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The PC(USA) is immersed in the UN General Assembly this week in New York

Attending meetings and related events keeps the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations busy. World Mission is also involved

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Attending the UN General Assembly is an annual tradition for the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. From left to right: Sue Rheem, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Representative to the UN; Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Maggie Collins; and PMUN Mission Specialist Ivy Lopedito. The YAV program falls under the World Mission umbrella. Collins is serving PMUN during her stint as a YAV. (Photo courtesy of PMUN)

LOUISVILLE — A delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is present this week as world leaders, such as U.S. President Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

The 78th session of the General Assembly is underway, with high-level discussions and speeches on topics such as sustainable development, climate change and global conflict, including the war in Ukraine. (Read coverage of Biden’s speech.)

“We hope and pray that the world leaders can put aside their differences and work together in solidarity to tackle the major challenges of our time — widening inequality, impacts of climate change, rise in number of conflicts and instability around the world,” said Sue Rheem, the PC(USA) Representative to the UN.

Also, “the developed nations must do more to help the developing countries,” she added. “The countries with wealth and power must help those countries that have been made vulnerable by climate change and the pandemic. The Global North must do more to assist the Global South if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and attain sustainable development.”

Rheem, who coordinates the New York-based PMUN office, has been participating along with PMUN Mission Specialist Ivy Lopedito and Maggie Collins, a Young Adult Volunteer for PMUN. Members of World Mission, including Tracey King-Ortega, Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Rev. José Manuel Capella-Pratts, are set to take part in a scheduled meeting with Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel, the President of Cuba (Read or listen to his #UNGA78 speech).

“There will be a high-level ecumenical meeting with the Cuban Mission,” Rheem said. “We will also take part in dialogue with stakeholders on the situation in South Sudan hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.” (Listen to the Advocacy Watch episode on South Sudan.)

Members of the Presbyterian contingent have been following multiple events, including the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Summit earlier this week, and they are looking forward to the Climate Ambition Summit Sept. 20. Lopedito and Collins also took part in weekend activities leading up to this week’s high-level debate.

Young Adult Volunteer Maggie Collins (left) and Ivy Lopedito at the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters, which is across the street from the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations office in New York. (Photo courtesy of PMUN)

“Participating in events like the General Assembly gives Presbyterians the opportunity to be a part of global dialogue focused around our ultimate goal, which is to create a better world for all of humanity,” Lopedito said. “My hope is to once again become inspired to continue to do this hard work, knowing that what is done now will be what creates a better future for the generations to come.”

The UN General Assembly puts a spotlight on the Sustainable Development Goals, an urgent call for action by all countries to end poverty and other deprivations while also working to improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth — as well as addressing climate change and other aspects of protecting the environment, according to the UN. (Find PMUN’s Sunday School resource on the goals.) There is a 2030 deadline to achieve them, but the likelihood of doing that has been in doubt.

With that in mind, world leaders at the summit agreed to adopt a Political Declaration “to reaffirm their shared commitment to end poverty and hunger everywhere, combat inequalities within and among countries and build peaceful societies that leave no one behind,” according to the UN.

The SDG Summit was a good opportunity to “review the progress of the agenda for 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals as it has reached the halfway mark,” Rheem said. “Unfortunately, we have reached only 15% of the targets. … We will also follow the Climate Ambition Summit that calls on all stakeholders to take greater action to combat climate change, particularly climate finance, to help vulnerable nations most impacted by climate change.”

Attending the UN General Assembly events is an annual tradition for PMUN that dovetails with other work that the PC(USA) advocacy offices and various ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency take part in year-round.

“Presbyterians are committed to much of the same work that the United Nations is committed to,” Lopedito said. “When looking at the General Assembly’s theme this year, focused on the 2030 agenda, at the heart of the agenda is an emphasis on peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all. This is also the work that Presbyterians have been doing and continue to do globally. Having the opportunity to be a part of the global dialogue among Member States and witness their commitment to seek lasting change is a true honor. It is a place that the PC(USA) can continue to fight for justice and represent how important it is for faith-based organizations to be a part of global justice and advocacy.”

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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