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10 years: UN NGO Advisory Committee

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The UN NGO Advisory Committee is a decade old. To commemorate the establishment of this very important committee, we invited previous Chairs, Evanne Hunter ibvm and Pat Hanvey ibvm to share their thoughts.

From Evanne Hunter:

Pat Murray was my contact on the Institute Leadership when the UN NGO Office was first established in 2004. She and I would discuss the idea of establishing a UN NGO Advisory Committee (UNAC) from time to time. Working alone in New York was somewhat limiting in spite of the partnership with the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ). As well as being a support, an UNAC would bring an additional perspective and objective view at the work being done. Advisors would bring their local perspective on what issues to address, advice about valuable contacts and assets on the ground, and a diversity of experience to guide the IBVM UN NGO representative (UN Rep).

It did not happen during my three years nor while Doryne Kirby ibvm and Marilla D’Sousa ibvm were in the role. It was Anne Kelly ibvm who pushed for the idea as she felt the need for support, as the partnership with RSCJ ended before she took on the role.

At the 2011 IBVM Extended Leadership Meeting (when Province and Region Leaders met with the Institute Leadership) held in Toronto, a decision was made to establish the UN NGO Advisory Committee. A role description was drafted. The Committee would have five members and would include non-IBVMs.

Shortly after that, the Institute Leadership appointed the first UNAC members with me as the Chair. Kevin Dance OP was a real asset as he brought his experience as the Passionists UN NGO Representative in New York. The Terms of Reference was written to guide the members of the Committee as they supported and provided valuable input to the UN Rep. As Chair, I saw more and more the value of UNAC, with its broad IBVM representation from various countries bringing their experiences and expertise to the discussions. 

At the CJ Education Meeting in Spain, I was invited to do a presentation on the work of IBVM at the UN. To see the appointment of Cynthia (Mathew CJ) as co-representative and the addition of CJ members to the UNAC brought joy to my heart.

From Pat Hanvey:

I share with you an appreciation of being able to serve our Mary ward UN NGO network as Chairperson of the Advisory Committee between 2017-2019.

Having worked in grassroots development all of my religious life, I spent seven weeks as an intern at the UN NGO office in New York in 2012. This gave me a lot of insight into how the mechanisms of the UN work in bringing the voice of the grass roots into the collective arena of so many nations who have the power to implement change at a global level. This experience also allowed me to respond positively when asked to be a member of the UN Advisory Committee in 2013. I was somewhat surprised when asked to be the Chairperson following on from Sr Evanne Hunter IBVM at the beginning of 2017, a person who had contributed so much and steered the development of the UN office in the preceding years.

Although I felt somewhat inadequate at times during my three-year term as Chairperson, in coordinating such an esteemed group of individuals who comprised the Advisory Committee, both religious and lay from all corners of the world, it was indeed a special time for me. To be part of such a group with such diverse expertise and who cared passionately about injustices and inequalities in our world, especially related to women and girls, and who together could give direction and guidance for our entire Mary Ward network, was indeed a privilege. Needless to say, I learned much from my colleagues on the Committee.

Our work as an Advisory Committee however was made so much easier by the incredible enthusiasm and commitment of Sr Cecilia O’Dwyer IBVM and Sr Cynthia Matthews CJ, our Representatives in the New York office at the time, who were so instrumental in getting things done. Under their initiatives and hard work, so many networks were created or expanded, social media platforms set up and a great expansion generally in communication to and from the office to the wider network, which made the work of the Office so much more effective on the ground.

It was a privileged time too in that our network expanded and developed greatly, through the added presence of CJ members on the Advisory Committee and concurrent expansion of our network on the ground. A CJ presence and experience in parts of the world where the IBVM were not present, and a more fruitful response in regions where the two groups could work together to bring about change, was a significant development in this my term of office on the Advisory Committee and indeed our presence at the UN.

A major review of our work as a UN NGO was undertaken during my period as Chair and with the insightful responses received from the broader Mary Ward network on the ground, I believe we could identify some significant directions for the incoming chair and several new members to the Board, at the time of my departure.

I was very pleased to hand over the position to Ms Mary-Eileen Donovan, a Mary Ward Associate from Canada who was such a strong support to me and a vital component in the functioning of the Advisory Committee during my tenure. I thank our International Leadership Teams who entrusted me with the role and to all the wonderful people I worked with and learned from, during this time.

Photo: Current UN NGO Advisory Committee members: Adina Balan cj, Pauline Macharia ibvm, Hilmtrud Wendorff cj, Heidi Cerneka, Mary Eileen Donovan, Smitha Muthu cj with UN NGO Representatives: Janet Palafox ibvm and Cynthia Mathew cj

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