Servas representation at United Nations
Servas International (SI) has since 1973 consultative status as an international non governmental organisation, iNGO, with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations. The consultative status makes it possible for SI to be active at the premises of the United Nations in New York City in USA, Geneva in Switzerland and Vienna in Austria.
This is the entire group of Servas International representatives with the United Nations:
- Vienna : Hamsavahini SINGH, Angelika HOFMANN.
- Geneva : Daniela DÖNGES , René STEIMER, Helga MERKELBACH, Béatrice CASTERA and Danielle SERRES
- New York City : Jeanne DEVINE, Kent MACAULAY, Gopal RAJAN and Alison TELSEY.
You find individual presentations of the representatives on the Servas website here.
SI at UN in Vienna
I am unable to think of a more beautiful, peaceful, and ennobling organization than Servas in my association through which for the past three decades I, my husband and my daughter have been able to build joyful bridges of friendship by travelling and staying with Servas families, including World Cycle Tour from 1999 to 2001 and, by hosting Servas guests in our homes. These interactions with Servas have been an invaluable learning experience and this bond became stronger with the passage of time and motivated me to become Servas India State Coordinator, Newsletter Editor and currently Peace Secretary.
I am teaching at a Women’s University. Through my work I am strongly associated with the dreams, aspirations, challenges faced by young women and teach, counsel, and guide them to become empowered individuals. I have worked with local level NGOs but with the UN for the first time. A good teacher never ceases to be a student. I am passionately committed to the Life-long Learning concept. As Coordinator I want to learn and contribute towards the goals of Servas in peacebuilding.
Hamsavahini SINGH, Servas India, SI Coordinator at the UN, Representative for Servas International at the UN in Vienna
I am a sociologist, and studied politics at University in Vienna. I worked on topics of Countries of the South and on Living and Working conditions in Austria, especially women.
I am a long-time member of Servas and had the feeling of getting closer to UN-work when I visited the UN-Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1996.
At the UN in Vienna, almost all NGOs work together in thematic Committees: Peace, Women, Sustainable development, Ageing, Drugs, etc.
Servas International is involved mainly in Peace, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee, also in the Women’s NGO Committee, which takes part in the yearly CSW (Commission of the Status of Women) in NY, in form of statements and by visiting it.
The UN Office for Disarmement Affaires (UNODA), made a video including Servas for their internal workshops on Peace Education for Women, who then might be at Peace-negotiations as demanded in Resolution 1325.
Topics at regular side events we might attend are mainly around women’s sexual exploitation, trafficking in general, environmental crime, cyber crimes, sustainable development, etc.
At UN-Vienna, Servas and other NGOs continue our work for a better future.
Angelika HOFMANN, Servas Austria, Main Representative for Servas International at the UN in Vienna
SI at UN in Geneva
While I was Servas France National Peace Secretary, then SI President Gary Sealey asked me to go and represent Servas at the UN DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany, in September 2011. That was my first experience at the UN. As a member of various peace movements, and working closely with human rights organizations, I was most interested in developing the role of Servas as a recognized NGO with the UN. Notably in Geneva, the Human Rights Council is a forum for many NGOs to make their voice heard and to network.
After volunteering as SI Peace Secretary for seven years, then as SI UN Coordinator, focusing on Servas representation as an NGO committed to a more peaceful world, supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals, I am happy to continue as Servas International Representative at the UN in Geneva.
Danielle SERRES, Servas France, Representative for Servas International at the UN in Geneva
Daniela, born 1971 in Germany, has been living in France since 2001. In 2014 she became member of SERVAS France and has served as main representative of SERVAS International to the United Nations in Geneva for several years. In this function she was responsible for the accreditations, the submission of written and oral statements, as well as the reservation of rooms and preparation for side-events. She has been supporting and hosting SERVAS trainees and other SERVAS members who wanted to attend sessions of the HRC. Since May 2018 Daniela is living and working in Bethlehem as developing aid worker for the German Civil Peace Service (CPS), but remains committed to the work at the UN and will regularly come back to Geneva to attend sessions of the UNHRC.
Daniela DÖNGES, Servas Germany, Main Representative for Servas International at the UN in Geneva
I have been a member of Servas Switzerland for 15 years. During that time I met Servas members in North and South America, in Europe, in China, Japan and Cambodia.
