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The UN 58th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD58)

Sr. Ann Marie Quinn, pbvm International Presentation Association (IPA) Executive Director (centre) is with (l-r) Dr. Despoina Afroditi Milaki who is the full-time IPA NGO Representative at the UN, based in New York, and Sr. Mary Therese Krueger, (pbvm Dubuque) the Program Action Leader at this Ministerial Forum: (the 58th session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD58) taking place from 10 to 19 February 2020.

In 2020, the UN celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Commission and the 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. This World Summit for Social Development will be addressing emerging societal challenges to the implementation of 2030 Agenda. #SDG #UNCSOCD58

We will be keenly following the outcomes.

See: the UN-SDGs Page to find out more about the IPA and its work.   See also this link about the UN Social Development Summit also HERE

The Inter-generational Climate Justice Conference – 13th Nov 2019

“There is a growing realisation that because of climate change the coming generations will inherit a world that is impoverished and perhaps even unliveable. This conference is intended to encourage and deepen an understanding of climate action and inter-generational justice. It provides an opportunity for young people and adults to share their perspectives, to find inspiration to become agents of change, and provide steps towards personal and community action. The conference will be highly interactive, with brief formal inputs from speakers, followed by structured dialogue across generations”.    (see Conference Website HERE)

“Climate change is the most pressing issue facing us all as a global community”. – President Michael D Higgins, at Inter-generational Climate Justice.

The “rich world” has caused most of the greenhouse gas emissions and needs a major change, but has capability to do this and decarbonise,  according to President Michael D. Higgins, who addressed the Cork Conference.  In his opening comments the President thanked the organising committee and welcomed the young and not-so-young delegates who were present to learn more about what he called “the greatest contemporary challenge facing us as inhabitants of this planet in peril”.

President Higgins also congratulated those who organised and backed the event including the Social and Health Education Project, the Cork Education and Training Board, the Sisters of Our Lady Apostles, the Society of African Missions, the Eco-Congregation of St Anne’s and Blackpool Parish, Cork Healthy Cities, and Trócaire.

“Let me be very clear about the challenge we face: climate change is the most pressing issue facing us all as a global community. This year, Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency, recognising the critical nature and scale of the challenge facing us all,” said the President.

“Climate disruption is a global issue, a national issue, and a local issue for which the window of opportunity to act is closing worryingly fast.” He went on to say that we are “at the precipice of a global ecological catastrophe”.

The conference focused on inter-generational aspects of climate change and climate justice, based on the premise that all generations are partners caring for and using the earth and that the present generation must pass on the earth and its resources in at least as good condition as it received them.

Many pupils and teachers were present from city and county schools to share ideas on climate justice in a context in which climate change means future generations may well inherit a world that is impoverished, perhaps even unliveable.  (See Catholic Ireland article HERE)

“This conference encouraged and deepened an understanding of climate action and inter-generational justice. It provided an opportunity for young people and adults to share their perspectives, to find inspiration to become agents of change, and to provide steps towards personal and community action. The conference featured speakers and dialogue from across generations”. ~ Brian O’Toole, Director of Presentation Sisters Inter-provincial Justice Desk for Ireland and England

Brian O’Toole attended the conference along with Presentation Sisters from the North East and South West Provinces. See link to his report on the Justice Desk Noticeboard  HERE

The first speaker invited to address the conference was Patrick McGrath, (a Transition Year Student from Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, Carrignavar) who very quickly got to the point of his input:

“Our Current Reality” is that we consume, extract and dump far too much and that we give nothing back. He called for a personal change and urged that there is still time and hope.  His ultimately positive tone was the perfect starting point of welcome for all.

Dr. Tracey Skillington (UCC ) gave some very interesting insights into climate activism and the law.

Dr Skillington articulated the notion that up to this the legal system is concerned with a victim and a perpetrator who live in the same time period, but that this is not necessarily the case when it comes to the detail of the Climate Cases being taken around the world. If it is assumed that previous generations (knowingly or unknowingly) exacerbated the conditions that gave rise to the felt climate change that we are witnessing today (and that victims today are only but the tip of the iceberg) we can expect even more victims into the future.

