Edmund Rice International June Newsletter
Newsletter of Edmund Rice International
News from ERI
Global Forced Displacements Exceed 50 Million
UN Photo/UNHCR/R LeMoyne
Conflicts in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and the Central African Republic have resulted in fresh waves of refugees and internally displaced peoples. The number of people around the world forced by conflict to flee their homes, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported, has soared past 51 million, the highest number since World War II.
According to the report released on World Refugee Day, half the refugees are children; a growing number of these are on their own. More than half of the 6.3 million refugees under the refugee agency’s care have been in exile for five years or more, testifying to conflicts that rage on and on. Most are what the United Nations refers to as “internally displaced” — people who have fled their homes but not their countries.
Only a lucky trickle of the refugees made it to developed countries; the vast majority, 86 percent, were living in developing countries.
“There is no humanitarian response able to solve the problems of so many people,” warned António Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees. And the international community had ever less capacity or consensus, he added, to prevent or resolve conflicts.
Statistics released by the UNHCR earlier this year also revealed a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialised countries over the course of the previous 12 months with a total of 612,700 people claiming asylum in the North American, European and East Asia/Pacific regions. (Australia received 24,300 claims in this period)
In the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20th June the UNHCR is highlighting individual stories of refugees. Stories that put a human face on the statistics may help to counter the consistent pervasive demonising of asylum seekers by labeling them ‘illegals’, ‘queue jumpers’ or ‘terrorists’, and thus justifying the cruel and inhumane treatment to which those fleeing persecution are subjected to in some countries.
England Senior Students Conference
Pictured with ERI Director Brian Bond are former and newly appointed members of the justice group from St Josephs, Stoke on Trent.
The seeds for organising a conference for senior students were sown at last year’s conference for Headteachers and Chairs of Governors at Emmaus in Dublin. Edmund Rice International (ERI), through Br. Brian Bond, spoke passionately for the involvement of the ER schools in England in the ongoing work of ERI. The Edmund Rice Network team followed this up with a visit to Geneva to see the work first hand, and to see exactly how the schools could support that work. We returned full of enthusiasm and ideas and decided at that point to arrange, as a first step, for members of the L6 from all seven England schools to come together to share ideas and hopefully bring them to a realisation that they, as students, did have a voice, and they should be given the opportunity to advocate for those who lacked a voice through raising awareness of Universal Human Rights.
We were extremely fortunate to already have, within one of our secondary schools, St. Joseph’s College Stoke-on-Trent, a working model of how this could take shape through the appointment of ERI Youth Ambassadors and the establishment of an ERI Advocacy group from across all year groups in the school. These committed students would be mandated to mobilise the student body to plan positive action in support of the rights of children and young people in areas of the world in which Edmund Rice Education had a foothold. This had been shown to be an effective advocacy tool in other Provinces of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
The makings of the conference were starting to take shape. The venue became St. Ambrose College and the date chosen as the 20th June 2014. All seven schools were invited to attend and all seven schools responded positively to the idea. The Director of ERI was invited to talk to the Conference involving some 65 students and seven staff. The ERI group from St. Joseph’s was also invited to talk about their experiences over the first year. An opportunity was given for each school to spend time discussing the challenges of the day and feed back to the other delegates.
The day was centred around prayer and the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice as the common elements across all our schools.
A series of opportunities and challenges were put before the young people which they received generously and with open minds. Each school was sent away to consider how these elements of the ERI organisation could be brought to life in our schools and how the global dimension of belonging to the Edmund Rice family of schools could work for us and for the marginalised communities within each of the Congregation’s five Provinces. Hopefully the schools in England will rise to the challenge and we will support them in any way we can.
– article adapted from the website of the Edmund Rice Network, England
Promoting Decent Work for Youth
“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” (UDHR Article 23)
The same Article goes on to speak of “the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring … an existence worthy of human dignity”.
Today, young people especially, face multiple challenges regarding the implementation of their human rights and the realisation of those social and economic conditions that would allow them to live fully and in dignity.
