UN Update: October 2019

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

by Dennis Frado, director

THIRD COMMITTEE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: During October, UN Special Procedure mandate-holders and other experts delivered reports to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues), as mandated by the Human Rights Council. These reports focused on the advancement of women, indigenous issues, the protection of children and the promotion and protection of human rights to name a few. The meetings were chaired by H.E. Mr. Christian Braun, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg and can be viewed online here.

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Women, gave opening remarks on the Third Committee’s session on Advancement of Women, highlighting that “violence against women and girls and the renewed pushback against women’s rights remain pervasive around the world so as we prepare for the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2020, we need renewed commitment from all.” The Secretary-General focused two reports on Advancement of Women, titled “Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas” and “violence against women migrant workers.” A report was also submitted by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples report focused on the implementation the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination through autonomy and self-government. The report includes eight recommendations, one including the role of States in adopting and implementing “all measures necessary to ensure the adequate recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and natural resources, as that recognition represents the cornerstone of their autonomy and self-government and is essential for their survival as distinct peoples.” Documentation of all reports for the Third Committee’s agenda items can be accessed online here.

UNITED NATIONS DAY: On October 24, 2019, the United Nations celebrated United Nations Day, marking 74 years since the UN Charter came into force in 1945, launching the United Nations. The Charter consists of a preamble and 19 chapters, calling for the U.N. to “maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law and promote the expansion of human rights”. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres commented at its commemoration that “United Nations Day highlights the enduring ideals of the Charter, amid stormy global seas, the Charter remains our shared moral anchor.” Guterres has announced that 2020 will kick off with a UN75 initiative that will feature the world’s largest international dialogue on “the role of global cooperation in building the future we want ” to commemorate the 75thanniversary. A special UN Day Concert, featuring musicians from Qatar (pictured above with the Secretary-General) was also held and can be viewed online here.

MANDATE ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT: The ten-year anniversary of the Mandate on Sexual Violence in Conflict was commemorated at the United Nations ECOSOC Chamber on 30 October, 2019, hosted by the Republic of South Africa and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The event began with imagery from the exhibition “Youth Speak Out Through the Arts” (pictured left), showcasing art from a diverse group of youth working in New York as well as two young artists working in Iraq.

Ms. Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, stated that “sexual violence in conflict has been called history’s greatest silence, the least reported, the least condemned.” Mohammed reflected on the creation of the mandate as the UN’s commitment to “highlight, prevent and seek justice for these crimes” after it was established through the adoption of Security Council resolution 1888 in 2009.

A ‘survivors hearing’ panel was held with panelists sharing first and secondhand testimonies and recommendations from those who have experienced sexual violence in conflict. Ms. Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2018 Peace Prize Laureates, officially launched the “Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” to help survivors and their families rebuild through locally designed solutions including reparations for survivors. Read the 2019 annual “Conflict Related Sexual Violence” report of the United Nations Secretary General here.

Golden Rule can have national impact

by ELCA Advocacy

What do you expect to hear in the forthcoming 365 days as we approach the 2020 national election? Do you clench up a bit – anticipating rancor in the airwaves, on screens… not even excluding at coffee shops, dinner tables and perhaps even Fellowship Halls?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was among those who helped shape “Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics” out of concern about the polarization in our country by emphasizing the applicability of Christian ethical principles to our political discussions. “We believe that we can find guidance through this national dilemma in the teachings of Jesus,” reads a Statement of Support joined by the ELCA and several other Christian denominations and organizations. It continues:

“In particular, we believe that Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you” should be taken seriously by Christians who engage in political activity. We also believe that if enough people follow this ‘Golden Rule’ principle, it will help generate the respect and civility we so desperately need in our country.’”

“When our tone is automatically uncivil and it’s automatically accusatory, how can we ever hope that we’re actually going to communicate with somebody else if we’ve already belittled and accused them?” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a Religion News Service article (10/31/19) highlighting that civility is not mutually exclusive to speaking out against injustice.

Bishop Eaton drew present applicability in the article from Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment in the Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”

On November 3, 2019 and in the year ahead, congregations and individuals are invited to pray for the healing of the divisions in our country and promote the use of the Golden Rule in our own political discussions and election activities in 2020. Resources affiliated with the Golden Rule 2020 movement include a #ReviveCivility pledge from the National Institute for Civil Discourse plus games and activities such as “Media Literacy for High School Students” and an one-on-one discussion guide.

Christians have differing theological and political views. The Golden Rule can give us guidance when we need to come together to solve our common problems.

National Office: September 2019

ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C.

from Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director

PROPOSED SNAP RULE CHANGE | AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL | INTERFAITH CLIMATE CONSULTATION | YOUNG ADULT HILL VISITS

THIRD PROPOSED RULE CHANGE TO SNAP BENEFITS ANNOUNCED:  On Oct. 1, the United States Department of Agriculture proposed another rule that would cut SNAP benefits, this time by a total of $4.5 billion over five years. The cut would result from changes in how states take households’ utility costs into account in SNAP benefits determination. ELCA Advocacy opposes this new proposed rule.