I am an economist and I work for small businesses and NGOs. For many years I have been engaged as a volunteer with NGOs which are trying to better the living conditions of countries on their ways to development. As a Servas representative to the UN in Geneva, I will focus on the “Substainable Development Goals” of the UN.
René STEIMER, Servas Switzerland, Representative for Servas International at the UN in Geneva
When I joined SERVAS in 1985 I expected it to suit my life-long activities in antiracism (Anti-Apartheid-Movement), anti-fascism (engagement in civil society) and for peace-finding (training in non-violent communication). The idea of peace through personal meeting attracted me – and I would love to add that we can also meet in person virtually to save the environment.
Since I have retired from part-time work for an NGO (engaged in prevention of sexual abuse of girls) and full-time teaching (at various schools in Germany, England, Ethiopia, and Brazil) I now spend more and more time in activities to promote the SERVAS concept. After having supported work in UN HCR 45 in Corona times I am happy about being accredited as a representative in Geneva.
Hopefully, I may continue international (SERVAS) contacts and cooperation towards a more peaceful and just life of all in a less abused environment.
Helga MERKELBACH, Servas Germany, Representative for Servas International at the UN in Geneva
Being a member since 1989 in France, I joined SERVAS with the same aim as the founding people of the organization: help build world peace and meeting people of diverse cultures to forge a relationship.
Signing up to SERVAS is a means to build peace by promoting exchanges, discussions and being an active motor supporting a better understanding between people. I got the chance to meet numerous members while travelling with my family around the world or as a host. These members became part of my life, by keeping contact and meeting when possible.
After thirty years being a SERVAS member, I would like to take a step further in promoting world peace by actively volunteering.
In 2021, after Servas France General Assembly, I decided to join the French working group created to discuss on SERVAS and peacekeeping. Attached to Servas Values, I have been willing to invest myself into our dear organization as a new Servas representative at the UN in Geneva.
I am happy and eager to collaborate with the other team members to represent Servas.
Béatrice CASTERA, Servas France, Representative for Servas International at the UN in Geneva
SI at UN in New York City
I am a retired sociologist and community activist involved in environmental and human rights issues and am fortunate to have the opportunity to promote peace through Servas and the UN. When I visit my New York family, it is inspiring to attend UN sessions dealing with poverty, sustainability, women’s equality, housing, and to network with people from countries around the world. I first participated in UN civil society discussions in 2014 on implementation and measurement of SDGs. My background of organizing grassroots educational programs for immigrant families and life experiences of travel from Canada to Argentina, Thailand, Nepal, S. Africa, New Zealand make me appreciate the rich diversity of humanity. Now at 80, I remain committed to our global potential for peace, social justice, and an environmentally sustainable world.
Jeanne DEVINE, Servas USA, Representative for Servas International at the UN in New York
A host and traveler since 1989 at Washington DC, Paris and New York and currently a Servas interviewer in New York. I am an Indian by birth, American by nationality and a 'live and let live' being by choice. For over 25 years, I worked as an Information Consultant across 5 countries.
I have a serious interest in Climate Change, Inequality and Health whose mitigation are key objectives for the UN and specifically focused in ECOSOC goals for 2030.
Gopal KRAJAN, Servas USA, Representative for Servas International at the UN in New York
I have been a SERVAS traveler and host since the early 1980's. I was introduced to the organization when I decided to take a year off from work and studies to travel the world. For over 40 years I have lived in New York City. I am a Psychologist and have worked in education both nationally and internationally, as a professional staff developer, to maximize opportunities for students with disabilities. Presently I am retired and am delighted to have the opportunity to serve as a UN reresentative for SERVAS. I am particularly passionate about education for all children and preserving the environment for future generations. I believe in the sustainable goals of the UN and look forward to networking with people, advocating for SERVAS and putting forth energy to preserve the beauty of our planet.
Alison TELSEY, Servas USA, Representative for Servas International at the UN in New York
I live on Canada’s Pacific coast. My university studies were in adult and intercultural education, and I have been a coordinator of education programs, a political assistant, and a manager in government and in non-profit organizations. I am keenly interested in politics, social justice, international development, and global issues. I served on the board of Oxfam Canada for several years and have participated in organizations advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ persons. Currently, I do a range of volunteer work in my province of British Columbia and in my home community of Quadra Island. I enjoy bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, and camping in our area.
