United Nations Activities

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Children and Violence

On November 11, 1996, the United Nations General Assembly publicly released the findings of a two year study it had commissioned on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. The statement of the WCRP Governing Board on this issue, Children and Violence, was incorporated verbatim into the study.

To mark the public release of the study, UNICEF requested WCRP to sponsor a multi-religious event. On November 12, 1996 WCRP held a multi-religious prayer service at the Church of the Holy Family in Manhattan, across the street from the United Nations General Assembly Hall. At the service, the prayers of a number of WCRP religious leaders were complemented by two special messages delivered by The right Reverend Desmond M. Tutu, Former Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and Eminent Person for the UN Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, and by Mrs. Graca Machel, Director and expert of the study.

The service was attended by local religious leadership; by ambassadors and distinguished representatives of the missions of UN Member States; by dignitaries from the UN General Assembly, Secretariat, and related agencies; by a large number of NGOs; and by representatives of a number of child-care organisations.

UN Day for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

November 25th is designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the annual Day of Freedom of Religion or Belief. This year’s celebrations also marked the 15th Anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

On November 25th, WCRP joined the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations and the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief to co-sponsor a multi-religious prayer service, a symposium on freedom of religion, and an award ceremony to mark the occasion. The multi-religious prayer service was held in the International Chapel of the Church Centre for the United Nations, and was attended both by delegations of UN Member States who sponsored the Declaration, and also by NGOs who have since promoted compliance to the Declaration. An award of merit, the first of its kind for this day, was presented during the service to Mr. Sidney Liskofsky, whose research and report prompted the drafting and adoption of the Declaration in 1981. Finally, the Symposium on Freedom of Religion convened four speakers from different parts of the world whose religious communities are under duress from discrimination.

NGOs and the UN General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly has begun a review of policies which will include discussion on the possibility of extending consultative status in the General Assembly to qualifying NGOs. As one step in the review process, a meeting was held at the United Nations on UN Day, October 24, 1996, which featured three speakers, one each from the UN General Assembly, from UN Secretariat, and from the NGO community. WCRP was selected as the organisation to represent the NGO community in the meeting. Addressing the gathering was Dr. Jane Evans of WCRP/USA, who was also a consultant to the United States delegation to the drafting of the United Nations Charter (1945). She traced the involvement of NGOs with the UN since its inception as an intergovernmental organisation 50 years ago, and brought before the meeting possible mechanisms by which UN - NGO co-operation could be fruitfully strengthened, including the extension of consultative status in the General Assembly to qualifying NGOs.

WCRP already enjoys consultative status, Category I, with the UN Economic and Social Council; full consultative status with UNESCO as well as UNICEF.

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