On June 22, the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Archdiocese participated in the UN’s Department of Public Information season-ending briefing, where members of the NGO Relations Section gathered to discuss the season’s achievements and activities, and suggested areas for improvement. This Section is charged with facilitating dialogue and partnerships with members of civil society, of which the Archdiocese is part of.
There are approximately 1,500 NGOs affiliated with DPI and they are doing crucial work at the UN to achieve the various targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This past season, UN DPI/NGO held seventeen briefings covering a variety of issues. They were held for specific events like the Commission on the Status of Women, and on commemorative days like the International Day of Families and Focus on Faith: Faith Based-Organizations and Refugee Assistance, among many others. At these briefings, information was disseminated and important issues were discussed in order to achieve effectual change.
In all, there were 1,791 activities reported by NGOs in the most recent season. These included events (25%), conferences (18%), and campaigns (10%), among others and reached approximately 700 million people. These activities covered a wide range of topics, with a majority focusing on SDG 3 (health and well-being), SDG 4 (education), and SDG 16 (peace).
The Archdiocese, for example, through its representation at the UN, has recently organized events covering land and water as a source to eradicate poverty, empowering refugee women and children through education, and HIV/AIDS and women’s property rights. A complete list of the events associated with our office can be found here: http://un.goarch.org/en/events.
The briefing also focused on areas where improvements can be made. SDG 14, which focuses on sustainable uses for the oceans and general conservation of water, only accounted for 6% of all NGO activities last year. While this number is low, there is cause to believe that the number will increase. Earlier this month, the UN organized an Oceans Conference, coinciding with World Oceans Day, that sought to identify problems and solutions in implementing SDG 14. The Ecumenical Office had an active presence at this conference, preparing an intervention to be read on the floor during the Plenary Meeting. A copy of the statement can be found here: Statement to the June 2017 Oceans Conference. Because of this conference, there is heightened awareness to the issue and we can expect the 6% number to rise for next season’s wrap up briefing.
The meeting concluded with an emphasis on the important role NGOs have in the UN system. They are advocates, facilitators, and educators, working to ensure that we are creating a better world. Keep an eye out on this blog, as well as un.goarch.org, to see the issues we focus on and the kind of work we are doing.
Anthony Balouris is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org)
The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ESOSCO). It has been actively working at the UN for 30 years.