I have been a Servas Canada host and traveller since the late 1980s after learning about Servas while traveling in Denmark. In 2018, I joined the Servas Canada board and am now its liaison with Servas International. In autumn 2020, I became one of the five SI representatives to the UN in New York. Since January 2022, I have been SI’s Main Representative to that UN location.
Kent MACAULAY, Servas Canada, Main Representative for Servas International at the UN in New York
Servas International is an international, non-governmental, multicultural peace association run by volunteers in over 100 countries. Founded in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler as a peace movement, Servas International is a non-profit organization working (NGO) to build understanding, tolerance and world peace, and in 1973 was granted consultative status at ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) at the United Nations.
ECOSOC is the only main UN body with a formal framework for NGO participation. NGOs may contribute to a number of activities, including circulating information, awareness raising, development education, policy advocacy, joint projects, and in the contribution of services and technical expertise.
Our representatives in New York City, Vienna and Geneva attend sessions, help Servas members willing to visit UN venues, give out information about United Nations principles and activities, co-sign joint NGOs statements, and at times are able to deliver written or oral declaration on behalf of Servas.
Statement on Ukraine - Women, Peace and Security
During the UN Commission on the Status of Women conference (CSW66), the attached Statement was drafted by the Europe and North America Regional Caucus of CSW. The Statement focuses on the plight of women and girls resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but alludes to women and girls in all situations of conflict.
A number of Servas Representatives to the UN attended the two Europe and North America Regional Caucus meetings at which the Statement was proposed and developed. You will see that Servas International has signed the Statement. It is gratifying to have Servas International partnering with other peace and justice NGOs globally on this initiative.
Geneva Peace Week
Kent Macaulay, SI Rep to the UN in New York
Geneva Peace Week (GPW) is “where bridges are built and silos are busted”. It is where persons and organizations can gather to exchange and learn from their real-life experiences in peacebuilding.
GPW is organized annually by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform in cooperation with the Geneva office of the United Nations.
This year, GPW was held virtually from November 1 to 5, with the theme “From Seeds to Systems of Peace: Weathering Today’s Challenges”. Jeanne Devine and I--two of the five Servas International representatives to the UN in New York--attended this virtual event.
Geneva Peace Week this year focused on new approaches and tools for peacebuilding in the midst of COVID-19 and climate change. “Hands-on” practitioners led the information sessions and workshops. There were four themes this year:
- How can peacebuilding activities mesh with action on the climate emergency?
- Today’s global challenges have heightened fear and insecurity, prompting some leaders to respond militarily and with harsh measures undermining human rights, sustainability and solidarity. What can peacebuilders do to “turn the tide”?
- Is the digital world bringing us closer to peace or to war? How can peacebuilders harness new technology?
- How can peacebuilding initiatives contribute to overcoming social and economic inequality?
From its very first days, Servas has emphasized peacebuilding. In fact, Servas founder Bob Luitweiler and his Danish friends selected the name “Peacebuilders” for themselves in the late 1940s! In the GPW sessions, Jeanne and I noted that key elements of peacebuilding are multilateral initiatives, inclusion of women, empowerment of disadvantaged populations, concrete commitments including funding, and long-term solutions. Servas and other non-government organizations can and must play a vital role in these peacebuilding endeavours.
You can watch a recording of many of the sessions at “Geneva Peace Week 2021” on www.youtube.com, and on all major podcast platforms. You may discover specific steps that you and other Servas members can take to strengthen peace in your own community or region.
From Climate change to Climate emergency
How can we, Servas members, be part of the solution ?
© Vox media
By Danielle Serres, SI UN Coordinator, Jeanne Devine, SI Main Rep at the UN NY, and Gopal Rajan, SI Rep at the UN NY
Every one of us can help limit climate change and take care of our planet. From the way we travel, to the electricity we use and the food we eat, we can make a difference. By making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, we can be part of the solution and influence change.
We, SI Reps at the UN, have some proposals:
- Create less pollution, avoid plastics, use less energy, reduce travel by air and gasoline-powered vehicles
- Consume less meat and buy locally, and avoid food waste
- Join forces with like-minded organizations, including supporting Fridays for Future, the youth-driven movement inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg
- Support Servas members in countries where they are more at risk
- Support local and national leaders who are committed to addressing climate change
- Support the faster disbursement of financial help to poor countries, to mitigate and adapt to climate change in a decisive manner
What are your suggestions ?
