Fr. Robert Maloney, CM,  has commented on the enormous potential the Vincentian Family has for the service of persons living in poverty, especially when we work together in a united way. (Vincentiana, 1995).  In keeping with that spirit, the Family’s nine NGO representatives to the United Nations are collaborating to advocate for policy change and programs which benefit the most marginalized.

The 57th Commission on Social Development (CSOCD) takes place from February 11 to 22 at UN Headquarters in New York. The Commission is the advisory body responsible for the social development pillar of global development.  Vincentian Family NGO representatives are collaborating with the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness in sponsoring a panel of speakers on homelessness during the afternoon of the Commission’s first day. Homelessness represents a serious form of inequality, which, along with challenges to social inclusion and the need for social protection systems, is a key theme for this year’s Commission.

The event is entitled, “Homelessness, A Prominent Sign of Social Inequalities.”  Sr. Catherine Prendergast, DC, will moderate the panel. Fr. Guillermo Campuzano has worked diligently to arrange speakers. Other Vincentian Family NGO representatives will be present to support the effort.  The panel follows a weekend conference on homelessness, February 9-10, sponsored by the Institute for Global Homelessness in Chicago.

Among panelists will be Irish Ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne-Nason (or her designee); Karina Soto Abarca, Sub Secretary of Social Services-Secretariat of Social Development for the Government of Chile; Julieta Perucca, Senior Aid to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Coordinator of The Shift Program; Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness; and Iris Bailey, representative of Life Experience and Faith Sharing Associates (LEFSA) in New York.

MaryAnn Dantuono, a member of the Ladies of Charity (International Association of Charity), prepared a statement on homelessness both for CSOCD and for the Commission on the Status of Women in March. These have been submitted and have become official UN Documents. Pattie Hughes, who, with Ed Keane, represent the international Conference of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, moderated a panel on homelessness during the Commission a year ago. Sr. Teresa Kotturan, SCN, facilitated a panel on good practices for ending poverty during the Commission two years ago.  

The NGO representatives liaise monthly, share information and wisdom, and participate on many common NGO committees. Other common committees include Financing for Development, Stop Trafficking in Persons, the Mining Working Group, the NGO Committee on Migration, in addition to the Working Group to End Homelessness.

The Working Group to End Homelessness has been striving, since November, 2017, to bring homelessness to the fore of the UN’s social agenda.  First, they are encouraging the CSOCD Bureau to name homelessness as an upcoming theme for the 2020 Commission. They are also encouraging member states to pass a resolution which calls for countries to count, address, and monitor progress towards ending street homelessness.

Last September, when Vincentian Family NGOs met in a planning retreat, they had the opportunity to discuss how they could best share their vision with leadership.  Thanks to the work of the Ladies of Charity—Natalie Boone, Marge Cashin, and Mary Ann Dantuono—the group was able to work with facilitator, Dr. Linda Sama, at St. John’s University.

On January 16, the group met the Vincentian Family Executive Committee in Philadelphia. The purpose was to provide information about the nature of collaboration at the United Nations, what has been accomplished to date, and how the Executive Committee might support their work. It was the first collective meeting between NGO representatives and general leadership. The group appreciated the dialogue with leadership on issues which are closest to the heart of their common charism, individual mandates, and the UN 2030 Agenda, which calls all humanity to leave no one behind.


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