ERI Geneva Training in Human Rights and Advocacy
Participants in the recent ERI training in Geneva.
Landing in Geneva International Airport to the sight of the snow-capped Swiss Alps, we were soon to learn the contrast between those chilly peaks and the warmth of the hospitality offered throughout our stay. The Genevan-based Brothers of Edmund Rice International opened their home to us for two weeks and kindly punctuated our stay with beautiful meals, guided tours and brisk walks through picturesque French and Swiss countryside.
Our fortnight was far more than countryside walks though, as we were immersed into the world of ERI and the United Nations. Brothers Brian, Kevin, Tino and Bernard (with an international cameo from Br. Kevin Cawley) generously shared their expertise and experience to guide the evolution of our understanding and appreciation of Human Rights, Sustainable Development Goals and the UN mechanisms. As the structure of these mechanisms and frameworks became ever clearer, we began to understand the important role we and our organisations have to play in amplifying the voices of those we serve on the International Stage.
Day by day, we grew as a group, engaging in animated discussion on social issues, meeting with Permanent Missions, Treaty Body representatives and Special Rapportuers. We were lucky enough to take in two separate Universal Periodic Review sessions: Albania and Cote D’Ivoire respectively. Sessions with Kevin Mullan and Kevin Cawley, on Jesus as a human rights activist and the brutally honest reality of the environmental crisis facing our Earth, were highlights that ignited the group.
What became most clear over the course of the fortnight was that each of us, with our new set of knowledge and experience, had a duty. This duty, as people of faith and members of the Edmund Rice Community, was not simply to continue the good work of our ministries in providing charity and services to those in need, but a duty to go further. We must ask WHY those we serve experience injustice and inequality. We must act as a means for their voices and their stories to be heard. This is a duty that we are able to fulfil most immediately at our local level, while also not shying away from engaging with the UN mechanisms that promote dialogue and accountability.
With our responsibility made clear, the next step we all face is planning for action. What was most evident amongst the group is that this first step is not easy. The idea of creating an advocacy plan evoked a certain level of anxiety in each of us. What areas should we focus on? How do we engage our local stakeholders? Where will our support come from? Can we really make a difference? The marathon of advocating for those we serve can seem daunting and dangerous when we are so comfortable in the value and quality of the ministries we already provide. Yet, as we each drafted our advocacy plans and found support within the group, that anxiety quickly changed to passion and purpose.
We leave Geneva feeling renewed and reinvigorated in our roles – excited and up for the challenges that lie ahead of us. We leave, knowing that there may be successes and setbacks dotted throughout the plans that we action. We leave with a new “family” to bounce ideas off and draw on for support in what we do. Most of all, we leave with a sense of purpose and responsibility to give voice to those we serve and work towards making a sustainable and structural difference in the lives of others.
Jeremy Seng │ ERC QLD
Taken from ERI Newsletter May 2019