 See United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/sustainable-development-goals/why-do...
SI at the UN | September 2020- A different session at the UN in Geneva
By Daniela Dönges, Servas International Representative to the UN in Geneva
The 45th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) took place in September 2020. Ahead of the session, as SERVAS International representatives to the UN in Geneva we submitted a written statement, in which we laid emphasis on the increase of racism during the Covid-19 crisis and the way the pandemic hits already marginalized people. We then decided our participation during the session should focus on the points raised in our written submission. During the Covid 19 crisis however, participation became almost as challenging as the crisis itself.
Due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 crisis, only one SERVAS speaker (out of usually five) was allowed to attend the HRC discussions in person, which - other than in the past – took place in the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nations, instead of the renowned room XX. In September I therefore was the only representative who could attend the session in person and was in charge of the preparation and delivery of our statements, yet everything was discussed and aligned with the team.
The agenda of the Human Rights Council consists of 10 items, each of them focused on a different aspect. Some speaking slots are limited, so we decided to focus on General Debates, where usually all NGO speakers are accepted. In line with our statement a couple of months earlier, we took what appears to be a challenge, as an opportunity to reflect on what kind of world we want for the future.
Written statement submitted by Servas International, a non-governmental organization on the roster
SI at the UN | A Statement on Racism and Police Brutality
by Servas International Representatives at the United Nations
(June, 25. 2020) The brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a national police officer in May 2020 has sparked protests against systemic racism and police misconduct around the world. His name stands symbolic for many other cases, who failed to capture newspaper headlines, and awakened the conscience of the world. The global outpour of rage illustrates the scope of the issue throughout societies and has rightfully led to a renewed debate about systematic racism and discrimination in general.
As Servas members, committed to peace through intercultural communication, we are extremely sorrowed by all forms of brutality and racism against people of any background. We must speak out for human rights and dignity of all marginalized peoples, including refugees, migrants, disabled, displaced, people struggling for their lands or simply survival.
The preamble of the United Nations charter commits all members to promote faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity of the human person, the establishment of conditions under which justice and respect of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
The deprivation of life by the authorities of the State is seen as a matter of the utmost gravity, as the UN Human Rights Committee wrote in its first General Comment on the right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (November, 2016).
As Servas International Representatives to the UN, we therefore demand an immediate redress, civilian review, and legal justice for perpetrators of acts of violence against people marginalized by their skin color, sexual orientation, mental and physical handicaps, or poverty status. We support the elimination of systemic racism, inequality, human rights abuses including police brutality, and ask that no one turn a blind eye to injustice.
We ask civilians to examine which actions by their governments are taken to address problems and allocate resources to promote equality in education, health, economic opportunity and to decrease poverty, homelessness, and incarceration.
We support strict police regulations, whose members are tasked with protecting the public, yet far too often take recourse to excessive violence in a variety of contexts and under several pretexts, including the silencing of peaceful protests. Local and national governments must convert police into a profession of social justice, resolving conflicts, defending civil rights, and negotiating community peace, including training in non-violent conflict resolution
Furthermore, we support the right to free speech and freedom of the press in all societies. Freedom of expression is integral to a free society and essential to draw attention to injustices and situations that happen in our communities.
On 19 June 2020, following an urgent debate earlier this week, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva unanimously adopted resolution A/HRC/43/L.50, condemning the murder of George Floyd and requesting the High Commissioner for Human rights to spearhead efforts to address systemic racism against people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, and to prepare a report on the incidents. The resolution further called to examine government responses to anti-racism peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protestors, bystanders, and journalists.
The resolution is a first step in the right direction. As SERVAS members, we stand in solidarity against divisive practices of fear and hatred inside and outside our communities. We will support the UN and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) working on legislation to reform police regulations and actions. We embrace the rich diversity of people on all continents and the sharing of ideas, philosophies, and cultures.
