I am very grateful for the last two weeks, when I had the opportunity to work with the IBVM/CJ NGO at the United Nations in New York. I have met Sister Cynthia before and contacted her when I came to the US for studying law for a year. She invited me to see her work for myself by joining her and Sister Janet during the 61st Session of the Commission on Social Development (CSocD61).
Being interested in international law since school, it was a dream come true to enter the United Nations Headquarter for the first time. Walking through a building I remember back from high school and seeing the rooms frequently shown in the news felt incredible. But the location was not the only highlight of my time in New York.
I learnt a lot by attending the meetings. I did not just hear much diplomatic speech, but also improved in reading between the lines (Why does the USA argue the absoluteness of the right to life for example? Because of Capital Punishment maybe?). Sometimes the speeches of the representatives were interesting, like Qatar talking about the great social security system for migrant workers, or a great number of member states blaming the pandemic for nearly all of their social problems. I quickly learnt to differentiate between the states talking about general policies and values, those enumerating different laws and programs, and those that did not just name these actions, but also mentioned detailed results.
It was also interesting to see how the states dealt with the war in the Ukraine; some calling it “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine”, others simply talking about “geopolitical tensions,” or ignoring it completely. But also in other regards states attacked each other more or less directly, like Cuba blaming ongoing sanctions for its social problems, and African states calling out on developed states, criticizing promises of financial aid without much consequences.
It was obvious that the Commission meetings I attended are mainly meant for public purposes, especially the last day, when the draft resolutions were adopted and member states gave their statements. The real work and more consequential negotiations, like drafting these resolutions, happened where the public and we NGOs cannot watch and listen. Nevertheless, I am glad they did take place at all. Of course there are things in the resolutions that the Civil Society would have preferred differently, but there is a certain influence of the Civil Society on the reports.
One of the best parts of my internship, however, was the Monday in the second week, when I could read out a statement on behalf of the NGO to the member states. The youth representative who had written it could not come to New York, so Sister Janet asked me to deliver it. After going it through a few times in order to be able to stay within the three minute limit, it was a rewarding experience to read it out without stumbling. Together with other NGO representatives, who I’ve met during the past week and who also delivered statements, I had a great time.
I really made a number of friends at the Conference, and not just with the people from my own NGO. Having the common goal of convincing the member states to act on their promises really connected us, and it felt like a great team. I met many truly inspiring people with great stories. That also made the side events very interesting; they were less political in regards to well articulated promises and more ambitious by showing clear problems and possible solutions.
But also apart from CSocD61 I had two great weeks. I spent time with Sister Cynthia or other interns, and I did a fair amount of tourism when I was not at the UN Headquarter. New York City is truly a fascinating city with many great places, but the UN is the most fascinating one for me. Spending time there, watching international politics being made and international law slowly developed is an experience any law student interested in international and public law dreams of. Thank you!
To watch Luisa read the Oral Statement, click HERE.
To read our Oral Statement written by intern, Prateeksha Shukla. Click HERE.
Author: Luisa Gambs