Recently the Centre International de Conférences de Genève (CCIG), with various partners and in conjunction with the 103rd Session of the International Labour Conference, organised a briefing entitled “From Informal Employment to Formal Working Conditions: The Impact on Youth”.
The briefing involved presentations from four panelists. Maria Prieto (Youth Employment Specialist – ILO) highlighted the urgent need to address this worsening global problem, pointing out that according to ILO statistics, 8 out of 10 young workers (aged between 15 – 24) are currently outside of the formal economy. She also recounted initiatives taken by the ILO to encourage States to take action.
Niels Bohr (a representative of Caritas Genève) then shared his experience of initiatives carried out at the local level in Geneva to address this issue. While recognising the significant differences between the situations in Geneva and African countries such as Cameroon, Democtatic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, he stressed the similarity in the vulnerability experienced by young people in accessing the labor market.
Anna Chiara Bruno (representing the International Co-ordination of Young Christian Workers – ICYCW) presented the perspective of a young people’s organisation that is working both at the local and international level to bring the voice of youth into international fora. Anna shared good practices for making decent work for young people a reality drawing on her experience of the YCW campaign in Italy (where it is estimated that around 3 million workers have no employment contracts) which aims to sensitise young people to the risks of informal work and the advantages of a regular job (security, social protection, etc.)
Finally, Paola Caviedes Martinez shared her experience as waste-picker in Argentina. Despite the fact that waste-pickers number over 40,000 in Argentina and 20 million world-wide, their important productive and environmental role is not recognised as “work” by Governments, trade unions or society at large, and hence they are confined to the informal economy.
Among those excluded from the formal economy, inevitably women and children suffer the most. The lack of social protection for young parents impacts negatively on children who as a result are more prone to abandon their studies at an early age in order to obtain (informal) jobs and contribute to livelihood of the households.
Presentations from the speakers were followed by a debate with the participants.
A fuller report on the briefing can be found on the CCIG website together with more information on CCIG’s activities in Promoting Decent Work.
– thanks to Maria D’Onofrio (Secretary-General of CCCIG) for the information for this article
My Internship Experience
Three years after my decision to come to Iona College, I find myself inside the halls of the United Nations, listening to diplomats gossip and seeing representatives of world powers lining up for free coffee. I suppose much doesn’t change in the transition from college student to international professional: free caffeine will always be the source of brief delight and some brief semblance of global peace!
In retrospect, Iona College was the best choice for me; that’s certainly an easy perspective to have when you’re permitted to spend three weeks in the capital of international relations. Working for Edmund Rice International, an incredible non-governmental organization (NGO) with an even more incredible staff, through Iona College, is an opportunity I probably would not have had otherwise, and I’ve not spent a minute without reminding myself how lucky I truly am.
This past spring semester I enrolled in a service-learning course focusing on Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two nations that share the island of Hispaniola and have had a turbulent history with one another. In addition to learning about Haitian-Dominican history, relations, culture, and economic and social patterns I became aware that the Dominican government recently passed a law that allows Haitians living in the Dominican Republic to be stripped of citizenship, regardless of whether or not they were born in the Dominican Republic or had enjoyed such citizenship, obtained legally, for years.
As fortune would have it, the Dominican Republic was up for its Universal Periodic Review this year. This mechanism, known commonly as the UPR, is formulated by the Human Rights Council’s members to give recommendations to states on human rights violations on their soil, whether these violations are perpetrated, tolerated, or simply not given enough attention by the government. In the case of the Dominican government, these violations are created intentionally and are given “legal” backing. For me, seeing the Dominican government begin to answer in person for these violations was completely vindicating. Would all the violations be resolved? No. Would the Dominican government act on these recommendations? Probably not. But I now know that there are some good people in decision-making positions that actually care, and for me that was enough to start with. Being able to see the world come to life out of the textbook and into reality, where real problems are at hand with real-world implications, has been the best education for me.
– John Paul Catalanotto, (ERI Intern)