Visit to the United Nations General Assembly
By Kevin Cawley, CFC
Executive Director of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College,
Representative for Edmund Rice International at the United
Edmund Rice International Welcomes Nine is Mine
Edmund Rice International (ERI) welcomed Nine is Mine to New York from September 18- September 27, 2013. Eleven students and nine chaperones composed the delegation under the direction of Br. Steve Rocha of the Indian Province of Edmund Rice Christian Brothers.
Iona College Hosts the Young People
Iona College proved a most generous host for the group. Carl Procario -Foley, Ph.D., director for Campus Ministries, graciously offered to assist Br. Kevin Cawley of ERI with the housing and transportation details during their stay. Students were matched with host families near the campus. Iona vans provided transport to the nearest train and subway stops. Br. Sean Whitty and Br. Dennis Gunn also provided assistance with driving and supervising and preparing dinner. The Iona College Brothers community provided some accommodation for several chaperones. Participation in the life of Iona included visits to classes and the children were able to headline the Thursday night “Coffee House” in the student union where they were treated royally. Sibdas Ghosh, Ph.D., Dean of Arts and Science at Iona and a native of Kolkatta, provided dinner for the group on campus for one of the evenings.
New York City Assistance
We were assisted in New York by Sr. Fatima Rodrigo of the Presentation Sisters who also provided a spectacular lunch for the group at an Indian Restaurant - a wonderful touch of home for all the students. Sr. Fatima also provided invaluable guidance on how to address the logistics of movement around the various venues. This help was critical while the General Assembly was blanketed by New York City police, United Nations security and the national security apparatus of the various heads of state in town for the General Assembly, including President Obama of the USA on Tuesday of the first week.
The children visited and spoke at Light of the World events at the Austrian Mission; they visited the headquarters of World Vision; they called in at the India Mission to the United Nations and were graciously received by the First Secretary, Amit Narang. The children presented at the event sponsored by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan where they shared the platform with Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of GreenPeace. There were further contacts with the India Mission, a Stakeholder’s Briefing on the Commission on Sustainable Development, invitations to sessions on Advancing Regional Recommendations on the Post-2015 Agenda and events at United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as well as Japan House and the Church Center for the United Nations.
They made an especially memorable impression at the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan event when one girl presented in Hindi from a wheelchair, a young girl blind since birth provided the English translation while reading from a braille text and a young man born deaf and mute provide a simultaneous sign language translation for the assembled audience.
Nine is Mine Advocacy
A bit of background may be helpful for a context for this visit. The Nine is Mine campaign is a children’s advocacy campaign that seeks the fulfillment of education for all, an end to gender discrimination and a reduction in child mortality. These goals correspond to UN Millennium Development Goals 2, 3 and 4 . Adding the numbers totals 9, hence “9 is Mine”. It is an initiative of children by children and for children to claim their right to be heard and their right to participation even in governance. The campaign began in India in response to Nelson Mandela’s call to every ordinary citizen to hold the government accountable to their commitment “to end poverty and social exclusion.” (Wada Na Todo Abhiyan).
The children of India took it upon themselves to demand that India allocate 6% of GDP on Education and 3% on health; hence “9 is Mine” once again.
The Nine is Mine delegation to New York was determined to apply pressure on the Member States participating in the 68th Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations as they met at UN headquarters in the fall of 2013. To this end, they worked vigorously to be present at a number of events surrounding the General Assembly gathering of heads of state. The young people made an indelible impression by their focus, their good humor, and their untiring press for opportunities to speak. They continued to impress despite some setbacks and disappointments when security closed off venues or tickets were limited or prices were out of reach. The group stayed cohesive and mutually supportive despite the many surprising changes of schedule and long days of commuting on NY city subways.
Jessalyn Marconi, ′14
Student Campus Minister: Montgomery House Habitat for Humanity & Publicity Kairos (K7)
After becoming involved with the Nine is Mine campaign, it was extremely exciting to meet twelve students who traveled from India to rally at the UN this past month for their movement. Filled with passion to fight social justice issues that have been largely ignored in both developed and developing countries, those eleven students inspired me to advocate with them. As these students have explained to me, it is time for the 189 member states that signed the Millennium Development Goals to uphold their promise of making development goals a reality for all people, including children, everywhere.
Ashley Hubaykah, ′15
The Nine is Mine team taught me the power of a child's voice. Of all the people we listen to on a daily basis, I found it incredibly empowering that at the end of the day, our campus population remembered the voice of the child. The children verified the truth of how much power students have and the significant impact the young can make on the world today.