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From 26-29 June 2023, Br. Taucen Girsang and Br. Daniel Rodríguez Blanco from JPIC Office in Rome were in Geneva to participate in different sessions of the 53rd General Assembly of the United Nations (UN).

The participation of these friars and other Franciscans from Asia-Pacific and Latin America was made possible through the efforts of Franciscans International, whose mission is “to advocate at the United Nations for human dignity and environmental justice, using a rights-based approach”. Similarly, our General Constitutions ask that “In defending the rights of the oppressed, the friars should renounce violent action and have recourse to the means available even to the powerless” (Art. 69.1).

During the days of the visitation, meetings were held at different levels: at the United Nations Council, dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs or their assistants, side events, meetings with diplomats and other civil society organizations, etc.

The starting point is the friars working in the field. They see firsthand what is happening and then offer their testimony which is then corroborated by additional testimonies from other NGO partners concerned with the same issues. Key testimonies are carefully collated and discussed with international alliances. Following these panels, the issue is finally taken to the UN General Assembly. It decides what kind of action should be taken in the future. It is often referred to as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

What is expected from these and other sessions is that countries that have been implicated in human rights violations receive recommendations from the UN and are subsequently required to implement those recommendations.

In the midst of the busy schedules of each day, the Franciscans International team convened on the summer evening of Tuesday, June 27, for a fraternal moment to unite and celebrate together the life and work of Franciscans from Mexico, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Switzerland, Germany and France. The dinner offered had the atmosphere of international Franciscan fraternity.

Br. Taucen Girsang, OFM

Br. Daniel Rodríguez Blanco, OFM