Servas at the United Nations

Servas International is an international, non-governmental, multicultural peace association run by volunteers in over 100 countries. Founded in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler as a peace movement, Servas International is a non-profit organization working (NGO) to build understanding, tolerance and world peace, and in 1973 was granted consultative status at ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) at the United Nations.

ECOSOC is the only main UN body with a formal framework for NGO participation. NGOs may contribute to a number of activities, including circulating information, awareness raising, development education, policy advocacy, joint projects, and in the contribution of services and technical expertise.

Our representatives in New York City, Vienna and Geneva attend sessions, help Servas members willing to visit UN venues, give out information about United Nations principles and activities, co-sign joint NGOs statements, and at times are able to deliver written or oral declaration on behalf of Servas.

Servas International 2018 Peace Calendar

Lead by the Servas International Peace Secretary, the project is offering you the third issue of the Peace Calendar, focusing on core Servas values of peace and friendship.

As for the previous calendars, the Peace Calendar 2018 aims to focus on peace activities developed by Servas members around the world in 2017. It highlights key UN dates to inspire Servas members to take part in related peace activities in 2018, and in particular during International Servas Week around September 21 Peace Day.

In 2018, we will celebrate Servas 70th anniversary, since 1948 when first “Seeds of Servas” were planted by Bob Luitweiler.  

This year we thank the contribution of the following Servas countries : Brazil, France, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Rwanda, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. You are invited to send your contributions for next year at peacesecretary@servas.org  

No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” – Warsan Shire.

Migration is a form of border crossing, like travelling. However, travelling is seen as a factor of peace promotion, whereas migration is sometimes seen as a challenge for peace. The latest report on migration from the United Nations indicates that there are currently 232 million of migrants worldwide. These migratory flows are due to various reasons, including political, economic, and environmental ones. Numerous challenges arise from the migrant crisis. First, their lives are at risk. In Europe, many migrants arrive by sea, and thousands of them die every year in the Mediterranean. It is urgent to end this grave humanitarian situation. However, the lack of political will hinders the implementation of effective responses. This is why international cooperation is crucial. 

On September 20th, Danielle Serres (Servas International Peace Secretary) and Daniela Dönges, (SI Representative in Geneva) organized a side event on the theme of Migration at the UNOG, where we asked ourselves and the attendees: “To what extent does migration threaten peace, and what solutions exist to respond to the crisis? “.

Several Servas members as well as various NGOs members attending the panel expressed concerns and shared their experiences. The event was moderated by Daniela Dönges. The main speakers were Danielle Serres, Gérard Corpataux (Emmaüs International), Jeanne Devine (Servas US) and Magnus Adams (Servas Germany).

Danielle presented the opening remarks, explaining Servas’ role with regards to the migration issues and presenting volunteer actions of Servas members across the globe. Danielle recalled that in the rise of racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, Servas has submitted several written and oral statements at the Human Rights Council. She reiterated that racism and anti-migrant sentiments are in dire opposition with our goal to facilitate dialogue between nations and promote international understanding. Danielle also mentioned the initiative of Addie Niesthoven, a Servas Netherlands member teaching women refugees how to ride a bicycle. Being able to ride a bicycle increases their self-esteem, and their new cycling skills give them a feeling of independence and freedom in moving around the city.

Gérard presented the initiatives of Emmaüs regarding the issues of migration. He recalled that crucial actions are needed to denounce the tragedies, raise awareness of public opinion, and demand the implementation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Gérard also explained that the crossing of the Gibraltar Strait by swimming and kayaking was organized in memory of the migrants who have died in the Mediterranean Sea.

Jeanne is a community activist and Servas International Representative to the UN in New-York. Her presentation focused on the issue of the undocumented in the US and the DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Jeanne talked about her own experience as a US citizen and witness of the fragile and uncertain future of « Dreamers ». She gave the example of a Mexican family facing the hard reality of US current government policy. “Don’t Destroy Dreamers’ Dreams” Jeanne claims. 

Magnus is a member of Servas Germany and Servas International Representative to the UNOG who addressed the legal aspects of the crisis, with a focus on the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees and stateless persons (1951) and its Protocol (1967). Addressing the lack of universal coverage, Magnus presented the idea of a Universal Convention for Refugees, recalling that only a common system of refugee protection can be a guaranty for fully and respectful treatment.

