Faculty Experts at United Nations

Development of a cadre of St. John’s faculty to serve as advisors to the Permanent Observer at The Holy See Mission at the United Nations as expert participants in meetings and as program developers.

A Collaborative Venture: 
The Church at the United Nations


The virtue of solidarity is foundational to Catholic social thought and is a general goal of the United Nations.  In the halls and convenings at the UN, the nations of the world engage in dialogue and debate on the means of advancing a global community where rights, responsibilities and human dignity can flourish.  An important voice in those discussions is that of the Holy See, which by its nature and tradition offers moral orientation and spiritual inspiration that can animate the life of nations and encourage relationships that rise above self-interest. 

As a Permanent Observer at the United Nations, the Holy See maintains absolute neutrality in specific political problems and educates and advocates in other arenas.  Holy See enjoys among other things the right to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly, the right to have its communications issued and circulated directly as official documents of the Assembly, and the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions that make reference to the Holy See. 

In 2003 recognizing the intellectual capital available within a Catholic university, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Apostolic Nuncio of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN in New York, invited St. John’s University into a unique collaboration that has proved mutually beneficial at many levels. In response to specific requests from the Mission, the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, working with the Academic Deans, identifies faculty who can assist the Church to address the vast 21st century agenda of the United Nations by attending sessions and conferences and submitting reports to the Mission. 

Recognized as academic service to the Church, the faculty who participate in these unique opportunities at the United Nations express gratitude for the experience and have affirmed the mutual value of the affiliation.  They are pleased with identifying applications of their disciplines to some areas that they were only marginally aware of before. They cite the applicability of their experience to helping students grow in an appreciation of the urgency and immediacy of many global issues.   The experiences have also encouraged faculty to encourage students to become at least bi-lingual and to learn languages as means of advancing understanding and peace as well as for career advancement. Faculty and administrators in this collaboration unanimously agree that their experiences at the United Nations and with the Mission personnel are major assets in their other professional activities and that all have gained new insights into the theory and the practice of global solidarity.  St. John’s University has been greatly enriched through this collaboration.

Faculty Experts/Committees

A cadre of St. John’s faculty has been engaged to provide services to the Mission on an ad hoc or ongoing basis. A sampler of some activities reveals the diverse disciplines involved.  Anthropologists, economists, statisticians and educators have served as experts at meetings of the United Nations Statistical Commission that works on setting statistical standards, developing concepts and methods and implementing standards at the national and international level.  A professor of ecology has participated in the UN Forum on Forests and serves as an environmental adviser to the Mission.  A linguistics specialist attended sessions on the politically charged issue of  cartography and  geographic names.  A team of women (law, theology and languages) staff women’s issues and offer perspectives at the Mission for meetings of the General Assembly and the Commission on the Status of Women. This team of professors also attends and monitors country reports at meetings of the Commission for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The ongoing work on women’s issues has led to the development of co-sponsored forums on “The Human Dignity of Women in Contemporary Society” at the UN.  The topics chosen to coincide with meetings of the General Assembly were   “Women and Migration” (Sept. 2006) and “Addressing Violence against Women”  (Feb. 2007). “Economic Justice and the Empowerment of Women” (March 2008) and “Caregiving within the Family” (March 2009).

Food for Thought

Catholic universities will be particularly attentive to the poorest and to those who suffer economic, social, cultural or religious injustice. This responsibility begins within the academic community but it also finds application beyond it.

Pope John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (40)

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