Written statement submitted by SI to the HRC September 2020
SI at the UN | The Human Rights of older persons in the age of COVID19 and beyond
by Servas International Representatives at the United Nations
(June 1, 2020) On May 12, Servas International representatives at the UN attended the webinar on « The Human Rights of Older Persons in the age of COVID-19 and beyond ». It was possible to submit questions in advance, and to publish comments and questions on the chat during the meeting.
The one-hour virtual debate welcomed the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, as well as the new Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Ms. Claudia Mahler, and Representatives Member States in the Groups of Friends of the rights of older persons in New York and Geneva. The event was moderated by Ms. Silvia Perel-Levin, Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing in Geneva, who invited the experts and organized the discussion.
Click here, to read more.
SERVAS REPRESENTATIVES TO THE UN IN NYC - NOVEMBER MEETING
On November 6, Servas Representatives to the UN-NY met to strategize working as a team. Hosted by Alison Telsey, we enjoyed delicious snacks and shared our common Servas backgrounds. It was our first opportunity to meet face to face.
We defined the goal of the Servas International UN representative as a liaison between Servas and the UN and we discussed the importance of collaborating with Servas UN representatives in Geneva and Vienna. We agreed that our focus through 2020 would be to advocate for the implementation of the UN SDGs (17 Sustainable Development Goals). More specifically we want to emphasize participation in and promotion of actions related to the national and global impact of climate change.
In addition, we discussed working with other NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) toward these future goals. To this end, we endorsed a request by Servas Reps in Vienna for Servas International to partner with International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN; icanw.org). Future collaborations of Servas and NGOs may include other peace and environmental organizations. We committed to post issues and actions relevant to climate change on Servas social media and newsletters to promote the importance of building inter-cultural communication through Servas.
Servas International became affiliated with UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1973 and has representatives at the UN in New York, Geneva (Switzerland) and Vienna (Austria). Servas Reps at the UN in New York are Jeanne Devine, Brita Schmitz, Gopal Rajan, Alison Telsey, and Fanny Bello.
Article submitted by the Servas Representatives at the UN in NY
Photo from left to right: Alison Telsey, Brita Schmitz, Gopal Rajan, Jeanne Devine
SERVAS AT THE 68th UN CIVIL SOCIETY CONFERENCE IN SALT LAKE CITY | AUGUST 26-28, 2019
Reflection and Summary
Forty Servas members from the US, Mexico, and France attended the annual UN conference of NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) in Salt Lake City with 4000+ people from 130 countries. Servas members brought hope to grow peace through intercultural communication, determination to expand partnerships, enthusiasm to implement UN Goal 11 - making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030.
A Servas workshop “NGOs: Activate Your Networks to Combat Climate Change” partnered with United Nations Association and Wasatch Cohousing Community to commit to actions addressing climate change from personal home visits to reaching 15,000 Servas members in 120 countries. Through partnerships, the impact is multiplied to address the UN imperative that “no one be left behind”. A Servas exhibit, “Grassroots Goes Global”, demonstrated a wide range of Servas activities to build peace in many countries: e.g. Peace Walks, Peace Schools, Youth conferences, etc.
Major themes of the conference were Peaceful Societies, Climate Change, Opportunities for Youth and there were many workshops and opportunities to learn and give input. Participants developed understanding of complexities of world peace and made commitments to build peace at local levels by addressing global warming, poverty, gender equality. Recognizing peace as a fundamental component of sustainable societies was affirmed as was the significance and potential of youth.
Thanks to many Servas members for huge contributions of time and efforts - especially Earlene Cruz, Paige LaCombe, Vicky Wason, Teresa Crockett, Gopal Rajan and all who participated in the conference.
Act to attain the UN Global Goals by 2030! Share ideas with Servas guests and hosts and friends and connections. Young and old - we all have a voice in creating a peaceful world!
Read the Outcome Document and Youth Climate Compact and listen to the final evaluation at https://outreach.un.org/ngorelations/content/conference-recap-briefing-following-68th-united-nations-civil-society-conference.
Jeanne Devine, Servas International Main Representative to the UN in New York
From left to right: Jeanne Devine, Francisco Salomon Luna (Servas Mexico Secretary) and Shirley Benzley (US Servas host) in SLC.
The exhibit was created by Teresa Crockett, US Servas member
Servas Peace Calendar 2019 “By promoting a culture of peace, Servas members can contribute to make the world a better place!”