In the exchanges which followed, several problems and questions were raised and various examples of people’s efforts were presented.

From left to right: Manon Yzermans (Servas intern), Magnus Adams, Jeanne Devine, Daniela Dönges, Danielle Serres, Gérard Corpataux (Geneva, Palais des Nations, September 20th, 2017).

 

Servas International 2017 Peace Calendar

This calendar presents activities for peace implemented by Servas members around the world in 2016. It also recalls important dates in the United Nations calendar with the aim to inspire Servas members to engage in peace activities in 2017. Lead by the Servas International Peace Secretary, the project is managed by a Servas Brazilian team. This year we thank the contribution of the following Servas countries: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Guatemala, Israel, Korea, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand and the USA. You are invited to send your contributions for next year at peacesecretary@servas.org  

 

Travel peacefully and walk lightly on the earth

In a world facing so many challenges, and where some are more eager to build walls than bridges, and close their borders to the vulnerable, civil society has a key role to play.

As a hosts and travellers network, Servas has the potential to contribute to the protection of the environment and to raise awareness of environmental issues. We promote an ethical way of travelling, compatible with sustainable development. 

Of course in Servas we prefer to call ourselves 'travelers' instead of ‘tourists’, as our main goal is not to head off to tourist sites, but to integrate into our hosts' communities, and share their daily life.

On March 8, Danielle Serres (Servas International Peace Secretary) and Daniela Donges, (SI Representative in Geneva ) organized a side event on the theme at the UNOG, where we asked ourselves and the attendees: “How can we contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Several Servas members as well as various NGOs members attending the panel expressed tourism concerns and shared their experiences as travellers. The main speakers were :

Daniela Donges (Servas France) who spoke of a recent trip to Pakistan and her experiences with a Pakistani family.

Gérard Corpataux (Servas Switzerland), Emmaüs organizer, who talked about the efforts to organize Emmaüs aid in non-European countries.

Margaret Seelig (Servas UK) who discussed the differences between « travellers » and « tourists ».

In the exchanges which followed several problems and questions were raised and various examples of peoples's efforts were presented. One interesting problem was the disappearance of agricultural lands in different countries. For example Hawaï has a population of 1 Million people and 9 Million tourists every year, and farm land is bought immediately for hotel building.

Background to the meeting

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, recognizing “the importance of international tourism […] in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world”.

In conclusion to the meeting, we recalled one of the decisions taken in October 2015 at Servas International General Assembly, including this wonderful statement:

"Travel peacefully and walk lightly on the earth"

From left to right: Daniela Dönges, Danielle Serres, Gérard Corpataux and Margaret Seelig.(Geneva, Palais des Nations, March 8, 2017).

 

Human Rights Council (HRC) 33rd Session, September 13 to 30, 2016

Servas International (SI) participated in the HRC 33rd session in Geneva. Representatives attended meetings of the HRC and relevant side events, actively engaging for our peace mission, particularly with regard to the elimination of all forms of racism and xenophobia. To this end SI had submitted a written statement on the topic The urgent need to implement the Durban Declaration and Program of Actions (DDPA), which is part of the official documentation of the UN and can be found under the title A/HRC/33/NGO/144

A special highlight was the possibility for our representatives to attend the 4th Edition of the Geneva Peace Talks, under the theme “Peace Happens!” at the occasion of the International Peace Day on September 21, highlighting that everyone can contribute to peace. Speakers coming from diverse backgrounds shared their personal experiences, stories and ideas to highlight that everyone can contribute to peace – be it at home or in a far-away conflict zone. The Peace Talks symbolically stand for a Geneva spirit to resolve conflict through dialogue and negotiation.

 


In the picture Daniela Doenges, Servas France member and SI Main Representative to the UNOG, Danielle Serres, Servas France member and SI Peace Secretary, and Margaret Seelig, former Servas Britain National Peace Secretary (from left to right).