Dr. Lorna Gold of Trócaire in her presentation said:

“We must engage as if our lives depended upon it, and a necessary strong inter-generational bond must be forged, maintained and grown. We must allow individual action to become collective action”.

She reminded delegates that those who are opposed to change are very wealthy and very powerful but that they are in fact very few, while acknowledging the progress that has been made in one year.

Three generations of one family (Phyllis Power, Rachel Power, Caroline Jacob-Power) described their climate awareness journey and how they each had made personal conversions. They described their new vegan diet, their holidays without flying, retro-fitting their homes, reusing, reducing, recycling and re-purposing.

They had joined the Wilton Justice and Peace Group in Cork and have worked with them to house one Syrian Family. This made them  acutely aware of the work it takes to house just one family. The message for us all is that we can expect far more people to flee their homes because of Climate Change and that we must be ready.

Fr. Seán Healy (Social Justice Ireland) spoke of the “Just Transition” that is necessary as we embark together on an inter-generational journey that is key to addressing and shaping our future as we begin to address the most pressing existential crisis that faces us all. All of the crises mentioned have a solution that can be found in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ireland’s progress of the SDGs are measured annually by Social Justice Ireland.

Fr. Seán Healy spoke of a series of crises that are thriving in our society – crises in Housing, Health, Education, Transport and Employment. He cited the difficulties that impinge on our rural development and he helped those present to see potential solutions, the plans and the way forward together. In response to the question  “What can I do?” Fr. Seán outlined a number of things that we can all do:

  1. Get informed
  2. Make the small changes as they can have a big impact.
  3. Get involved
  4. Advocate
Margaret Desmond, Senior Manager of Climate Services for the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland (EPA) spoke of the need to have a National Dialogue on Climate Action. She explained how the recently launched Climate Action Plan links to the work of the EPA, and how it applies locally in fora such as the Public Participation Networks (PPNs).

“The final activity before lunch was an ECO UNESCO workshop where we were asked to “Build a New System” together by considering what systems we would like to see in an ideal world by 2050. We were told to dream, design, describe and draw together. Each table was graced with a facilitator who moved us along gently. The time flew. We spoke, we drew, we laughed, we questioned, we listened, we wrote, we thought, we contributed and then laughed a little more. We forgot the age difference. (Was there one?) We just got on with the work. We spoke about social media and it’s uses and abuses, and we articulated worries going forward. We learned about each other and then our work was collected, our actions put up, our views displayed (and all this before lunch)”.  ~ Brian O’Toole, Director of Presentation Sisters Inter-provincial Justice Desk

President Michael D. Higgins has made action on climate change one of the key themes of his Presidency.  You can listen to his full speech at the Cork Conference HERE on Sound Cloud (Audio)

President Higgins reminded those present of the often clichéd phrase “we have all being living beyond our means”.  He said, we have not all being living beyond our means, the poor haven’t got the means. We must be careful not to ask the poor to do with less, to give up more as we make the Inter-generational Just Transition. “The starting point is human need”.

“What does sufficient mean?”

Towards the end of his address he spoke warmly when he said “I wish you all a beautiful life and I wish you success as you wish everyone else a beautiful life.” He told the room “I am only interested in being with with people who are emancipators, like those gathered together in this room”.

See also:

Professor Peadar Kirby  (Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the  University of Limerick) was the respondent after the President departed.

He spoke of the need for a “subversion of the assumptions” and explained the word “subversive” as meaning to disrupt from below. He reminded us of the “Nath cainte”, Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid” (We live in each others shadows and this refers to our dependence upon one another for shelter and shade)

Prof. Kirby quoted St. Hildegard of Bingen in relation to believing in oneself: : “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.”   And as if to further encourage our belief in ourselves he quoted Murray Bookchin (an American social theorist, author, orator, historian, and political philosopher, and a pioneer in the ecology movement) when he said, “If we do not do the impossible we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”  Professor Kirby also reminded those present that this is a struggle we have together and that we can learn much from Laudato Si, as we go forward together.

The ‘wrap up’ gave thanks to all present  for this really wonderful day –  hopefully the first of many such days.


(Note: the detail of the presentations on the day in the News Article above are thanks to Brian O’Toole – (see link to full report at the front of the article).  Other information sources are acknowledged in links throughout the text).