actions reflect and support the values and promoted by the UN; and whose work relates to one of the major areas of concern for UNANIMA. There is no doubt that Meera embodies all of these qualifications—she joins a list of phenominal woman leaders awarded since 2008. Congratulations, Meera, and thank you to the Sisters of Sion for nominating her!
Each year before the Commission for Social Development, the NGO committee hosts a Civil Society Forum. In 2016 the Forum will be on February 1-2, hosted jointly by UNDESA-DSPD, the NGO CSocD, and the New York Office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). In order to attend, please register here at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2016csf  While the Priority Theme of the 54th Commission for Social Development is “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world,” the civil society contribution to that theme will focus on inequalities. The Report on the World Social Situation 2013: Inequality Matters reminds world leaders that, in addressing inequalities, policy matters. You will find the draft Civil Society Declaration 2016 at this link. If you would like, review and comment on it to ensure that it reflects what’s important to your community or organization and make additions or suggest changes.
Our fantastic fall interns, Susan and Amila, had some final words before they return to Australia and Sri Lanka. Here are their reports on their time in New York.
FROM AMILA: My experience with UNANIMA International has given me life and hope, and helped me to feel closer to millions of people who struggle to live a dignified life, preserving its sacredness in spite of all violence, war, and destructive forces that surround them. I am proud that my religious congregation is a member of UNANIMA. As an intern, I had access to important UN bodies like the Security Council, the General Assembly, the UN Committee sessions and many NGO meetings. I met many dedicated people who selflessly serve the most needy and vulnerable. I have learned more about human rights, people living in poverty, violence against children and women, women and environment, climate change, human trafficking, migrants and refugees, people with disabilities, indigenous issues, peace, security, drinking water / sanitation, and other issues in social development. Participating in the UN Third Committee, I have experienced in depth the reality of our world--its brokenness and its hopes.
If the whole world can come together, we can stop the violence and abuses. If we accept and respect all people as they are, we can make the world a place where even the most vulnerable find a home. ‘’Leaving no one behind…’’ Those words have touched my heart because I know that there are many who have been left behind; who do not have their rights. As I go back to my life and work in Sri Lanka, I will live and work with many victims of the last Tsunami. They have been given houses, but the houses do not belong to them. Having homes, they feel homeless because they do not have the property rights to them. Uprooted from their lands, unemployed, they live in extreme material, psychological, and spiritual poverty. Disintegration and hopelessness is their reality. They feel “left behind.” I believe that there is hope even in the most hopeless place and I will do all that I can to make the saying “we leave no one behind” come true in the reality of my people.
Years ago, Dag Hammarskjold (as UN Secretary General) said, “The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell…” He was right, and that is the UN’s mission. It is our mission, too: we are all responsible and co-responsible for our future, for sustainable development, work for human rights, global awareness, education, and the interrelationship of all nations. We are all challenged to empower the powerless, to be voice for the voiceless, and to be hope for the hopeless.
                                                                             --S. Amila Rodrigo SDS
FROM SUSAN: For three months I have had the opportunity to explore the United Nations and see the inner workings of the General Assembly, the Security Council, various UN Committees and to attend “side events.” I have also participated in many NGO meetings that UNANIMA is part of--that contribute information to the many stakeholders working to make this a better world.
2015 has been an important year. The UN celebrated seventy years and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced and supported by all countries and organizations. In addition to this, Pope Francis spoke at the UN, and his call for unity, understanding, peace and compassion influenced policy making.
For me there have been many stand-out issues featured in the dialogue of many discussions that have occurred. There is, of course, the tragic plight of the 60 million internally displaced people (a large majority of whom are women and children) seeking shelter and a place to live.  This migration of refugees is now larger than those displaced in WWII. There are also the problems of poverty, violence against women, human trafficking, the fight for gender equity, the human right to water and sanitation, food security, education, indigenous issues, the needs of the disabled, the individual right to self-determination, freedom of religious belief, racial discrimination, our need to work as stewards of the earth to alleviate the many negative effects of climate change and to work towards influencing social responsibility among trans-national corporations. There are so many important issues that impact on us as individuals and as a global community that one can be overwhelmed.
The important thing, it seems to me, is to live in the process with a goal in mind. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, writes that “this very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us it’s with us wherever we are.” So what then can I do with all the knowledge and information that the internship has given me? The answer for me is to take back this vital knowledge to Catholic Education in South Australia and dialogue with leadership, teachers and religious. Provide them with information about the UN and UNANIMA and their vision and mission, and start working on resources, education and curriculum that encompass human rights. This falls under the umbrella of catholic social teaching informed by the dignity of the human person and reinforces the UN message of “leaving no one behind.” The UN mandate is to create a safe, peaceful, happy and just world, and we can all be part of this vision. With a restorative justice approach there is hope that this can be achieved. My stay has been one filled with learning, new friends, joy, pleasure, and has enriched my faith journey along the way.
