Loreto Interns at the United Nations

By Anne Kelly

Anne Kelly ibvm and Cecilia O’Dwyer ibvmAnne Kelly ibvm and Cecilia O’Dwyer ibvmTwo weeks ago I welcomed Cecilia O’Dwyer ibvm from the Spanish Province to New York, where she will work for the next few months as an intern at Loreto’s UN Office. She arrived hot on the heels of my previous intern, Clare Condon, from Australia. I asked both women to explain why they had wanted to take on such a challenge. Their thoughtful and intelligent response to this question clearly indicates their competence and suitability for the position.

Cecilia O’Dwyer writes

Greetings from New York! Cecilia O´Dwyer, Spanish Province, here. I began an internship at the NGO office in late January 2012. When I was thinking about ways of making a year´s sabbatical enriching and helpful, I thought about the possibility of doing an internship at the Loreto UN Office and got the go ahead to do it. So thanks to all concerned.

Why am I interested in doing an internship at the UN? When I ask myself about ways of enhancing life for all human beings and the life systems of our planet, I know there are many ways of doing it. We participate in this endeavor around the Institute, usually at local level.

When we set up the NGO at the UN in 2002, I understood it as a way of being present where our vision and values could be reflected at a global level. The growth in consciousness of the dignity of all human beings and the systems which allow us to survive is expressed in the principles and objectives elaborated at the UN, which is the only possibility of some semblance of world government available to us at the moment. As part of civil society which claims its voice at this level, our Institute, along with many other NGOs, has chosen to be part of this initiative, which means we try to contribute to the thinking, processing and elaboration of the principles and strategies we consider important for our world at this point in history.

Now, one of the main challenges I have found has been working out how to relate local concerns to what is happening at the global level and integrating both into everyday life. It has been difficult and truthfully I haven´t achieved a satisfactory understanding of how it all connects. One of my objectives, therefore, during this internship, is to do some ground work on how religious congregations and other NGOs are dealing with this same question. I am looking forward to learning from them about this and other aspects of their work. It will strengthen my understanding of what it means to be a global citizen and how one small contribution from a specific local area on this planet is part of the whole evolving dynamic of humankind.

Clare Condon writes

Clare Condon at the UN, New YorkClare Condon at the UN, New York

After completing studies in Political Science and working in the social service sector, I was excited to start an internship at the United Nations and gain greater insight into the connection between politics and social welfare. Working on global issues of poverty, gender and contemporary politics for three months at the UN headquarters in New York was a real privilege.

The lecture on the Palestinian Question delivered by Kalida Rashiri, the Modern Arab Studies Professor from Columbia University, was one of the most powerful sessions I attended during my time at the UN and a refreshingly frank illumination of one of our most complex contemporary political issues. I was lucky enough to hear Ban Ki-Moon address the need for greater NGO and member state cooperation, to listen to the US Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanie Verveer, stress the urgent need to invest in women and girls, and to see leaders such as the UK’s David Cameron discuss their nation’s current state of affairs in the General Assembly for Leaders Week 2011. I was also hugely impressed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Gutierres, who spoke with honesty, compassion and intelligence on the issue of forced migration.

These experts showed that policy transcends the international sphere to affect communities at a local level, and my work centred on a range of these policy issues. I created presentations on the UN for school-aged audiences, wrote articles on Human Trafficking and other issues, assisted with writing an intervention for the UN Commission on Social Development and minutes for committee groups, as well as taking part in many NGO meetings. As part of my internship, I was fortunate to attend the 64th Annual UN DPI (Department of Public Information) Conference in Bonn, Germany. This conference on Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens was an excellent introduction to the UN process, and I subsequently wrote a report on this experience for Loreto’s global networks.

I learnt a great deal about NGOs and their role within the largely state-centric UN body. Advocacy is a central part of the role of NGOs at the UN, as they lobby states and use their particular expertise to influence international policy. States don’t want to hear NGOs recite the gravity of the world’s problems; they are looking for solutions. In that way, with the right suggestions, NGOs can be very influential.

10 February 2012