Visit of England Schools Group to Geneva

We feel incredibly privileged to have been given the chance to gain an insight into how the UN and its reviews work, and are ready to advocate for global human rights, ensuring that we do our best to educate those around us on the injustices that are still present in so many aspects of life.

We were very grateful to speak to Br Brian Bond and Br Terry Dowling at the ERI Headquarters to fully understand the work of the UN globally through the workings of Edmund Rice International, and were inspired to bring this knowledge back to our own school to begin actively tacking issues human rights and social justice issues in the local community, bringing about small change which will hopefully have a large impact.

In preparation for the trip, each pair of ambassadors researched topics such as the workings of the Council Chamber at the UN, the history of the League of Nations room, and what UPRs and ‘side-events’ are so that we could present to each other and apply this knowledge to what we experienced while we were there.

The aspect of the trip that struck us most was the ways in which countries delivered their recommendations during the reviews, addressing issues such as sexual and gender-based violence, LGBTQ discrimination, mass torture and use of the death penalty based on the development and situation of their own country. It was also incredibly eye-opening to see the abundant criticism of China for their consistent suppression of free speech, and the ethnic cleansing and genocide taking place targeting Tibetans and Uyghurs. We even spoke to Tibetan and Uyghur protestors outside the UN who provided even more insight on the human rights violations taking place, and further cemented to us just how important the work of the UN is in tackling this.

UPR cycle, and how they are tackling issues regarding human rights. thAs part of Edmund Rice England’s work regarding social justice, we, as Edmund Rice Youth Ambassadors, were given the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Geneva, learning about the significant role of the United Nations as well as the Universal Periodic Review sessions that take place every four years. Not only was this a great experience to meet other Edmund Rice Youth Ambassadors from around the country, but it also gave us the first-hand opportunity to witness the reviewing of the countries Senegal and China in the 45.

– Anna Tierney and Macy Leigh, St Joseph’s College, Stoke on Trent

Comments from other youth ambassadors for Edmund Rice England:
“My highlight of the Geneva trip was getting the chance to go to the Red Cross museum. It was great to see such moving displays in the museum. I really liked the interactive experience. I also had a great time meeting other youth ambassadors from different Edmund Rice schools across England. Can’t wait to work on more projects together!”

– Tom Jones, St Anselm’s College, Birkenhead

“To be surrounded by diplomats and representatives from large states like China and Senegal was a privilege, and we listened avidly to their policies and the way they put them across during their periodic reviews. We’re glad to have had the chance to speak with Br Bond at the Edmund Rice offices about how a UPR session, treaty bodies and special rapporteurs work and the involvement of NGOs in such processes. It was a pleasure to be able to meet and spend time with other Edmund Rice Youth Ambassadors from across England and discuss how we will implement what we’ve learnt to our own schools. We’re very grateful to have had this opportunity!”

– Naomi Jones and Niall Martindale, St Mary’s College Crosby

I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to go to Geneva and see the Edmund Rice offices, as well as the United Nations and Red Cross museum. I met many new friends while I was there from different places and we now all still keep in contact; I gained an experience I never thought I would get and have seen a different perspective of the things me and others can achieve. I am very fortunate to have seen two UPRs, one of which I have seen from both a government and a personal perspective from those who were protesting to change. I have loved every minute of this as well as being a human rights youth ambassador. If I could do it all over again, I would.”

– Liv Darville, St Aidan’s and St Anthony’s sixth form Sunderland

“The trip to Geneva to visit the United Nations and Edmund Rice office is one of the most inspirational trips I have taken. I truly enjoyed talking to Brother Brian Bond about the treaty bodies and how the UPR works. It has broadened my way of thinking and has made my heart develop a passion for human rights even more. My most favourite part of the trip was attending the UPR for Senegal and to see the recommendations given and relationships between countries.”

– Benjamin Samudre St Aidan’s and St Anthony’s sixth form Sunderland

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