“We should assist the poor in every way and do it both by ourselves and by enlisting the help of others…. To do this is to preach the gospel by words and work.” Vincent de Paul
Frederic Ozanam founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in collaboration with five friends. They consulted with Emmanuel Bailley; Sr. Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity; with government; and others in realizing their dream of bringing dignity to persons living in poverty and alleviating human need.
This spirit lives on among representatives of several branches of the Vincentian Family at the United Nations–The Congregation of The Mission, The Daughters of Charity, The Sisters of Charity Federation, The International Association of Charities (AIC), and The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. All are collaborating with each other to be more effective advocates for people living in poverty. At the same time each representative continues to maintain its organization’s individual charism and identity in a manner consistent with Church teaching and principles taught by the example of Saint Vincent de Paul and our particular founders.
Each representative is a member of The Social Development Committee at ECSOC, a group of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) which meets monthly to develop ideas and plan strategies to influence Member States about some of the many concerns of Civil Society. Representatives also attend subcommittee meetings, UN Events, and organize forums or panel presentations, sometimes called “Side Events.” They also submit and endorse statements concerning specific topics, when appropriate, as well as visit Missions to speak with Ambassadors to try to influence governments concerning issues. The Purpose of the Mission visits is to advocate for people living in poverty. They try to be a “Voice For The Voiceless;” that is, a voice for people living in poverty who have little or no political influence.
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
An example of a recent event attended by Vincentian Family members was the Commemoration of The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, held on October 17. This event was sponsored by the NGO Committee for Social Development, as well as the International Movement ATD Fourth World, and the International Committee for October 17. The commemoration included a message from United Nations Deputy Secretary General, H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson. The event was supported by the Permanent Missions of France and Burkina Faso to the United Nations. Their Ambassadors attended and made statements. The Daughters of Charity were able to provide the Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso, Yemdaogo Eric Tiare, with a copy of a report from the Grass Roots Task Force, which features information about reducing poverty at the grass roots level. It includes a summary of micro financing efforts in Nouma, Burkina Faso.
Persons living in poverty offer insight into their lived experience
Notably, a number of persons gave testimonies about their real life, personal experiences as victims of some of the oppressive, aspects of poverty. They spoke about the humiliation and exclusion they frequently encountered in their daily lives. The commemoration also included a performance by Sparsh Shah, a 13 year old child prodigy, singer, songwriter, and rapper. He has helped raise over half a million dollars for various philanthropic organizations and is the Youth Ambassador for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. His performance at the event brought everyone in attendance to their feet with applause.
Hope is Key
During some of the testimonies, several of the speakers mentioned the importance of keeping HOPE in their lives. This statement reminded me of the Motto of The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, “SERVING IN HOPE.” Shortly before the end of the program, one of the Ambassadors was so moved by what he saw and heard and commented to those present that this was one of the most memorable events he had ever experienced at The United Nations.
Report on the World’s Social Situation 2016
According to Executive Summary of The United Nations’ Report on The Worlds Social Situation 2016, “Humankind has achieved unprecedented social progress over the past several decades. Poverty has declined dramatically around the world, and people are healthier, more educated and better connected than ever before. However, the progress has been uneven. Social and economic inequalities persist and, in many cases, have worsened. Virtually everywhere, some individuals and groups confront barriers that prevent them from fully participating in economic, social and political life.”
2030 Agenda aims at leaving no one behind
Against this backdrop, inclusiveness and shared prosperity have emerged as core aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A central pledge contained in the 2030 Agenda is to ensure that “no one will be left behind and to see all goals and targets met for all nations, peoples and for all parts of society endeavoring to reach the furthest behind first.” (Report on the World Social Situation 2016, Executive Summary) General Assembly resolution 70/1, para.4.
NGOs serve as “conscience” to UN member states
In conclusion, one of the important roles of the Vincentian Family representatives at the United Nations is to work with other NGO’s and serve as a “Conscience” to the member states or governments. In sponsoring events, we try to bring awareness to both the general public and member states about various aspects of poverty and hopefully motivate people to take some positive actions to help eradicate some of the root causes of extreme poverty.
“Social and economic inequalities persist and, in many cases, have worsened.”—Report on the World Social Situation 2016
 #195 Conference to the Congregation of the Mission, 6 December 1658, CED 12:87 quoted in Thomas McKenna, C.M., Praying with Vincent de Paul (Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 1994), 63-64.