                                                                                                                --Susan Newland
 COP21 was a truly global moment for ending climate change. Stacy Hanrahan CND, Barbara Spears SNJM, and MicheleMorek OSU represented UNANIMA (picture) After years in the making and a final two weeks in Paris, 195 countries agreed to an ambitious agreement which you can access here: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf 
The target of allowing a temperature increase of “well below 2 degrees Centigrade…and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5” is the most ambitious yet. The provision to reduce “emissions from deforestation” and to take other steps to save forests is the most significant statement in one of these agreements about the role forests play in de-carbonization. While developing countries were disappointed that a particular amount of money was not named, there was a recognition that developed countries should help them cope with the effects of climate change and transition to low carbon alternatives as they develop. For the first time, the terms “loss and damage” was included in an international agreement to acknowledge the suffering of small island nations in danger of disappearing. One of the hard-fought issues was transparency, or a single system through which the carbon reductions of all countries could be evaluated. And finally, every country will be required to come back every five years with a report on its carbon emissions and with a new / renewed pledge. (See New York Times of Sunday December 13, “Highlights: Agreements Careful Language on Curbing Emissions.”
This agreement is the first to be truly universal—to require action from every country, rich or poor. It will not solve global warming on its own, but it could represent the moment that the inexorable rise of carbon emissions that started during the Industrial Revolution began to level off and even decline. The important thing is WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Success will depend on global peer pressure and governmental stability.  So, let’s celebrate, and then roll up our sleeves and get to work!
As a result of global refugee crises, 2015 brought many important discussions regarding migration. Perhaps most significantly, migration was discussed in all arenas—political, social, economic, and so forth—rather than only within one isolated section of society. At the UN, member states discussed the influences of war and terrorism, climate change, and poverty, on migration. This fall, the NGO Committee on Migration took a leading role in the planning Civil Society engagement at the Global Forum on Migration and Development. This international event, this year in Istanbul, is a cross-cutting dialogue that examines migration and development as crucial partners in the current global reality. The NGO Committee on Migration has been collaborating with other organizations more frequently, such as the NGO Committee on Human Rights, and the NGO Committee on Aging, to recognize the overlapping interests. Migration is a human rights issue, and all those involved in human rights advocacy must address migration head on. The global significance of migration was further recognized when Time Magazine named Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, as their Person of the Year. Merkel fearlessly led Germany in welcoming millions of Syrian refugees, “as casualties of radical Islamist savagery, not carriers of it.” (http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2015-angela-merkel-choice/?xid=time_socialflow_twitter) We are inspired by the cross-cutting approach to migration taken by the UN, NGO Committee on Migration, and Merkel in 2015, and look forward to continuing the fight for migrant human rights in 2016 and beyond.
The European Parliament recently said that fracking is of questionable value as a
viable technology in the European Union; (and it) believes that public concerns must be properly addressed and any hydraulic fracturing activities should comply with the highest climate, environmental and public health standards.
You can find the version of this paragraph NR 134 in all 21 languages of the EU: SpanishFrenchPolishRomanian, …In the week after COP21, it is good news that Members of the European Parliament now openly question the compatibility of developing shale gas with the EU's commitment to completely decarbonize its economy in the next 35 years.     (Geert Decock - Director EU Affairs - Food & Water Europe)
  • The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has launched a guide to the SDGs to help stakeholders, including national and local governments, businesses, academia and civil society, understand the 2030 Agenda, start an inclusive dialogue on SDG implementation, and prepare SDG-based national development strategies. Here is a link to the English version (translations forthcoming): http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/151211-getting-started-guide-FINAL-PDF-.pdf
  • A group sisters representing 8 Congregations, hosted by the Daughters of Wisdom, have come together in Italy in response to the question “what can Sisters around the world do in the face of the current global migration crisis?” They hope that by living in community, these religious Sisters from different Congregations will give testimony that it is possible while facing challenges ahead, to live together in diversity and create communion. This experience will require to walk on a journey of faith, reconciliation and mercy and to risk new responses to our brothers and sisters in migration.
  • When the Holy Union Sisters took a corporate stance against human trafficking, they looked for an action to engage all the active sisters and associates. Members who drive were invited to place a decal with the national anti-trafficking hotline phone number in a side or rear window of their automobile.  The bright yellow round decal contains the confidential, 24/7, toll-free National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline telephone number 1-888-373-7888.  What a great idea!
We respond in the name of our organization to many requests to contact members of congress, the president, European leaders and others on various issues. We get multiple requests every day to sign petitions on: women, children, water, migrants and refugees, climate change, trafficking, poverty.... We try not to put a lot of purely "national" (USA) petitions or information on our public interfaces like website and Face Book and Twitter, because UNANIMA is international, and our members and readership are in over 80 countries. Indeed, it is on the national level that we know that you, our individual member communities and your sisters are responding to and lobbying your national leaders. Thank you for all you do at the local “grassroots,” “ground level” for supporting our common mission!

Happy New Year!


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