Dear members, friends and supporters of VIVAT International,
Last year (2020), we celebrated the 20th anniversary of VIVAT International. Though many previously planned activities could not be carried out due of the current COVID-19 Pandemic, in some places, members were able to make necessary adjustments and used the anniversary as an opportunity to make VIVAT known to people. This remains a challenge for all of us: how to promote the importance of the work of VIVAT with its advocacy among its members.
We all know that the work of advocacy requires perseverance because the result is not easy to obtain and its effectiveness is often not immediately measurable. In these 20 years, in collaboration with other NGOs and with the support of the grassroots, VIVAT could contribute to make a difference in the lives of some groups of people in different parts of the world. For all the member congregations, it is important to be aware that our support to VIVAT as an international instrument of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) is based on our understanding that VIVAT could help improve the respect, protection and promotion of dignity, life and human rights of people, not exclusively in places where our members are present, but also in other parts of the world.
For example, during this year, VIVAT members from the grassroots and in New York and Geneva have advocated for stronger policies to protect people affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. In Geneva, during the 46th Session of Human Rights Council, VIVAT members from Brazil advocated for policy to protect the indigenous people in the amazon region. For more details see VIVAT Brazil. Likewise, in New York during the 59th Session on Commission of Social Development, VIVAT brought to the attention of the Member states, the importance of building digital technology infrastructure to those living in rural areas especially to 600 million school children who are affected due to school closures around the world. https://undocs.org/E/CN.5/2021/NGO/19. At the 65th session on the Commission on the Status of Women, VIVAT asked the member states to provide protection for migrant workers — in particular, women — from domestic violence during these difficult times. https://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2021/NGO/93.
In 2019, VIVAT Board of Directors organized a systematic and thorough evaluation of VIVAT involving all member congregations at different levels. The purpose of this initiative was that VIVAT can better serve the people and protect the ecology through policy advocacy at international level at the UN offices in New York and Geneva. Based on the findings of the evaluation, the Board of Directors established a Steering Committee and six Ad Hoc Committees to work on concrete proposals. The committees worked from July to November 2020 and presented a six-part proposal to address the six issues (Membership, Organizational Structure, Finance, Communication, Strategic Planning and Contact Persons/National Branches/Groups). The proposal was submitted to the Board of Directors and was shared with all 12 Superiors General for review. The proposal was presented to the participants of the Annual Meeting and the Board of Directors in January 2021. At the request of some of the Superiors General, a meeting was organized for the 12 Superiors General for clarifications on the proposal. All congregations were present, either in the person of the Superiors General or a Council Member. It is a sign of the commitment of all to improve the functioning of VIVAT at the service of the poorest and the weakest in our society. After listening to the comments and suggestions of the Superiors General and their respective councils, the Board of Directors will discuss the next steps. On this occasion, in the name of the Board of Directors, I once again thank all the members of the Steering Committee and the Ad Hoc Committees, as well as the Superiors General for their active participation in the discussions.
The name “VIVAT” expresses a prayer, a wish that “it” (the human family, nature) may live. For rendering its service in an optimal way, VIVAT itself has to live. While waiting for changes resulting from the evaluation, ordinary regular changes are taking place as the statutes require. Sr. Maria Theresia Hörnemann, SSpS, the Congregational Leader of the Holy Spirit Sisters, finished her term as the President of VIVAT in January. I took over the presidency and Sr. Maria Theresia serves as Vice President. Sr. Helen Remedia Saldanha, SSpS completed her service as the Co-Executive Director of VIVAT New York Office at the end of January 2021. She is replaced by Sr. Maria Lourdes Santos, SSpS. Due to the travel restrictions to the USA, Sr. Maria Lourdes and Fr. Paul Rahmat, are working from Rome and Jakarta respectively. Fr. Andrzej Owca, CSSp continues to represent VIVAT at UN Office in Geneva. We wish all three of them joy, creativity and perseverance in presenting the JPIC issues at the UN, and in keeping the contact with the grassroots. We thank Sr. Maria Theresia and Sr. Helen for their service to VIVAT. Let us continue to support VIVAT, joining our hands in collaboration at different levels, for the promotion of life, dignity and human rights.
Paulus Budi Kleden, SVD – President of VIVAT International