2020: A Year of “Firsts” at the UN

by | Aug 6, 2020 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N. | 2 comments

In June of this year, after two years of non-stop deliberations and networking, the United Nations officially adopted a resolution on homelessness.  The work of some 35 NGO representatives and groups, led by the Vincentian Family’s FHA global alliance, and with the essential collaboration of several Member States (countries), this significant achievement marked the FIRST time in the 75 year history of the UN that homelessness was treated as a stand-alone issue. The stage is now set for a second resolution on the issue, currently being drafted, that will then oblige the UN to include homelessness directly in its deliberations.

Also in June 2020, the Human Rights Council of the UN took the unprecedented step of addressing systemic racism in the United States.  This marks another FIRST at the UN, and certainly a timely one as our country deals with (mostly) peaceful protests on racism and (occasionally) brutal police responses.

The Council will hold a debate on “systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests” in the US and elsewhere.  The Council is also working on a resolution calling for the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry focused on the US. It is the first time the Council has ever discussed the issue of African-Americans in the US. Historically the UN has shied away from discussing internal issues the US might be dealing with.

According to Global Development Update:

Directly confronting the UN’s biggest financial donor — the US — for human-rights abuses is something a UN body does tactfully, even if the country is no longer a member of the Human Rights Council. One expert in Geneva described the US as part of a 5 NGO groups addressing the issue comes as a surprise. As such, it will look at the topic through a global perspective.

Countries that have supported the cause of African-Americans’ equal rights in the US, still sporadically point out the “hypocrisy” of the US on international human rights alongside the discrimination of African-Americans at home.

I wonder about the coincidence that I’m writing this at the same time that the great civil rights icon John Lewis lies in state at the Capitol in Washington D.C.  He exemplified coherence of word and deed in the face of racism.  May the example of this “maker of good trouble” inspire the citizens of our country to begin to eliminate the scourge of racism in all its forms so that one’s melanin content does not determine one’s future.

Jim Claffey,
Congregation of the Mission NGO representative at the UN



  1. Tom M

    Keep up all this good work…

  2. Pattie Hughes

    Well done, Jim. And welcome!

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