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IPA at the 50th Session of the Commission for Social Development

18 February 2012


The fiftieth session of the Commission for Social Development on the priority theme, Poverty Eradication, came to a stormy end with a vote on the resolution and the US dissociating itself from the resolution and also the EU abstaining from the vote!  Still for the NGOs it was a success as they managed to get about five paragraphs into the resolution on human rights, agriculture, climate change, financing for social development.

This Commission was of significance for IPA, as Fatima Rodrigo is the vice-chair for the NGO Committee on Social Development, chair of the working group on Poverty Eradication and co-chair of the grassroots task force for Poverty Eradication.  Seven PBVMs, Maura McCarthy, Mary Ivers, Mary McFadden, Elsa Muttahu, Marcella Cruz and Joetta Venneman represented the three groups of Presentation Women and participated in the 50th session of the Commission .


Significant time was spent by Fatima and her team, planning and preparing for this event.  Statements and submissions by the Member States, NGOs and UN entities were studied and discussed thoroughly to find out which direction the wind was blowing.  UN entities like the Economic and Social Council, the United Nations Department of Social Affairs (UNDESA), UNNGO liaison (NGLS) worked in collaboration with the Civil Society to turn the heat on the Member States to ensure the outcome was an effective resolution on the Priority theme Poverty Eradication.  There was excellent rapport between the NGO committee members, UN secretariat and Chair of the Commission, Ambassador Jorge Valero from Venezuela.

Breakfast Meetings

Usually advocacy is done through mission visits.  Realising the ineffectiveness of that strategy, the team hit upon a novel idea of organising breakfast meetings for Member States, one in December and another in January.  Fatima spent hours calling, emailing and faxing every Member State.  Four Member States attended the first breakfast and nine the second along with UN staff and NGO representatives. Allies were identified, talking points exchanged, strategic interventions discussed and NGOs intensified their efforts to influence the policy document with tacit support from the Chair of the Commission who was quick to share the zero draft of the outcome document with the NGOs.

Civil Society Forum 

31st January was significant as, Sr. Winifred Doherty RGS, chair of the NGO committee shared the dais with the President of the ECOSOC and other signatories.  The inaugural session was meticulously planned and managed by Fatima and her team.  In an impressive ceremony, the president of the EOSOC released the NGO committee publication, Can you hear us?  Two large files with 12,500+ hand-written signatures from India, Chile and Zambia were handed over to the President supporting the Social Protection Floor Initiative.  At the back of the stage was a large banner with the electronic signatures ironed on, as well as the hand written signatures of those present.

Side Events

On the 3rd February IPA organised a side event on the Social Protection Floor with a Human Rights Based Approach.  Fatima invited two governments and a UN agency to co-sponsor the event with the Good Shepherd Sisters and ATD Fourth World.  Mary Ivers, as a panel member shared the story of practices and interventions successful in Ecuador.  The panel was attended by more than 80 participants even though 5 other side events were happening at the same time.

On the 6th February Elsa was part of a panel on Participatory Approaches to Poverty Eradication with the International Association of Schools of Social Work citing the example of Kudumbashree and Neighbourhood Parliaments.

Every possible forum was used to make the IPA presence felt at the Commission and everyone was provided with the opportunity to participate.  Maura was one of the co-ordinators who organised some 26 young people to translate the sessions into different languages for the Civil Society Forum.

Elsa also made an oral presentation for three minutes on Poverty and Youth Unemployment. Fatima, in her inimitable way never misses an opportunity to ask a most forward-looking or challenging question at every session, this being highly appreciated by the Chairs as well as the Members.  She spends time, studying the different documents, to ensure the appropriate question or comment is made so that IPA’s direction to address the root causes of poverty, by addressing personal and corporate greed is at the forefront.


Mary MacFadden who joined us from Australia by the end of January was swept right in to the overwhelming experience and kept an excellent record of all the happenings.

With all the work we don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate our togetherness as Presentation Sisters and rejoice in the giftedness and in appreciation of each other.

Joetta Vanneman and Marcella Cruz left us at the end of the Commission.  We were invited by Sandy Butler from Newfoundland to spend the weekend at Emmaus, New Jersey with her.  It was indeed a celebration of our Presentation solidarity and our connectedness to the wider community of religious. We were blessed abundantly with the gift of nature nurturing our communion, splendid sunshine, the vastness and stillness of the ocean, songs and music that stirred our depths, played and sung by Sandy and her companion Pat, and soul-stirring stories of the founding of the Emmaus community; the experiences of God walking with Women of courage, compassion and love revealing Herself to those who have the courage to walk the Emmaus journey!  We are indeed companions on the journey, sharing not only bread but vision and compassion.  It is a Blessing to be a part of the Presentation and IPA journey!


L. to R.:  Mary MacFadden Australia, Mary ivers, Fatima Rodrigo and Elsa Muttathu Union, Rose Aberdeen, Maura McCarthy Dubuque and Sandy Butler Newfoundland

[Submitted by Sr. Elsa Muttathu]