Ready for some alphabet soup? Last week began a major activity at the United Nations, one that particularly involves NGOs of religious women. One of the major working bodies at the UN is the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the forum to discuss social and economic issues; as such, it helps countries reach agreement on how to improve education and health conditions, and how to promote observance of universal human rights and freedoms. The United Nations has many “commissions” to administer the wide range of issues that this involves! Among them is the Commission on Social Development (CSD), which is meeting for these two weeks. The focus this year is Poverty Eradication–a tall order but one upon which everything else depends. When you talk about the status of women, economic development, climate change, health, education…problems in those areas are all parts of both the causes and effects of poverty. It’s a vicious cycle.
Since ECOSOC is the body through which the NGOs are connected with the United Nations, this is really a big week for us, and we were at meetings all last week–either observing / monitoring, participating, learning, discussing, caucusing… For eight months the NGOs have been preparing a “position paper”to be read at the plenary session of the Commission. Our own Catherine Ferguson (Director of UNANIMA), as chair of the NGO Committee on Economic and Social Development, read the statement—it was a good one, and she did a good job. The paper was titled Eradication of Poverty: a Civil Society Perspective 2011. (The “Civil Society” is everyone outside of the UN and the governments. NGOs represent the civil society.)
One of the things we keep reminding the UN is that reduction of military spending is a part of the solution to poverty. And we are not alone in that. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon recently said in a talk to young people that “Every year, the world spends $1.4 trillion dollars on weapons. With a fraction of that we could cut poverty, fund schools, provide health care, and protect the environment. One year of global military spending could pay the UN’s budget for 732 years.” May he live long and prosper!