There was an expectant hush as he rose from his seat and turned to face everyone. The occasion was the presentation of the inaugural FI Human Rights award to Br. Dionysius Mintoff OFM, during a special Eucharist with members of the International Board of Directors, staff members, partner NGOs, friends and colleagues in Geneva.

It was Br. Dionysius and Sister Elizabeth Cameron OSF, RIP, who in 1982 articulated the dream of Franciscans working together at the United Nations. Their dream became a reality in what we know today as Franciscans International.

In a gentle, deep voice Br. Dionysius told us of his dual passions in life, sharing that his first is modeling his life on Jesus and Francis; and the second is for the most vulnerable, as evidenced by his ministry with the migrant and refugee community in Malta. He is indeed a most worthy recipient of the FI award and an inspiration to each of us who spent time with him during his short visit to Geneva. For me Br. Dionysius personified a Franciscan who because he is ‘in love’ with Jesus, is able to do extra-ordinary things!

FI Submits Recommendations to Protect the Poor and most Vulnerable in Kenya, Kiribati and Sweden

    * News

Br. Rick Carey (FMSI), Sr. Denise Boyle fmdm (FI) and Br. Jim Jolley at the Keny
Geneva, Switzerland

In early May, the countries of Kenza, Kiribati and Sweden each underwent their first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva. Franciscans International attended the sessions to hear their recommendations raised in different member states`reports.

FI advocates for the child’s right to education in Kiribati

For the UPR of Kiribati on 3 May 2010, Franciscans International (FI) submitted a joint report with the Marist Foundation for International Solidarity (FMSI) and the Marist Oceania Solidarity Commission (MOSC), concerning the child’s right to education.

The report concerned the promotion of this right, specifically as regards the quality, scope, and compulsory nature of education, the educational rights of children with disabilities, human rights education, and the quality of teachers and facilities. Our recommendations included improvement in all these areas, along with greater allocation of funds to the education system.

We were pleased to see that a number of countries addressed our issues during the proceedings. Mexico recommended that Kiribati earmark a larger education budget and create a fund for disabled students, and Canada raised its concern over the lack of facilities for these children. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya recommended improvement of teacher skills, while Cuba expressed its wish to see further improvements to access of free education.

Kenya recommended to redress rights to food, water, and housing

Kenya underwent its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) during the United Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on 6 May 2010. Franciscans International (FI) submitted a joint report recommending that the Government address and act on the need to: resettle internally displaced persons; tackle the huge slum-dwelling populations; reform rampant corruption; prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence; and to ensure the protection of victims.

Preceding the UPR of Kenya, FI lobbied Canada, Finland, France, Spain and Switzerland to include these issues in their statements to the Kenyan delegation. During the Session, Spain addressed the right to adequate food, clean water and housing, and France highlighted the need for a plan to combat violence against women. The UK spoke on the issue of corruption reform and the need for an independent police oversight body.

“We were glad to hear several of our target concerns were delivered to the Kenyan delegation, and hope that their Government will adopt and implement these recommendations,” said Eke Papa, FI Advocacy Officer.

FI recommends for Sweden to recognize the existence and rights of homeless migrant children

FI submitted a report concerning Sweden’s homeless children, many of whom are unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. FI’s report specifically detailed the fact that the government does not recognize the existence of these children, that they lack adequate housing, often face exploitation, and that children of irregular migrant workers live in especially harsh conditions. Our recommendations included conducting a national survey on child homelessness and preparing a national plan of action, incorporating the right to housing in national legislation, and taking greater care to fulfill the human rights of the children of irregular migrant workers.

Before the UPR, FI lobbied Chile, Finland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Uruguay, to ask that they include our concerns in their statements. Switzerland addressed our issue recommending a survey of the situation of homeless children and creating a plan of action for alleviating their suffering. Chile recommended that Sweden guarantee homeless children their right to housing, education, and healthcare, regardless of residency status.

FI will continue to work with Franciscans in Kenya, Kiribati and Sweden who raised these issues to ensure that the recommendations are fulfilled at the grassroots to protect the human rights and freedom of the poor and the vulnerable. 
UPR Reports
FI submitted UPR reports on Croatia, Malawi and USA.

Pre-UPR of Sweden and Kenya
Two Franciscans came from Sweden and Kenya to do advocacy and to lobby prior to the UPR review of the two countries at the UN. FI arranged several meetings with Diplomatic Missions and attended the reviews.
Treaty Body
FI monitored the review of France under the Committee Against Torture. Sr. Suzanne Moutin SFA, met with the Experts of the Committee as part of joint advocacy efforts.