SERVAS REPRESENTATIVES AT THE UN IN NYC | 2018
“Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”
Servas Representatives at the UN met in NYC on April 27 2018, after several of us were able to atten
d the high-level meeting on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”, held at the UN on April 24-25. More information: link
During the presentations which identified sustainable peace as a key priority, speakers underscored the value of prevention and mediation, calling for addressing the causes of conflict, rather than investing in « bullets and tanks ». Delegates of countries highlighted the need to tackle poverty and other causes of violence included in the Sustainable Development Goals.
It was agreed there should be a more people-centered approach, more inclusive and integrated, priority being attached to women and youth involvement. It was stressed that human rights are at the core of the efforts towards sustainable peace.
Education of course is a fundamental tool for peace that includes education for non-violence, for social inclusion and the rule of law. Civil society was recognized as having a critical role to play. « Everyone in society must have a strong feeling to a community in order for peace to prevail », said the delegate from Botswana.
In the face of rising intolerance and hate speech, Servas values of non-discrimination, solidarity and cooperation are more precious than ever.
Ahead of SICOGA 2018 to be held in October 2018 in Seoul, recent progress with dialogue on the Korean Peninsula opens hope for lasting peace.
By promoting a culture of peace, Servas members can contribute to make the world a better place!
Servas Representatives at the UN met in New York. From left to right, Sedef Piker, Radha Radhakrishna,
Jeanne Devine, Danielle Serres, Fanny Bello and Earlene Cruz. New York, April 27, 2018.
Servas International 2018 Peace Calendar
Lead by the Servas International Peace Secretary, the project is offering you the third issue of the Peace Calendar, focusing on core Servas values of peace and friendship.
As for the previous calendars, the Peace Calendar 2018 aims to focus on peace activities developed by Servas members around the world in 2017. It highlights key UN dates to inspire Servas members to take part in related peace activities in 2018, and in particular during International Servas Week around September 21 Peace Day.
In 2018, we will celebrate Servas 70th anniversary, since 1948 when first “Seeds of Servas” were planted by Bob Luitweiler.
This year we thank the contribution of the following Servas countries : Brazil, France, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Rwanda, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. You are invited to send your contributions for next year at firstname.lastname@example.org
“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” – Warsan Shire.
Migration is a form of border crossing, like travelling. However, travelling is seen as a factor of peace promotion, whereas migration is sometimes seen as a challenge for peace. The latest report on migration from the United Nations indicates that there are currently 232 million of migrants worldwide. These migratory flows are due to various reasons, including political, economic, and environmental ones. Numerous challenges arise from the migrant crisis. First, their lives are at risk. In Europe, many migrants arrive by sea, and thousands of them die every year in the Mediterranean. It is urgent to end this grave humanitarian situation. However, the lack of political will hinders the implementation of effective responses. This is why international cooperation is crucial.
On September 20th, Danielle Serres (Servas International Peace Secretary) and Daniela Dönges, (SI Representative in Geneva) organized a side event on the theme of Migration at the UNOG, where we asked ourselves and the attendees: “To what extent does migration threaten peace, and what solutions exist to respond to the crisis? “.
Several Servas members as well as various NGOs members attending the panel expressed concerns and shared their experiences. The event was moderated by Daniela Dönges. The main speakers were Danielle Serres, Gérard Corpataux (Emmaüs International), Jeanne Devine (Servas US) and Magnus Adams (Servas Germany).
Danielle presented the opening remarks, explaining Servas’ role with regards to the migration issues and presenting volunteer actions of Servas members across the globe. Danielle recalled that in the rise of racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, Servas has submitted several written and oral statements at the Human Rights Council. She reiterated that racism and anti-migrant sentiments are in dire opposition with our goal to facilitate dialogue between nations and promote international understanding. Danielle also mentioned the initiative of Addie Niesthoven, a Servas Netherlands member teaching women refugees how to ride a bicycle. Being able to ride a bicycle increases their self-esteem, and their new cycling skills give them a feeling of independence and freedom in moving around the city.
Gérard presented the initiatives of Emmaüs regarding the issues of migration. He recalled that crucial actions are needed to denounce the tragedies, raise awareness of public opinion, and demand the implementation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Gérard also explained that the crossing of the Gibraltar Strait by swimming and kayaking was organized in memory of the migrants who have died in the Mediterranean Sea.
