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Reflection of sr. Jean Quinn

Reflection of sr. Jean Quinn


A letter from sr. Jean Quinn - Executive Director of UNANIMA International - published in UNANIMA September 2022 Newsletter


Dear Friends,

I am writing to you from New York, where Civil Society and the United Nations staff are preparing for the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Week. I very much look forward to hearing from our world leaders about social protections, human rights, and the dignity of all people. We are in a unique time filled with transition and the need to adapt our governance, systems, and social structures to the demands of what lies ahead – but this metamorphosis is well worth the endurance that is required. The process from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly in this context of growing inequality and hardship can only come to fruition with the involvement of all stakeholders, especially those at the grassroots. 


I often reflected on this idea of metamorphosis throughout the summer months as the first in-person meeting of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in three years reviewed five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular: Goal 4 (Quality Education), Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 14 (Life Below Water), Goal 15 (Life on Land) and Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the integrated, indivisible, and interlinked nature of the goals was an important underlying theme throughout the HLPF meetings. Discussions also focused on the specific needs of developing countries, including how a long-discussed Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) can assist policymakers to incorporate risk assessments into their decision-making.


Forty-four countries presented their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during HLPF 2022. These were interesting sessions as they facilitated the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned. During discussions, participants shared solutions to enable recovery from the pandemic. For example, Li Andersson, the Finnish Minister for Education, stressed the need to invest in education, foster the potential of innovation, and enhance efforts towards gender parity. Moreover, in a town hall meeting on ‘Building Back Better and Advancing the SDGs’, delegates considered the UN Secretary-General’s 2022 edition of the “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” report. Lieu Zhenmin, UN Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, emphasized the need to address vaccine inequality, prioritize low-carbon Covid-19 recovery, reform the international financial and architecture, renew the social contract between governments and their people to deliver global public goods, and generate/use robust data. These priorities are particularly important when considering the most marginalized of groups.


It is well known that women and children (especially girls), are among those most at risk of suffering from traumatic situations like poverty, job loss, and hunger. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened and exacerbated multidimensional inequalities and vulnerabilities, including those that are long-standing and gender-based. These injustices are further exacerbated by the effects of climate change on life below water and life on land. Recognizing this, UNANIMA International, in collaboration with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), sought to highlight the critical connections between people, planet, and prosperity—and how Sisters and grassroots leaders improve livelihoods for all.


While the HLPF allowed Member States and government officials to share their progress toward the SDGs, this is just one of a series of many Summits and high-level meetings that will take place at the UN on the subject of the Sustainable Development Goals. As I previously mentioned in my introductory remarks for UI and UISG’s HLPF side event, the 2030 Agenda offers us a chance to recognize and address how the development and degradation of the planet impacts the environment, economies, and societies in which all people exist. It also gives us an opportunity to cultivate relationships with one another, and to inspire a “culture of encounter” in future generations of changemakers. In UNANIMA International, we say “don’t talk about us without us.” As an NGO, we continually strive to put this mantra into action. However, it is our grassroots members that form the backbone of UNANIMA International’s work and shape the basis of our UN advocacy and research. They are the experts, the frontline leaders, and a major source of hope for us all. They will be the key to getting the international community back on track to meet the ambitious targets of the SDGs.

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