Defensoria 01
Defensoria 06
Defensoria 04
Defensoria 07
Defensoria 09
Defensoria 10
Defensoria 11
Tweet it!

The basic idea of our action for systemic change is to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems to defend and support people and the environment where they are most vulnerable in the society. We call such activity “advocacy”.

Last Christmas, we meditated on the story of the birth of Jesus, interlaced with scenes of oppression under foreign occupation, the travel of a pregnant woman who neither had help nor a roof to give birth, they also told us about the genocide of the children and the exile of the sacred family searching for a refuge. These scenes are still current, when we see in the newspapers and on television the same images of refugees and victims of domestic violence, of victims of disasters and the poor without shelter.

This is a clear message of God which invites us to witness the love of God to such oppressed people. We are committed to responding to this invitation in various ways, mainly through charity, development and spiritual support, but also by advocacy actions for systemic change. We would like to promote our two major tools for advocacy in this article. Jesus was quite active in advocacy and mediation. He openly challenged the powerful people, such as the Pharisees who oppressed marginalized people like prostitutes and tax collectors. He often challenged scribes about the interpretation of the law and told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”. (Mk 2:27)

Mission through advocacy & mediation

As we all know, the SVD and the SSpS established VIVAT International in the year 2000. VIVAT works for human rights and the integrity of creation through advocacy activities in close collaboration with UN mechanisms at international and local levels.  VIVAT is not a part of the UN, but it shares similar goals as that of the UN, namely: promotion of human rights of indigenous people, women, children, migrants, refugees, and promotion of peace, sustainable development, protection of the environment, etc. The SVD has been working on such issues worldwide; many of them are even included in the Congregational Directions of the 17th General Chapter. These issues are also the priorities of the UN.

How do we collaborate?

The UN is composed of many organizations which deal with different issues. VIVAT is accredited by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which has greater access to many organizations working for social, economic and environmental issues. How can VIVAT address our human rights and environment related issues?  One of the good tools we can use is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which set seventeen goals such as poverty eradication, no hunger, health, education, gender equality, etc. Let us pick up the issue of poverty. We help the poor through providing food, shelter, free education, job-training, modern methods of small farming, community building, spiritual accompaniment, etc.

We also talk with the local authorities to help poor people. At a national level, your government has set up a program to work on poverty issues in line with SDG goal no. 1, and you can easily find the program of your government on the internet by searching “country name” “SDGs.”  You can monitor how the program has been implemented in your area, and talk with the authorities for information sharing and collaboration as a member of VIVAT. Such activity shall be reported to the VIVAT office in New York or Geneva. For further collaboration on an international level, the VIVAT directors pay a visit to the ambassador from your country to the UN, submit report to the UN, and make statement during the UN meetings.

Such a report and statement would include your information concerning a better implementation of the programs in your country. In some countries, such as Indonesia, India, Argentina, Bolivia, Kenya and the Philippines, there are VIVAT National Branches which coordinate the advocacy actions at the national level. This makes local advocacy work more fruitful and guarantees the smoother collaboration of the local members and the VIVAT offices in New York and Geneva.  In this way, VIVAT works at local and international levels to tackle particular local issues. VIVAT also works to change the international system by participating in the process of creating treaties and mechanisms such as SDGs and following up the implementation of such systems with your inputs. The establishment of a National Branch could be done by organizing a VIVAT workshop. Please contact the local SVD Justice & Peace Coordinator for further information.

Steyler Bank Ethical Scouting Project

Steyler Bank is a bank established and owned by the SVD and also shares the same mission with the SVD. Therefore JPIC is an important principle of their business, and Steyler Bank is famous for its “Ethical Investment”.  As we mentioned already, advocacy efforts should be made in different fields such as political, social and economic fields. It is important to influence the decisions made by business companies since many of the human rights and environmental problems are caused by the business sector.

We are responsible for the impact caused by our investments. If the investors are careful enough to put their money into ethical companies, our goal to better respect the human rights of the people and to care for the environment becomes more realistic. Based on such understanding, Steyler Bank tackles the issues of human rights and the environment through Ethical Investment.

The bank started a joint project with the SVD and SSpS so-called “Ethical Scouting”. The basic idea of the Ethical Scouting is as follows.

1. Steyler Bank invests money in selected companies which are doing their business ethically and sustainably. Steyler Bank excludes companies which do not meet the criteria of respect for human rights and sustainability of the environment. In the selection of the companies, Steyler Bank receives information on the ethical performance of companies from a “rating agency”.

2. However, the Steyler Bank does not rely solely on the information provided by the rating agency. If there is a negative report on a company, Steyler Bank, through the SVD and SSpS JPIC Coordinators, contacts our confreres who reside near the places where the doubts arose to get a more detailed and precise information. Based on the information, they will decide to either immediately divest from the company or to first start a dialogue with the company for the betterment of their ethical performance. In the case of an immediate divestment, Steyler Bank informs the company about its decision and offers the possibility of re-investment depending on the improvements carried out by the company. In general, the companies take seriously the complaints raised by Steyler Bank. The Steyler Bank is grateful for the confreres who have collaborated by sending the information requested from certain companies.

3. Confreres are encouraged to send information to Steyler Bank on particular companies which have posed problems. If Steyler Bank invests in that company, they start a dialogue. If not, they can share your information with the rating agency so that the behavior of the company will be considered in the calculation and their ethical rating can go down. In such a way, we can contribute to the society by having ethical companies get more investment and unethical companies get less.

This project was started in 2013, and there have been some cases taken up such as the Belo Monte dam construction project in Brazil, supported by Allianz which is a German insurance company. Steyler Bank started a dialogue with Allianz based on the information provided by a confrere in 2014, and as a result, Steyler Bank decided to withdraw their investment in that company.  Again this year, Steyler Bank wrote to Allianz to put pressure on this matter. Unlike direct help, it is difficult to see the immediate impact of advocacy actions. To have advocacy it needs broad collaboration, and diversified approaches.

What is certain is that to do advocacy work is an expression of our missionary effort for the realization of the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is the one who gave us the example.

Fr. Heinz Kulüke and the Leadership Team
Published in the newsletter “Arnoldus Nota” – December 2017