Jeanne is a community activist and Servas International Representative to the UN in New-York. Her presentation focused on the issue of the undocumented in the US and the DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Jeanne talked about her own experience as a US citizen and witness of the fragile and uncertain future of « Dreamers ». She gave the example of a Mexican family facing the hard reality of US current government policy. “Don’t Destroy Dreamers’ Dreams” Jeanne claims.
Magnus is a member of Servas Germany and Servas International Representative to the UNOG who addressed the legal aspects of the crisis, with a focus on the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees and stateless persons (1951) and its Protocol (1967). Addressing the lack of universal coverage, Magnus presented the idea of a Universal Convention for Refugees, recalling that only a common system of refugee protection can be a guaranty for fully and respectful treatment.
In the exchanges which followed, several problems and questions were raised and various examples of people’s efforts were presented.
From left to right: Manon Yzermans (Servas intern), Magnus Adams, Jeanne Devine, Daniela Dönges, Danielle Serres, Gérard Corpataux (Geneva, Palais des Nations, September 20th, 2017).
Servas International 2017 Peace Calendar
This calendar presents activities for peace implemented by Servas members around the world in 2016. It also recalls important dates in the United Nations calendar with the aim to inspire Servas members to engage in peace activities in 2017. Lead by the Servas International Peace Secretary, the project is managed by a Servas Brazilian team. This year we thank the contribution of the following Servas countries: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Guatemala, Israel, Korea, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand and the USA. You are invited to send your contributions for next year at email@example.com
‘Travel peacefully and walk lightly on the earth’
In a world facing so many challenges, and where some are more eager to build walls than bridges, and close their borders to the vulnerable, civil society has a key role to play.
As a hosts and travellers network, Servas has the potential to contribute to the protection of the environment and to raise awareness of environmental issues. We promote an ethical way of travelling, compatible with sustainable development.
Of course in Servas we prefer to call ourselves 'travelers' instead of ‘tourists’, as our main goal is not to head off to tourist sites, but to integrate into our hosts' communities, and share their daily life.
On March 8, Danielle Serres (Servas International Peace Secretary) and Daniela Donges, (SI Representative in Geneva ) organized a side event on the theme at the UNOG, where we asked ourselves and the attendees: “How can we contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Several Servas members as well as various NGOs members attending the panel expressed tourism concerns and shared their experiences as travellers. The main speakers were :
Daniela Donges (Servas France) who spoke of a recent trip to Pakistan and her experiences with a Pakistani family.
Gérard Corpataux (Servas Switzerland), Emmaüs organizer, who talked about the efforts to organize Emmaüs aid in non-European countries.
Margaret Seelig (Servas UK) who discussed the differences between « travellers » and « tourists ».
In the exchanges which followed several problems and questions were raised and various examples of peoples's efforts were presented. One interesting problem was the disappearance of agricultural lands in different countries. For example Hawaï has a population of 1 Million people and 9 Million tourists every year, and farm land is bought immediately for hotel building.
Background to the meeting
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, recognizing “the importance of international tourism […] in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world”.
In conclusion to the meeting, we recalled one of the decisions taken in October 2015 at Servas International General Assembly, including this wonderful statement:
"Travel peacefully and walk lightly on the earth"
From left to right: Daniela Dönges, Danielle Serres, Gérard Corpataux and Margaret Seelig.(Geneva, Palais des Nations, March 8, 2017).
Human Rights Council (HRC) 33rd Session, September 13 to 30, 2016
Servas International (SI) participated in the HRC 33rd session in Geneva. Representatives attended meetings of the HRC and relevant side events, actively engaging for our peace mission, particularly with regard to the elimination of all forms of racism and xenophobia. To this end SI had submitted a written statement on the topic The urgent need to implement the Durban Declaration and Program of Actions (DDPA), which is part of the official documentation of the UN and can be found under the title A/HRC/33/NGO/144
A special highlight was the possibility for our representatives to attend the 4th Edition of the Geneva Peace Talks, under the theme “Peace Happens!” at the occasion of the International Peace Day on September 21, highlighting that everyone can contribute to peace. Speakers coming from diverse backgrounds shared their personal experiences, stories and ideas to highlight that everyone can contribute to peace – be it at home or in a far-away conflict zone. The Peace Talks symbolically stand for a Geneva spirit to resolve conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
In the picture Daniela Doenges, Servas France member and SI Main Representative to the UNOG, Danielle Serres, Servas France member and SI Peace Secretary, and Margaret Seelig, former Servas Britain National Peace Secretary (from left to right).
