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Week of April 16, 2018


Women, Peace and Security
Security Council

On April 16, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement during the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security.

In his intervention, Archbishop Auza spoke of the need to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence. While the international community has made progress on increasing women’s role in peace and security, he said, women still suffer far too frequently from sexual violence during conflict. Preventing sexual violence begins with preventing conflict in the first place, he stated. Efforts to deter sexual violence against women should be an integral part of peacekeeping operations. Post-conflict situations are often chaotic, lawless and dangerous, facilitating violence against women, and need to be remedied with education, economic development and social advancement. Survivors of violence in conflict should receive comprehensive assistance to recover and reintegrate and States should ensure the prosecution of perpetrators. Violence against women in normal daily situations, Archbishop Auza added, should also be addressed.

His statement can be found here.


Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas
Beyond National Jurisdiction

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

On April 16, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement during the Organizational Meeting for the Intergovernmental Conference on an International Legally Binding Instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.

In his intervention, Archbishop Auza said that all peoples and governments have a common imperative to protect and preserve our planet. He noted that commercial activity with regard to using the seas and marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction will likely increase exponentially in coming years. There is a need to draft a legally-binding instrument with regard to them that balances human need and economic interests on the one hand with environmental protection and sustainable use on the other. He said that it’s important to have a clearer delineation among the meaning, purpose and commercial application of the terms “conversation” and “sustainable use,” as well as a more vigorous responsibilities-based approach with regard to States and commercial parties.

His intervention can be found here.


Protecting and Promoting Human Rights in the Amazon


On April 19, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations held a side event entitled “Violation of Human Rights in the Amazon: Networks to Respond to and Redress Them” together with the Panamazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) and the Mining Working Group of UN-based Non Governmental Organizations to discuss the situation of indigenous peoples in the Amazon and the threats being caused by the proliferation of foreign mining interests.  The event took place during the 17th Session of the United Nations’ Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues.
In his opening remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, said that indigenous people have the right to be agents of their own development and destiny and should be given the political, economic and social space to do so.  
“In practice, this means upholding the collective right of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza said, noting the important role indigenous people play in protecting the world’s most valuable resources, especially in regions like the Amazon.
Protecting the promoting the rights of indigenous peoples is a significant interest for Pope Francis, who has convoked a Synod on the Amazon to take place in the Vatican in October 2019.
“He has sought to be a voice crying out throughout the world about the way indigenous lands, culture, rights and dignity are being overlooked or even trampled upon for the narrow economic interests of others,” Archbishop Auza said.
While Pope Francis cares for all regions in which indigenous peoples reside, the Amazon is of particular importance as the world’s largest tropical forest, covering 2.1 million square miles and nine countries, embracing 2.8 million indigenous people, 390 indigenous tribes, 240 spoken languages and as yet 137 uncontacted peoples.
The Amazon and other resource-rich geographical areas that are home to the indigenous face grave threats and exploitation.
Sr. Margaret Mayce, OP, the chairperson of the Mining Working Group, noted that the Amazon’s indigenous people have never been so threatened in their territories as they are now and called for an end to the exploitation, many times supported by governments, of the region’s natural resources like timber, oil, gas and gold. Indigenous people are at risk not only of losing their resource-rich land, but in some cases even their lives, for defending their right to their own land.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, suggested that those who care for improving the environment ought to support indigenous communities who work to sustain the ecosystems in their territories and leave future generations with a healthy planet. She said that extraction companies are key perpetrators in exploiting indigenous communities and their land.
She applauded Pope Francis for convoking the upcoming Synod and called for faith-based organizations and socially responsible corporations and investors to find real solutions to bring profit and development to the region without exploitation.
Her mission is to also engage in dialogue with governments to help them see indigenous communities as key players in achieving sustainable development.
“Indigenous peoples are not your enemies but are your best allies. They are the ones who live what we call sustainable consumption,” Tauli-Corpuz said, referring to the indigenous peoples’ gentle and responsible stewardship of the environment. “But they are the ones being penalized and put in jail mainly because they want to keep the earth in better shape. It is the worst expression of injustice.”
Elvia de Jesús Arévalo Ordóñez, from the Comunidad Amazonica de Accion Social Cordillera del Condor Mirador, a group of indigenous activists from the Condor region of Ecuador dedicated to social justice for their people and land, has experienced the damage caused by  extraction companies first hand. They have manipulated the prices of land, taken advantage of the economic needs of the people, and violently evicted landowners.
Thirty-two families have been “violently evicted” from their homes, Arévalo said, and their rights to decent housing have been violated, although international rules deem they should have received adequate housing.
“The company has evicted an entire neighborhood and demolished community assets such as church and school,” Arévalo said.
Not only have human rights been violated, she said, but also the wellbeing of the environment, which has led to devastating impact caused by the overflow of the Kin River.
“The rivers are totally contaminated and we cannot swim, drink their water, and fish. The food sustenance of its inhabitants is over, life in these rivers is over,” she said.
Augostina Mayán Apikai is a leader of the Awajún people of Peru, whose ancestral lands encompass the country’s most bio-diverse park, but is also the most vulnerable to exploitation by extractive industries.
While some indigenous peoples have resorted to violence to safeguard their land, her community has been sought to utilize the legal system to protect their lands, specifically their forests, from exploitative extracting companies. They halted one such enterprise through the courts.
“The company has been stopped and we have done so without losing any lives,” she said. “We have been to legally protect ourselves.

“That’s the best way we can advocate,” Mayán Apikai said. “We are the best representation of advocacy in our communities.”

To read Archbishop Auza's full remarks, click here.


UN Leaders Honor Padre Pio on the 50th Anniversary of His Passing


On April 18, at the Filipino Mission to the United Nations, the Holy See Mission co-sponsored a special viewing of the relics of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina on the occasion of the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of his death. The event was hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the UN in cooperation with the Saint Pio Foundation. UN leaders as well as others from greater New York gathered at the Mission of the Philippines to honor the popular saint. It was noted that $250,000 for the building of the House of the Relief of Suffering, built by Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, had come through the United Nation’s Relief Agency, funded by the U.S. Marshall Plan.


Upcoming Events


Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees:
An Interfaith Perspective on the Global Compacts

1:15-2:30 | May 3, 2018 | UNHQ Conference Room 4
RSVP by April 30 at holyseemission.org/rsvp3May2018


The Santa Marta Group: Police and Religious Leaders
United to Eradicate Human Trafficking

1:15-2:30 | May 22, 2018  | UNHQ Conference Room 7
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