Sisters of Notre Dame…Missioned to Incarnate the Love of our good and provident God

Being a Representative of an NGO at the United Nations

Mary Jo Toll at UN desk April 2013

The United Nations (UN), created in 1945, is the only entity which joins 193 member states for dialogue, planning, and action, especially in the areas of human rights, security, and development. In article 71 of the UN Charter, there is a special provision for the consultative status of non-governmental organizations (NGOs, known sometimes as “civil society”) to use their expertise as advocates for the most marginal. It is recognized that NGOs work closely on the ground with those living in poverty, and with such vulnerable groups as women and children.

The aim of NGOs is to affect policy dialogue and implementation through system change at the international level.
Priests, brothers, and sisters are not only employees of the groups that they represent (as are many NGOs), but lifelong consecrated members of their religious congregations. Given this privilege in order to represent their communities, these religious women and men, for the most part, have the advantage of being full-time advocates at the UN for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. Sister Mary Jo Toll has been representing our concerns in the areas of women and girls, especially on the issues of migration and human trafficking, aging, sustainable development, and other social development issues. She is able to do this by assisting the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who have accreditation with ECOSOC (the Economic and Social Council of the UN) and DPI (the UN Department of Information).

Her work consists of gathering information on the reality of, for example, women and girls’ access to their rights in many venues as well as access to justice when these rights are denied or violated. Creating advocacy strategies can take the form of position papers used in meetings with United Nations member states, collaboration in bringing issues of inequality to the UN table, and working with all “stakeholders” (states, UN agencies, and other members of civil society) in order to effect the implementation of legal change, and monitoring. Sister Mary Jo is a participating member and in leadership of the Working Group on Girls (, the NGO Committee on Migration (http://ngo_migration), the Working Group on Integrity of Earth, and the Working Group on Land Grabbing. She is also a member of the NGO Committee on Aging and the NGO Committee on Human Rights.

Mary Jo Toll far right with presenters at an NGO event during the Commission on the Status of Women March 2013

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