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FMSI training course: the account of a participant

21/12/2013: Switzerland

The Marist Provincial of West Central Europe, Br Brendan Geary, approached a number of people to take part in a FMSI training course, to let them explore the role of Link Person for the various parts of our Province. Br John Hyland from Ireland, Br Gerard de Haan from the Netherlands, Br Karl-Heinz Haag from Germany, Tony McLean from Scotland, and Br John Healy from Miami in Florida, all travelled in early November to the Geneva offices of FMSI.  In addition, we were joined by Br Evaristus Kasambwe from Malawi, who had just been appointed to the FMSI Geneva staff and would be working alongside Br Manel Mendoza and Br Vicente Falchetto. From the moment we arrived the hospitality of the Brothers in the Marist House in France was warm, welcoming and generous.

The XXI General Chapter had asked all Marists to “promote at all levels of the Institute, the rights of children and young people and to advocate these rights in government, non-government and other public institutions.”  The Link Person provides a mechanism to allow the province or district to work with FMSI to achieve this. The course was run by Br Jim Jolley, an Australian Brother, who is a member of FMSI staff and heads up their Geneva Office. Apart from his FMSI work he runs training courses which look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the development of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as an examination of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

From day one Jim took the group through the intricacies of the way that the United Nations worked, how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was constructed, and the subsequent United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child.  By this year 193 countries have signed up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also theConvention on the Rights of the Child.  The Human Rights Council, headed by the Human Rights Commissioner, oversees the monitoring of Human Rights and is made up of 47 states that rotate membership periodically.  Each individual state is reviewed every 4½ years by means of a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and a Troika of three other states oversees the process.

FMSI taps into this review in its alter ego of ONLUS (the Italian acronym stands for: not for profit organization), a Non Governmental Organisation established in 2007 in Italy, which is accredited to the United Nations.  The timetable of reviews is published in advance and the staff in FMSI gather in evidence from link people and any other sources they have and arrange to have it delivered into the review process, sometimes personally and at other times in tandem with other interested agencies working in the same area, such as Caritas or Edmund Rice International, who work out of shared offices in Geneva.

As part of the training course we were able to visit the UN Buildings twice to see how the various agencies work.  On Tuesday we had a brief look at the way the World Investment Report 2013 was being delivered, and on Thursday we were able to get access to one of the UPR sessions where Belgium was under the spotlight. The 3½ day course is only the start of the journey for a Link Person. Jim was a superb teacher and instructor and guided us expertly through the intricacies of, not only the ways that the UN enforces the rights of children, but also showed us what each of us might be able to offer with our varying talents and abilities

My own experience has made me go home thinking long and hard about what I will be able to do, but also to be more attuned to what is happening in Scotland, good and bad and to record it and pass the information on to FMSI.

Tony McLean


Human Rights Commission: http://www.ohchr.org
Universal Periodic Review pages: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRbodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx

Photograph (from the left): 
Br Evaristus Kasambwe (Malawi)
Br Karl-Heinz Haag (Germany)
Br John Healy  (Miami, Florida)
Br Jim Jolley (Australia)
Tony McLean (Scotland)
Br Gerard de Haan (the Netherlands)
Br John Hyland (Ireland)


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