Belgium – The potential of international and EU advocacy in implementing institutional and civil society networks at the national level

From the 30th October until the 3rd November, Ms. Elma Mireya Ardila Duarte – Coordinator of the Institutional Relations Office and Employment Bureau (Salesian Province of Bogotà), and Br. Juan Carlos Echavarría Zúñiga – Coordinator of the Human Rights Committee (Salesian Province of Medellin) were welcomed in Brussels by Don Bosco International (DBI), the body that represents the Salesian Congregation within the institutions of the European Union (EU).

Following the first meeting with the DBI Executive Secretary on the occasion of the advocacy training course held last August in Bogotà, DBI organised a round of meetings with EU officers and civil society organisations in which our Colombian representatives were able to present examples of Salesian good practice in the field of migration, emancipation of girls and young women, as well as the re-integration of children victims of armed groups, as outlined in the UPR Report submitted by the two Salesian Provinces in view of the UPR sessions currently being held at the UN Human Right Council in Geneva.

Among the institutional meetings held last week we can mention those with: Mr. Konstantin von Mentzingen – Policy Officer for Colombia at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Ms. Nuria Calzada – Human Rights Officer at the Directorate-General for International Partnerships of the European Commission (DG INTPA), H.E. Mgr. Noël Treanor – Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

At the same time, meetings with different civil society organisations were held with: Eurochild, Caritas Europa, Pax Christi International, the Belgo-Colombian association OBELCO, and Don Bosco Network.

These meetings not only provided visibility for the Salesian work carried out to re-establish the violated rights of children and young people, but above all offered new contacts to be made to strengthen the network with other civil society actors and EU and UN agencies in Colombia.

As proof of the commitment of the Salesian Provinces of Bogotá and Medellin in Colombia in the field of international advocacy, the actions of Mireya and Juan Carlos sdb are a concrete example of how on one hand Salesian good practices in third countries can strengthen Salesian advocacy at the European level, on the other how DBI can facilitate institutional contacts to implement networks at the national and local level.

We wish our Colombian colleagues a fruitful work at the UN Human Right Council in Geneva!

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