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I arrive in Geneva on September 28, a beautiful fall day. The meeting of the Board of Directors of Franciscans International awaits me. This is the NGO of the Franciscan Family accredited at the United Nations. Our meeting is very intense: we are animated by the desire that positive solutions and answers at the governmental levels on our planet might be found to protect the rights of the poor and the marginalized that are constantly trampled.

Our Board is international, and includes various representatives of the entire Franciscan Family. Together, we review the main steps of the current year and the commitments we have been pursuing to advocate for the rights of the poor; we analyze our financial situation and the budget for the incoming year; we examine our challenges for the future during this time of re-consideration. We thank God for His Providence, the light and the confidence we have received. We thank the staff that has worked with passion and enthusiasm, marking the steps of our current history with concrete actions at the service of the poor. We plan for next year, continuing to believe in the initial intuition and the wonderful work of Franciscans International in favor of the most marginalized.

unavoce 01FI - Board of Directors and friends

The VISION and MISSION of Franciscans International mirror Franciscan values:

A global community built on Franciscan values, in which the dignity of every person is respected; resources are shared equitably; the environment is sustained; and nations and peoples live in in peace.

We are a Franciscan voice at the United Nations protecting the vulnerable, the forgotten, and our wounded earth.

unavoce 02Flags in front of the Palace of the NationsThe history of Franciscans International is known from the beginning. In 1982 Sr. Elizabeth Cameron, OSF, from the United States wrote to the Franciscan Federation in U.S. about a Franciscan presence at the United Nations. The Franciscan Federation adopts the idea as one of their priorities, asking our Sr. Bernadette Sullivan and Tom Grady, OSF, of Brooklyn, of the Peace and Just committee, to look into the situation. An interfamilial Preparatory Committee was set up to work on the project as well as fulfill United Nation requirements. In 1989 the UN officially recognizes Franciscans International as an NGO and in 1990 Franciscans International opens the first office in New York. 

In 1995, through l’ECOSOC (Economic & Social Council to the UN), Franciscans International received the General Consultative Status, which authorizes the participation of all UN activities, including presence as an observer in the Human Rights Council located in Geneva.

In 1997 Franciscans International opened an office in Geneva, in order to work closely with the Human Rights Council (HCR), responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights all over the planet, in charge of gathering evidence of violations on a world scale to issue recommendations for solutions.
Among the 4,000 NGOs accredited at the UN, only 142 have General Consultative Status. Among them, Franciscans International is one of the most important NGOs of the Catholic faith.

The Franciscans International team works with Franciscan religious men and women all over the planet to listen to the cry of the victims of abuse and violence, and then present them to the Human Rights Council at the UN as well as special organisms that keep watch on International Treaties. Franciscans International focuses on human trafficking, sexual abuses, new forms of slavery, kidnapping of newborn for international adoptions, child soldiers, pollution and organic farming, children’s right to receive education, health nutrition and “simple” clean water. Franciscan International’s attention is directed toward the rights of indigenous people, the rights of women in the context of their family, their society and work environments.

dotunavoce 03The square of the Nationsunavoce 04Geneva - the lake

The Advocacy of Franciscans International wishes to fight, and decrease, global forms of abuse. Advocacy is the process that offers the opportunity to participate in political decisions, finding long-term solutions for issues surrounding human rights. This is an instrument that NGOs and Civil Societies use to influence political and economic leaders so that they would give priority to the thousands of people who are violated, abused, marginalized, and excluded.

The Advocacy strategy of Franciscans International is built with the contribution of two pillars: on the one hand, the Franciscan men and women who work among the people, and on the other hand, the UN and international policies. Through Advocacy, Franciscans International puts pressure on international decision-making processes; it negotiates with the UN, with diplomats and other international agencies, dealing with fundamental causes for injustice and promoting the adoption of better policies for the purpose to identify long term solutions with programs that respect the rights of all people.

unavoce 05Sr Licia in front of the Saint Pierre CathedralIn New York, Franciscans International is a member of the Security Council Non-Governmental Organization Committee in order to address issues of conflict and reconciliation. It also works with the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to highlight gender discrimination and the Commission on Sustainable Development to address environmental change and its impact on the poor.

In 2014 Franciscans International will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its foundation. As Franciscans of the Poor, we join the entire Franciscan Family for the meaningful global support performed by Franciscans International on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet. Renewing our commitment to set free the healing energy of Christ in the Community of Life, we wish to continue to heal the wounds of injustice, abuse, and violence, by supporting all world organizations that work for this same purpose.


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Sr. Licia Mazzia, SFP

Member of the Board of Directors of Franciscans International

Published: October 17, 2013