Unification News for March 2005

IIFWP at the International Meeting on Small Island Developing States

by Karen Smith

The last two days of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), held Port Louis, Mauritius, January 11-12, 2005, concluded with the High Level Segment: the plenaries featured brief, five minute statements by all the heads of state, and heads of 113 national delegations as well as key intergovernmental organizations. NGO presence in the High Level Segment was limited but with special effort, the key IIFWP delegates received VIP passes and could enter freely.

The Pailles Conference Center in Port Louis, Mauritius was specially constructed for this event with funds donated by the Swami Vivekananda Foundation of India. It had seating for the more than 1500 delegates attending the conference. And as for all UN conferences and formal sessions, seating was alphabetic by nation, usually with the "first" nation drawn by lottery.

While the small island developing States number forty-three in all, there were 113 nations present. The involvement of the international community being critical to providing needed relief and assistance with future development of SIDS, especially in light of the recent Asian tsunami and the end of year series of hurricanes that dealt a very heavy blow at the end of 2004 to many Caribbean islands.

IIFWP Delegation

In the course of the conference, the IIFWP delegation headed by Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak was able to meet a number of heads of state and many Mauritius International Meeting delegates, some of whom are Ambassadors for Peace. Formal and informal meetings were the currency of the day, exchanges taking place in the main conference room, in other conference hotels, near the familiar "coffee pot," over meals, and through the formal session, roundtables, side events and press briefings.

The IIFWP delegation consisted of: Sir James R. Mancham (Seychelles), Dr. Thomas G. Walsh (USA), Ms. Karen Judd Smith (Australia), Rev. Pal Gyu Ryu (Republic of Korea), Ms. Jeong Hae Lee (ROK), Rev. Jean Augustin Ghomsi (South Africa) Ms. Siok Hong Chung To (Mautirius), Ms. Naomi Kubuki (Japan), Mr. Kevin Pickard (USA), Ms. Kathy Hwang (UPI-PROC,) and Mr. Mark Chung To (Mauritius.)

For the IIFWP delegates, formal and informal moments with heads of state and delegates included Marshall Islands, Samoa, Palau, Egypt, Timor Leste, USA, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tuvalu, Madagascar, Grenada, Suriname, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Iceland, Republic of Korea, Gabon, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Greece, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Indian Ocean Commission, UNEP, UNCTAD, UNDP, Pacific Islands Forum and many more.

With the tropical summer sun beating down, few spent time outside so in the midst of a tight schedule of meetings, people met easily in the lounge and public areas. Big fish in a small pond.

Expanding Media Presence

In many of our meetings, the IIFWP delegation had the added benefit of the presence of either Kathy Hwang, a UPI representative, or Kevin Pickard, the Voices of Peace Director. Their presence added the media dimension to discussions. In the course of the four day conference, Mr. Pickard was able to get about 40 short interviews, some of which will emerge as Voices of Peace shows. Ms. Hwang's story has already come out in various news outlets, including the online "World Peace Herald."

What was unique about this UN conference relative to most others, was the integration of UN delegates and the accredited representatives of civil society. Normally, at international conferences, there are "parallel worlds," one governmental and one of civil society. Often there is precious little give-and-take between the two. In Mauritius, while there were still different doors to enter and some closed sessions, on the whole these two worlds participated together; endeavoring, more than usual, to address the problems together. Of course, the preparatory work was done in a more traditional manner, but under the guidance of Secretary-General Chowdhury, this conference more fully welcomed the participation of NGOs. Some of the reasons for this can be understood in terms of this conference's focus on implementation. Whatever the reason, our delegation felt that our contributions could be more fully received by some of those who can bring the benefit to their nations: their elected leaders.

Expanding Awareness

In the end, our delegation greeted the Secretary General of the UN, met the Secretary-General of the Conference and the President of the General Assembly, along with many of the national delegations. We contributed to the discourse through a very well received side event on the theme "Strengthening the Domestic Private Sector through Comprehensive Human Development and Technology Transfer;" held our own IIFWP Symposium in Trou Aux Biches to help launch IIFWP in Mauiritus, introduce the President of IIFWP, and show the core principles and approach of IIFWP to Mauritian leaders; we made and strengthened many relationships. As a delegation whose senior Ambassador for Peace, Sir James R. Mancham of Seychelles was constantly introducing the importance and scope of the work of IIFWP, there was great exposure to IIFWP, its principles, its message and the character of its members.

Headwing: Not left, nor right

The final evening Dr. Kwak hosted both the Mauritius Speaker of the House and the current opposition party leader and former Prime Minister. In this single moment, once again, the IIFWP stood in a "headwing" position, seeking to draw out the best of both parties and to focus on their common ground: the good of their people.

Under the local leadership of Mrs. Jessica Chung To and with very strong and essential support from her husband Mark and their son In Cheol, IIFWP is on the move and so met, with great enthusiasm and success, the opportunities brought to this small island by the UN's international meeting. They are a clear example of the strength of the organization at the local level. International support for Mauritius from within the IIFWP was clear, with the presence of the Korean and Japanese volunteers and the African sub-regional leader. All in all, the Mauritius meeting showed the strength of IIFWP's interreligious and international network of Ambassadors for Peace and committed members, and through them, the possibilities for development and peace in the future.

Many small islands have lots at stake. The UN conference attracted many large fish to a fairly small pond. IIFWP still has lots to do to strengthen the capacity of these people to face their challenges with the knowledge, tools, and support needed to be successful, and which IIFWP has to offer.

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