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Why an office in Geneva?

09/02/2013: Switzerland

We would know what we have and we would know our organization if the first answer to the question posed by the title was: "We are represented in U.N. agencies in Geneva." If that was not the answer, then we need to apologize and say we are sorry because we have failed to explain why. Obviously, there is a number of reasons for that, but their analysis is not the subject matter of this paper. We intend to explain in simple words and the little space available (perhaps a dream) what concerns us about the environment of children, the problems they have, their rights and how easy it is to violate them.

First and foremost, let's begin by answering the question posed in the title. Perhaps someone already knows the answer, let's see if that is the same as the one we give. But first, some history to understand the mandate of FMSI. It was established in 2007 by the Institute of the Marist Brothers of the Schools to express more fully the Marist mission. The minutes of the 20th General Chapter include a section that reads: "The General Chapter brings the following decisions to the attention of the General Council" and in section 48, par.6 it says: "Representation of the Institute before international organisations concerned with education and solidarity”. If we broaden this historical analysis, we would see how the concept of solidarity has evolved within the Institute. We shifted from having experiences to being completely in solidarity with the children: "see the world through the eyes of a poor child." In the minutes of last General Chapter, in the section on the Marist Mission in a new world, we find the following proposal for action: "to promote, at all levels of our Institute, the rights of children and young people and to advocate these rights in government, non-government and other public institutions." Implementing the proposed action is a great, new challenge.

Our aim is twofold. On the one hand,we have the children, whom we must defend, promoting their rights. On the other hand, we aim at being present in those public places where people gather to have an international (and national) influence to promote policies that can ensure a better life for and a complete development to people as citizens, including children. We have these bodies in our own city, but they depend on other superiors. In this pyramid, what is the highest ranking? Without a doubt, the United Nations. And I don't mean the New York UN HQ you all know, but its younger sister in Geneva, even if when it comes to human rights that becomes the elder sister. Geneva is home to the Human Rights Council, which with its tools monitors human rights in all countries, for all of them have ratified the United Nations Charter. And there's more. Children have a Convention (an international law) and a Committee of experts that monitors in all countries (except two) how their rights are implemented and taken care of.

These are the main international agencies where the General Chapter said we must be present. This is the second half of the answer to the question posed. But, is there still something missing? Yes, there is: those local political actions that people who like us call themselves "Marist" must take before regional and national agencies in our respective countries, because if we don't, I would say, then our presence in Geneva is just useless.

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