Lutheran advocates have already submitted public comments pertaining to previously proposed changes. In the period through April 2, ELCA Advocacy network participants opposed time limits on food benefits. In the period through Sept. 23, participants opposed categorical eligibility elimination for SNAP benefit determination. Additional opportunity for response by the ELCA Advocacy network is in development.

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL:  Since September 2018, congressionally allocated U.S. aid has been redirected from hospitals in East Jerusalem to other projects. Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and the other members of the East Jerusalem Hospitals network are critical to the region’s health care and well-being. ELCA Peace Not Walls asks advocates to urge lawmakers to reverse this unilateral policy decision.

AVH is owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and several other member churches of the LWF. Without international assistance, Augusta Victoria and other hospitals in East Jerusalem face cuts to services. AVH is unable to make minimum payments to pharmaceutical suppliers of cancer medication and is currently running out of vital medication to treat its patients. Learn more from PNW.

ROBUST AND INSPIRATIONAL INTERFAITH CLIMATE CONSULTATION:  Organized by the ELCA and planning partners, “Climate Emergency: Faith-based Organizations Raising Ambition — Leaving No One Behind” drew representatives from more than 45 groups, including World Council of Churches, Islamic Relief, AME Zion Church, and the Buddhist and Catholic faiths. The consultation, held Sept. 24, amplified the momentum of the UN Climate Change Summit and youth-led actions around the world.

The consultation featured inspirational opening and closing prayers, robust discussions and a passionate report from two student activists who were instrumental in the massive youth mobilizations in New York and around the world on September 20. The consultation is preparing an action plan that reflects the discussions held.

YOUNG-ADULT FAITH LEADERS MAKE HILL VISITS:  An advocacy day for young-adult faith leaders was co-hosted by ELCA Advocacy, Bread for the World, Church World Service and other ecumenical partners in the last week of September. The participants, including ELCA young adults, met with their members of Congress to urging support of foreign assistance development and humanitarian funding.

Lutheran seminary student Wylie Cook said of the event, “It was absolutely humbling to work with fellow young people of faith who came together and sought bipartisan support advocating for foreign assistance funding, which assists the most vulnerable and marginalized around the world. Our common faith values coalesced into a formidable force and illuminated God’s intending of abundant life for all, ‘on earth, as it is in heaven.’”

UN Update: September 2019

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

from Dennis Frado, director 

“TIME FOR HARD CHOICES” REPORT LAUNCH: On September 6, 2019, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office launched a report titled “Financing the UN Development System: Time For Hard Choices.” Split into two sections, part one provides UN funding data on revenue and expenditure, while part two delves into the financial complexities of the 2030 Agenda, told from the perspective of more than 30 authors within and outside the UN system. Read the full report here.

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: UNICEF installed a display of 3,758 backpacks at the UN Headquarters, representing the ”senseless loss of a young life to conflict,” and a “reminder to world leaders of the stakes,” in the lead up to the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20. The 2019 Annual Report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict states, “more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in conflict zones last year, the highest number since the UN started monitoring and reporting this grave violation.”

“WOMEN IN POWER” CALL TO ACTION: H.E. Mrs. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the 73rdPresident of the General Assembly, led the final informal high-level event in her “Women in Power” series. The call to action was titled “Voices for Change and Inclusion: Joining Forces and Redoubling Efforts to Achieve Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for All,” influenced by Espinosa Garcés’ eight priorities to advance female leadership. During opening remarks, Ms. Susan Malcorra stated, “We are deeply convinced that for peace to be achieved and sustained, the full participation and potential of women must be unleashed.” View the session here. This event is in line with the call for action to accelerate full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as we head towards its 25th Anniversary in 2020. Read more here.

ANNUAL PRAYER FOR PEACE: In the lead up to the United Nations International Day for Peace (21 September) and the general debate during the 74th Session of the General Assembly, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations hosted its 33rd Annual Prayer for Peace service. Archbishop Bernardito Auza led three prayers by Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of the value of such a service, and His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, President of the 74th session of the General Assembly, expressed how ”it is important to seek the help of God in the work of the United Nations.” 

LOWC FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE: On Friday, September 20, 2019, LOWC staff joined an estimated 60,000+ students, adults and activists in the Climate Strike for climate action in New York. Greta Thunberg delivered a speech during the event in New York stating, “we are doing this to wake leaders up… We are a wave of change, together and united we are unstoppable .” It is estimated that more than 1 million people participated in climate strikes globally across 125 countries on this day.

The UN Youth Climate Summit and SDG Action Zone took place the following day (September 21) at the United Nations Headquarters where Greta Thunberg criticized world leaders for their lack of urgency, during the opening session. Young entrepreneurs from around the world were given the opportunity to take the mic and discuss solutions.

On September 22, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened the Climate Action Summit 2019, where leaders were urged to showcase “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.” During the event (view here), members of governments, the private sector, civil society and other international organizations came together to develop six action portfolios to curb global greenhouse gas emissions and promote global action.

74TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES: The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA74) began on 17 September with the general debate taking place 24 – 30 September under the new GA President, His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria. To view what each country had to say during the General Debate, click here. Many other high-level events were held, such as on Universal Health Coverage, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, financing for development, and the review of progress made in addressing priorities of small island developing states (SIDS) also took place during this time.