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22 September

Saint Thomas of Villanova
1948: The Marist Brothers began their mission in Mozambique
1991: First foundation in Monrovia, capital of Liberia

Marist Calendar - September

Br Jim Jolley

 

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Description of work of FMSI in Geneva

26/01/2010: General House

In 2004 the General Council, as part of an on-going review of the offices of the General Administration, called for a review of BIS, the Institute’s office for justice, peace and solidarity.

Based on the Message of the 20th General Chapter for the General Council to create support structures that would ensure representation of the Institute before international organizations concerned with education and solidarity, three recommendations around the area of partnerships and the establishment of an advocacy program for child rights before the United Nations, were adopted.

In March of 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Franciscans International, a Franciscan-based NGO with general consultative status before the United Nations. With offices in Geneva and New York, FI represents the Franciscan Family before the United Nations speaking on several issues arising from their charism: human rights, poverty, social development, and integrity of creation. This Memorandum made it possible for BIS to set up an office for Child Rights in Geneva in partnership with FI.

In October 2005, Br. Cesar Henriquez (Province of Central America) moved to Rome to begin a period of preparation. In October 2006, he moved to Geneva, Switzerland, to take up his duties as the Child Rights Advocacy Officer in the office of Franciscans International. In the meantime the Province of the Hermitage established a community in Geneva to help support the role of the FMSI Advocacy Officer. Welcoming visitors and hosting groups who are interested to learn more about our work in Geneva and the work of the United Nations is part of the hospitality role of the Geneva Marist Community.

Br Cesar concluded his appointment in November 2008 and he has been replaced by Br Jim Jolley (Province of Melbourne) who commenced his work in Geneva in September 2009.

It became apparent that for our own advancement we would need to apply for accreditation as a ‘consultative body with special competency’ through ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council) – the same accreditation status that Franciscans International has. But to do this we needed to be a juridical body recognized in civil society. BIS did not have this status so application was made to obtain legal recognition as a juridical body in Italy. This was achieved in April 2008. Thus BIS ceased to exist and a new legal entity, the Fondazione Marista per la Solidarietà Internazionale – onlus (FMSI), came into being.

Application for ECOSOC accreditation can now begin. When accreditation is received, FMSI will be able to attend UN conferences and meetings, such as the Human Rights Council based in Geneva, and speak on its own behalf. In the meantime we use our partnership with Franciscans International to do this.

Role of the Child Rights Advocacy Officer

The Child Rights Advocacy Officer based in Geneva is a member of the FMSI staff and the primary focus of his role is in two areas:

• Advocating for children’s issues before the UN, its agencies and intergovernmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, primarily in Geneva (e.g. the Committee for the Rights of the Child); and
• Educating and animating within the Institute so its members and colleagues become more actively aware and engaged in national/international justice issues as they relate to children. Conducting training courses for provinces or regions would be part of this task.

Through the Child Rights Advocacy Officer in Geneva, the Marist Brothers have already made a number of representations and interventions for the Rights of Children, using the UN mechanisms, in such countries as Guatemala, Cambodia, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Kenya. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is a new mechanism of the UN that reviews all 192 countries on their performance in Human Rights, offers an excellent opportunity for FMSI to stand up for the rights of children in the international forum. This is done in co-operation with the Institute’s Administrative Units for the country under review. This year FMSI hopes to participate in the UPR of the USA and Malawi.

Addressing Marist groups that visit the Hermitage on Child Rights and the work of FMSI, and - by invitation - to do the same thing in Provinces or Regions, is also part of Br Jim’s work for 2010. Training courses in Human Rights and how to advocate for children’s rights at the local level can also be offered.

These are the initial steps of the Institute to work towards the Superior General’s call at the end of the XXI General Chapter for the Marists Brothers to become known throughout the world as experts in the defence of the rights of children and the young. And he added: “Let us hope that in eight year’s time, when we look back, we will be able to say that the Institute has taken very significant steps in that direction.”

Br Jim has been in Rome from recently to attend Strategic Planning Sessions with the other members of the FMSI team, which is based at the General House.

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