Shane Wood Reports on ERI Training Course in Geneva

For the past three weeks I have been living in our international, inter-congregational community just over the Swiss border in France, and taking part in a training program on the United Nations (UN) Human Rights processes and the work of Edmund Rice International (ERI).

This has been a means of providing me with another lens through which I can look at our ministries in Oceania, especially those in the developing nations, but all our ministries.  This lens is that of a Human Rights approach, and the consequent activity to which this leads is Advocacy.

The UN has its Human Rights bodies based in Geneva – the Human Rights Council, the independent High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Committees charged with monitoring the various Human Rights Treaties signed and agreed to by the 193 State Bodies  represented in the United Nations.   Most of these nations have permanent delegations based in Geneva.

The mechanisms of the UN are not easy to understand, and national sovereignty is a universally prized principle.  Therefore, it is necessary to have mechanisms that allow for moral pressure to be placed on States to observe the treaties that they have signed and ratified.  One means of doing this is by having periodic reports required from each State on its implementation of these treaties.  Other States can, depending on the mechanism, question the State under review and make recommendations to it.  Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) can intervene in these processes in various ways, again depending on the specific mechanism in question.

The role of ERI is to work for the full implementation of Human Rights and to raise instances of any violations of Human Rights in the countries where the Christian and Presentation Brothers are in ministry, with particular attention to the Rights of the Child and Education.  This advocacy and lobbying at the international level requires support from the field at the national level.

It is my role on my return to Australia to help people in the Edmund Rice Network to understand and appreciate the importance of the statement that ‘advocacy is part of every ministry’, and how they can make a valuable and indispensable contribution to the understanding of the concept of Human Rights generally, and those of children in particular.  I also hope that I will be able to enthuse people working in our ministries and other ERN people to assist the work of ERI in Geneva by providing our people ‘in the field’ with tools to be able to do this work and not see it as ‘yet another thing to be done’ in their already busy lives, but as part of being in an Edmund Rice ministry.


[1] Independent nation states.  The Holy See has observer status only, along with the occupied Palestinian Territories.

[1] Not all States have signed or agreed to all of the UN Treaties.  Australia is a party to several UN Human Rights instruments.  See http://www.hreoc.gov.au/education/hr_explained/7_australia_treaties.html.

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