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Promoting justice and peace for the most vulnerable

Welcome to the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice

The Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice will work to break the silence surrounding the poor. Our goal is to help people recognize the social, political and economic conditions surrounding them and take action against these oppressive elements.

This is accomplished by offering educational workshops/seminars for service providers.

We will work to form linkages, networks and partnerships among service providers so they can be effective in building a foundation of community support.

“It would be better no one be hungry, and this necessity did not exist”. St. Augustine

Current Highlights

Augustinians – ECOSOC Status

Congratulations to the Order of St. Augustine, Augustinians International for achieving ECOSOC consultative status with the United Nations. The official recognition was confirmed in May 2014. Fr. Emeka Obiezu OSA says that this new relationship with the UN will be a great step forward for the Order and for the communities served by the Order.

ECOSOC is the “Economic and Social Council” of the UN. Consultative status provides NGOs with access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies and to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. Currently, there are approximately 3,900 NGOs which enjoy consultative status with ECOSOC.

Until recently, the Augustinians enjoyed status with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). These organizations generally have far fewer privileges to participate in intergovernmental meetings of the United Nations. There are three types of consultative status: General, Special and Roster. Most new accreditations, such as the Augustinians are in the Special category. Special status NGOs are required to submit a 'quadrennial report' every four years.

The consultative relationship is a reciprocal one. NGOs are granted the privilege of participating in a wide variety of United Nations-sponsored meetings and activities. In return, they are expected to contribute, each in their own way, to support the development aims of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations at large. Thus, the quadrennial review presents an opportunity for NGOs to inform Member States about the their activities in support of the United Nations, and at the same time, receive feedback on their programme of work as well as an official acknowledgement of their contribution as partners in development.

Further information about ECOSOC can be found at the ECOSOC website: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/


AUGUSTINIANS LOOKING AT 2015 AND BEYOND

1. INTRODUCTION/THEME

New York City was the site of the conference sponsored by Augustinians International from August 22-25, 2014. There were approximately 15 participants who came from many places around the globe, such as Nigeria, Philippines, Ecuador, Canada and the United States.

Fr. Emeka Obiezu, OSA the United Nations Representative organized the conference and arranged for the speakers and topics for discussion. One of the purposes of the session was to provide basic information about the presence of the Augustinian Order in the United Nations. The Order has recently (May 2014) gained ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) Consultative status at the UN. Consultative status provides NGOs with access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies and to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.

In addition, another issue for discussion following from the ECOSOC status is the reporting responsibility. Each ECOSOC body is required to report to the UN every four years. Therefore, the Augustinians need to report in 2018.

A further goal for the conference was to discuss and evaluate the draft development goals for 2015-3020. The Millenium Development Goals (MDG) of the UN are set to expire in 2015. The participants had a chance to look at a draft of the proposed development goals beyond 2015.

2. SPEAKERS/PRESENTERS

The speakers were diverse and experts in their respective fields. They included the following.

a) Uchenna Achunine - Executive Director of the Centre for Values in Leadership, Nigeria.

b) Joseph Donnelly - Senior Management Team of CARITAS, co-chair for the Security Council NGO Working Group, ECOSOC President's Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group. For more information about Mr. Donnelly, please click here

c) Dr. Azza Karam, Ph.D. - Senior Advisor on Social & Cultural Development at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Further information about Dr. Karam can be found here

d) Rosa G. Lizarde - Global Director of the Feminist Task Force, co-chair of the NGO UN Working Group on Post 2015. To see more information about Rosa, click here

e) Amanda Lyons - human rights lawyer with Franciscans International, Advocacy Officer for the Americas. Amanda Lyons is a human rights lawyer with Franciscans International, at the UN. She is the Advocacy Officer for the Americas. Her main areas of work include global sustainable development policy and country-specific human rights advocacy strategies related to environmental and human-rights abuses in Latin America.

f) Maurizio Misitano - International Projects of the Augustinian Order, stationed in Rome.

g) John Szura, OSA - stationed in the Philippines working in seminary education and in health care outreach to indigent children.

h) Fr. Mario Jose Zambiasi, a Scalabrinian priest. Assistant Executive Director of Scalabrini International Migration Network, in New York. For more information about Fr. Zambiasi, please click here

3. MAJOR THEMES

Each speaker and session was filled with insights, challenges and new information. The following are some highlights by theme.

a) Sustainable Development Goals - The World We Want Post 2015
One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 was the agreement by member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. It was further agreed that SDGs must be: action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature, and universally applicable to all countries.

