by Immanuel Gopala Kitnan, SCM Sri Lanka General Secretary
WSCF AP Human Rights Committee Member
November 16-21, 2008
The fourth Annual United Nations Advocacy Week (UNAW) featured nearly 120 participants from around 45 countries*, representing diverse constituencies of churches, church agencies and regional ecumenical organizations. It was held at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York, from the November 16-21, 2008. UNAW 2008 was marked by the framework of “Human Rights at 60 Years” and was focused on three advocacy areas: Climate Change, Sri Lanka (ethnic conflicts between Tamil and Singhales) and with the priority of advocacy for Migration in the Asia-Pacific region.
The opening worship to this program was conducted by the youth of WSCF and it was encouraging to see others follow the same pattern & style we use in our worship. Subsequently later in the program, questions were posed towards the churches, ecumenical bodies and NGO’s that deal with advocacy to look at four aspects on how this gathering was going to address and look into such issues coming out of the proposed theme of this program: 1) Setting the context for ecumenical advocacy, 2) deepening common understanding of priority advocacy issues, 3) engaging as one in ecumenical advocacy, and 4) setting common commitments to networking and follow-up for global ecumenical advocacy, with relevance to: Migrant Workers, Climate change, Human Rights/Military Sanctions/justice and peace issues, Religious Fundamentalism and Intolerance. We also had to look at regional and sub-regional concerns like the Korean re-unification, approval of Japanese armed forces, ethnicity and identity issues.
As part of the overall program we visited the Philippine Embassy in New York which made me think about the time I attended the WSCF AP HRD Program in 2007 in the Philippines, where we visited various camps in our exposure trip. The difference was we were not looking for abducted or detained people; but it was to highlight the importance and role of the Philippines and receiving countries of Migrant workers to sign and ratify the Convention on the Migrant Rights with the UN. Presently only 39 countries have signed the Convention and sadly, it remains merely a treaty among sending countries since not one of the major receiving countries of Migrant workers have signed the Convention without making it a working document to have it ratified.
After the preparations made by the WCC staff for our visit to the Embassy, we were informed upon our arrival that the ambassador was out attending a special session on the UN (this is common at times for the staff not to be present). Therefore we waited for a long period of time until we managed to meet with the deputy ambassador and permanent representative of the UN. During our discussion, which turned out to be fruitful, the deputy ambassador developed a proposal to enable us to have our voice heard but to also achieve our goal which was to ensure that both sending and receiving countries of migrant workers sign and ratify the UN Convention on migrant workers. Although we can only wait and see if our meeting was successful.
Finally this was my first time to attend a meeting in New York with WCC and WSCF family representing all regions which gave me an opportunity to meet with delegates who also attended the WSCF General Assembly earlier this year of which I was not able to attend at the time due to visa problems.
WSCF IRO – Christine Housel; WSCF Middle East Regional Secretary – Ms. Elsy Wakil; WSCF North America Regional Secretary – Luciano Mr. Luciano Kovacs; Latin America and Caribbean – Belkys Teherán (Ex-Co member) officially she represented the Presbyterian Church; WSCF Asia-Pacific – Immanuel Kitnan; WSCF Africa region Ms. Ruth-Aimée Ngotty Essebe (Ex-Co member proxy)
I would like to thank the WSCF AP especially to Necta for nominating me to participate in this advocacy programme. Indeed it sharpened my thinking in terms of advocacy. I’m sure our discussions during the program were fruitful for all participants. I feel that this is a moment to challenge ourselves and to develop and commit to discussions; methodologies which helped us coordinate approaches to international, regional, national and local advocacy work. I have no hesitation to say that the objectives of this program will be reached very soon.
Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka (representing the Asia-Pacific countries)