Caritas and the United Nations in Geneva
By Martina Liebsch
I had a first class treatment and programme for my first visit in Geneva to the Caritas Internationalis delegation. The small and dynamic office is composed by three young dynamic ladies, Christine Campeau, working on climate change together with Floriana Polito who is also responsible for the fight of extreme poverty, Francesca Merico working on Health and HIV and AIDS, and being part of Migration Team of Caritas. Msgr. Bob Vitillo as Head of Delegation, widely known expert on HIV/Aids provides guidance and is sometimes “guided” by the young ladies too.
Every day they buzz around like busy bees, being welcome everywhere, be it at the partner organizations in Geneva, like the Dominicans, ICMC, BICE or the Franciscans, be it at the Nunzio’s residence, be it at the agencies, where even the guards at the door greet them with a friendly “bonjour “ and “how are you today”.
It was a first class programme which opened thoughts, ideas for future work and alliances. And it was a little tour de force too. With enthusiasm, competence and humor Francesca Merico succeeded in making it a successful three days and helping me overcome some stages of “low battery”.
Taking into consideration what I said at the beginning it was certainly not surprising that I was received warmly by the people of partner delegations. But it was a pleasant surprise, that everyone we met at “UNHCR”, our main target for this meeting, did know Caritas, mostly because they had worked with a Caritas somewhere in the world. This past knowledge helped establish trust in the Advocacy Coordinator on Migration and Trafficking and her team.
This was underpinned by the NGO Liaison Unit providing us with facts and figures concerning the cooperation with Caritas as implementing partners (including figures on how long partnerships exist and how much money Caritas gets all in all).
We were told that up to 40% of the implementing partners are faith-based organizations and that in the case of Caritas the biggest amount goes to the Middle East and North Africa Region (in 2008). We were strongly encouraged to have a more active part in the different meetings of UNHCR and specifically to bring in realities on the ground from those regions who do not have such an easy access to the UN system. We also talked to people responsible for Climate Change, for the Middle East and North Africa Region, for refugees in urban settings and for Health and HIV and AIDS at the UNHCR.
The Nunzio of the Holy See in Geneva, Msgr. Silvano Tomasi, warmly welcomed me in his residence and had a long list of concerns on the field of Migration and Refugees. But he also had a good portion of humor when he said, I should knock at his door if I manage to do miracles.
Most importantly both Msgr. Tomasi and the partners we met were very supportive in taking up the situation of domestic workers and following the drafting process for a Convention on domestic workers in order to ensure better living and working conditions for them.
There was a positive reaction towards the proposal to create an ad-hoc working group with Catholic agencies in Geneva on this issue, under the lead of Caritas Internationalis. It was a sign of hope that in times, where we experience waves of violence, but also disrespect for other religions, representatives of different religions gathered at a special service at the St. Nicolas Flue Church on the occasion of the World Peace Day. They delivered messages on the relationship between peace and poverty. And what could be nicer then receiving an olive tree branch by a smiling child as a symbol for peace.
It’s now up to you to make best use of the “hidden” talents in our Geneva delegation and the opportunities at the UN to influence policy. Feed us with your realities on the ground, raise concerns and come up with ideas. One of the next milestones are the UNHCR Annual Consultations in June. Suggestions are welcome now.