The World We Want is a global civil society campaign, pushing for a strong and legitimate successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals. The goal is to achieve a global, overarching, cross-thematic framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, reflecting Beyond 2015's policy positions. Some of the themes for these SDGs include: inequalities, governance, health, education, environmental sustainability, food security and nutrition, conflict and fragility, energy, water, population dynamics and growth and employment.

Response/Resources
All members of civil society are welcome and encouraged to participate in developing these themes which will form part of the SDGs for 2015 and beyond.
What is ECOSOC? You can find out here
What are the Millennium Goals? Find out here
Learn more about SDGs here
The World We Want - Themes here

b) Grassroots Human Rights Advocacy
This session addressed the question as to what and how can we engage UN mechanisms to address the systematic injustices that we witness? What kind of collective action can we undertake to promote positive change? When we see injustices committed on a systematic level we need to ask ourselves the following: What is the role of the state in this issue? Do we engage with the state in addressing the issue? What is the relevance of the UN? The UN believes, and so do we, that human rights are to be respected, protected and promoted.

The UN offers several avenues to address human rights violations.

I. One is the UN Rapporteur. These are independent expert individuals working on behalf of the UN within the scope of "Special Procedures" mechanisms, who bear a specific mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council, either a country mandate or a thematic mandate.

II. The second is the Human Rights Council of the UN. This includes independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advice on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.

III. The third area includes treaties which are international instruments by which states establish rights and obligations among themselves.

The mechanism which offers concrete proposals and analysis of root causes of injustice and allows for direct communication among states and the UN is the UN Periodic Review (UPR). This was established in April 2006, and periodically examines the human rights performance of all 193 UN Member States. Forty-two States are now reviewed each year during three sessions of the HRC's Working Group on the UPR, with 14 States reviewed at each session. Individuals and groups are encouraged to submit ideas, recommendations or complaints to the UPR. UPR involves assessing States' human rights records and addressing human rights violations wherever they occur. The UPR also aims to provide technical assistance to States and enhance their capacity to deal effectively with human rights challenges and to share best practices in the field of human rights among States and other stakeholders. There are three types of documents presented at the review. The report by the state itself, information provided by independent human rights experts and information from other stakeholders including national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations.

In Canada, the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice worked with several other Religious communities to submit a report to the recent UPR on the topic of immigration. This mechanism has the most probability of some success.

Some resources:

UN Rapporteur

Human Rights Committee

Treaties

Periodic Review

4. PICTURE GALLERY

To view some pictures from the conference click here


Human trafficking – an open wound . . . a scourge upon the body of Christ”. This is a statement from Pope Francis in April of 2014 at the conclusion of the “International Conference on Combating Human Trafficking” held in Rome.

The Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice (CASC) is one of the participants involved in addressing this issue here in Canada. As the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games are being hosted by Toronto Canada in July of 2015, trafficking in persons will be prevalent. Along with other Religious Congregations, the CASC is working to raise awareness of the issue among the Catholic community and the hierarchy. The Centre is also cooperating with city officials to prepare a coordinated response to the issue as it arises.

Please see the article which provides further information and teaching about this important social issue. In the article there is a description of trafficking, who are the traffickers and victims, the response from the city of Toronto, Religious Congregations actions and links to resources in Canada and around the world.

Religious Congregations will be preparing and setting up “Gift Boxes” in the city and surrounding area to help raise awareness and appreciation of this issue in an experiential manner.

To read the article, click here