 

Besides the sessions held in the HRC meeting room (famous Room XX) regarding countries Universal Periodic Review (UPR) where human rights situation are under scrutiny, there were as usual many side-events/panels organized by countries Permanent missions and/or NGOs, including Civicus, Human Rights Watch, ISMUN, FIDH, ect.

Some of the topics included Human Rights Defenders situation in African countries or in the Gulf region, the role of civil society, occupation and humanitarian law/human rights, racism and islamophobia. Regarding the latter Daniela Doenges was invited to hold a presentation during a panel titled “Montée de l’islamophobie politique – quels dangers”, during which she warned about the growing gap between cultures and stressed the urgent need of dialogue and encounter.

As an organization aiming to build peace through understanding among people, Servas International was able to make its voice heard on several occasions. We spread the word about Servas and met many interesting people along the way. Active participation in sessions of the Human Rights Council is a great way to have our message heard. Anybody interested in attending a session and/or supporting our team should write to Danielle Serres, peacesecretary@servas.org

A project is to organize a side-event/panel during next HRC Session in March 2017. It would be good to have a young Servas intern willing to learn more about the UN and human rights while helping for a few weeks to make it happen!

 

The 66th UN DPI/NGO CONFERENCE, Gyeongju, Republic of Korea

 

Each year we aim to have Servas representatives attending the annual UN DPI/NGO conference. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet with other international NGOs recognized by the UN. And of course to link with them and give visibility to Servas on the international scene.

In 2016, Servas Korea members  attend and represent Servas International.

 

 

Servas Korea members attending the 66th UN DPI/NGO International Conference, held in Asia for the first time! Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together !

World Environment Day June 5, 2016

World Environment Day celebrated on June 5 is an important UN day, as pointed out on our Servas International Peace Calendar 2016
Let’s take this opportunity to raise awareness among Servas community about the environment and protection of nature, and give more visibility to Servas as a Peace organization.  Indeed it is part of our philosophy as a global peace organization!

Please see document in English and in Spanish

 

Servas International at the Human Rights Council 31st Session

 

At the Human Rights Council 31st session, Servas International has submitted written statement , dealing with the refugee crisis. It takes into account the contribution of Servas members from different countries who went as volunteers at the end of 2015 and early 2016 in Greece and also at the Macedonian border. Servas volunteers from several countries have been on the ground in Lesbos (thanks to donations to purchase much needed items, from children winter gloves and toys to audio system in order to communicate with people within the camp, tables and boxes to sort out donations like clothing, sleeping bags, blankets…). They have been helping the many desperate people fleeing their countries in hope of a safe place to live with their families, many of whom have died along the dangerous journey, including children. Volunteers from Servas Greece, Servas Cyprus and Servas Georgia have stepped in, along with civil society organizations and hundreds of individual volunteers to help manage the influx of people arriving on the Greek Islands. As an organization working towards global lasting peace and understanding through host and traveler programs all over the world, we Servas members are deeply concerned about the human rights situation for those people taking the long, dangerous trail into Europe, as well as about the rising xenophobia, racism and divisions related to the crisis. Servas International will continue to stand strongly against racism and respond to the crisis by pursuing its peace mission of facilitating the coming together of hosts and travelers of any race, creed, sexual orientation, class/caste or nationality.

 
Servas International UN Representatives in Geneva on International Day for Women Rights, March 8 2016

Servas International 2016 Peace Calendar

The Peace Calendar aims to focus on peace activities developed by Servas members around the world and highlight key UN dates to inspire Servas members to take part in related peace activities in 2016. Lead by the Servas International Peace Secretary, the project is managed by a Servas Brazilian team.  Peace Calendar 2016

Servas International UN Involvement - Presentation at SICOGA 2015

At the Servas International Conference (SICOGA) held in New Zealand in October 2015, a team presentation highlighted some of the achievements by Servas volunteers at the United Nations. We believe Servas International involvement at the UN is crucial, as the UN, although perfectible, is the main organization the world has to provide peace and security and prevent war and global environmental degradation. SI UN Involvement presentation

 

UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva on September 25-26, 2014

The President of Servas International, Jonny Sågänger, participated at the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva on September 25-26, 2014. You will find his contribution at Jonny Sågänger's contribution. See Chapter 59 for his speech.