Besides the sessions held in the HRC meeting room (famous Room XX) regarding countries Universal Periodic Review (UPR) where human rights situation are under scrutiny, there were as usual many side-events/panels organized by countries Permanent missions and/or NGOs, including Civicus, Human Rights Watch, ISMUN, FIDH, ect.
Some of the topics included Human Rights Defenders situation in African countries or in the Gulf region, the role of civil society, occupation and humanitarian law/human rights, racism and islamophobia. Regarding the latter Daniela Doenges was invited to hold a presentation during a panel titled “Montée de l’islamophobie politique – quels dangers”, during which she warned about the growing gap between cultures and stressed the urgent need of dialogue and encounter.
As an organization aiming to build peace through understanding among people, Servas International was able to make its voice heard on several occasions. We spread the word about Servas and met many interesting people along the way. Active participation in sessions of the Human Rights Council is a great way to have our message heard. Anybody interested in attending a session and/or supporting our team should write to Danielle Serres, firstname.lastname@example.org
A project is to organize a side-event/panel during next HRC Session in March 2017. It would be good to have a young Servas intern willing to learn more about the UN and human rights while helping for a few weeks to make it happen!
The 66th UN DPI/NGO CONFERENCE, Gyeongju, Republic of Korea
Each year we aim to have Servas representatives attending the annual UN DPI/NGO conference. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet with other international NGOs recognized by the UN. And of course to link with them and give visibility to Servas on the international scene.
World Environment Day June 5, 2016
World Environment Day celebrated on June 5 is an important UN day, as pointed out on our Servas International Peace Calendar 2016
Let’s take this opportunity to raise awareness among Servas community about the environment and protection of nature, and give more visibility to Servas as a Peace organization. Indeed it is part of our philosophy as a global peace organization!
Servas International at the Human Rights Council 31st Session
At the Human Rights Council 31st session, Servas International has submitted written statement , dealing with the refugee crisis. It takes into account the contribution of Servas members from different countries who went as volunteers at the end of 2015 and early 2016 in Greece and also at the Macedonian border. Servas volunteers from several countries have been on the ground in Lesbos (thanks to donations to purchase much needed items, from children winter gloves and toys to audio system in order to communicate with people within the camp, tables and boxes to sort out donations like clothing, sleeping bags, blankets…). They have been helping the many desperate people fleeing their countries in hope of a safe place to live with their families, many of whom have died along the dangerous journey, including children. Volunteers from Servas Greece, Servas Cyprus and Servas Georgia have stepped in, along with civil society organizations and hundreds of individual volunteers to help manage the influx of people arriving on the Greek Islands. As an organization working towards global lasting peace and understanding through host and traveler programs all over the world, we Servas members are deeply concerned about the human rights situation for those people taking the long, dangerous trail into Europe, as well as about the rising xenophobia, racism and divisions related to the crisis. Servas International will continue to stand strongly against racism and respond to the crisis by pursuing its peace mission of facilitating the coming together of hosts and travelers of any race, creed, sexual orientation, class/caste or nationality.
Servas International 2016 Peace Calendar
The Peace Calendar aims to focus on peace activities developed by Servas members around the world and highlight key UN dates to inspire Servas members to take part in related peace activities in 2016. Lead by the Servas International Peace Secretary, the project is managed by a Servas Brazilian team. Peace Calendar 2016
Servas International UN Involvement - Presentation at SICOGA 2015
At the Servas International Conference (SICOGA) held in New Zealand in October 2015, a team presentation highlighted some of the achievements by Servas volunteers at the United Nations. We believe Servas International involvement at the UN is crucial, as the UN, although perfectible, is the main organization the world has to provide peace and security and prevent war and global environmental degradation. SI UN Involvement presentation
UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva on September 25-26, 2014
The President of Servas International, Jonny Sågänger, participated at the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva on September 25-26, 2014. You will find his contribution at Jonny Sågänger's contribution. See Chapter 59 for his speech.