A feature article by Jack Palmer White, Anglican Communion Permanent Representative at the United Nations
Since September 2017, I have had the privilege of leading the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations (ACOUN), working to bring Anglican expertise and perspectives to the global stage. Our office plays a vital role in building strong relationships between the local and global level so that work at the grass roots of the Anglican Communion is more joined up with global initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Anglican Consultative Council’s representation at the United Nations provides a vital link between the front-line and grassroots work of the parishes, dioceses, provinces and agencies of the Anglican Communion, and the United Nations and all of its structures. Through targeted and strategic representation, the team works to help the front-line parts of the Communion be inspired, resourced and acknowledged as partners by the United Nations and its agencies, particularly in the context of working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals together.
What I enjoy most about my role is learning about the remarkable and transformative work going on around the Anglican Communion – Anglicans responding to human need, seeking to transform unjust structures of society, challenging violence, pursuing peace and reconciliation and safeguarding the integrity of creation – and helping to amplify this work at the United Nations. The onset and ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for and urgency of this work absolutely clear.
My job is to work with the individuals, communities and agencies across the Anglican Communion who have experience and expertise in issues of international relevance and urgency, and to try to translate this work into action and activity at the very highest levels of global decision-making – the United Nations. By providing official representation at the United Nations, the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations (ACOUN) ensures that this experience and expertise is directed towards people and agencies within the UN with the power and resources to support the church to make change happen. This change directly addresses the concerns of Anglican communities, the Five Marks of Mission, and key resolutions from the Anglican Consultative Council.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated in the starkest terms the need for sustained and trusted cooperation at all levels of society, from the very local to the global. We have seen how failures to work collaboratively and transparently have exacerbated not only the global health crisis that COVID-19 has ushered in, but also associated socio-economic, global governance and protection crises for those most vulnerable to the direct and knock-on effects of the pandemic.
By identifying the opportunities to align the mission of the Anglican Communion with the goals and vision of the United Nations, the ACOUN is able to help these two institutions work towards a common purpose on issues of mutual concern, to the benefit of communities all around the world.
The work of the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations can be broadly categorized into three areas:
- Presence and Representation – Anglicans being ‘in the room’ to speak directly to Anglican experience and expertise
- Influencing and Advocacy – changing hearts and minds, and policy and practice about the issues that matter to Anglicans on the global stage
- Communications and Statements – speaking out with a distinctive Anglican voice on key issues and speaking into the Communion to develop stronger networks
Through these tools, the ACOUN supports impactful activity on a number of areas of work of strategic and practical importance to the Anglican Communion at large. In 2022, the areas of work given particular priority will be:
- Environmental Justice (climate action, biodiversity action, pollution action)
- Human Rights, Peace and Justice (human rights, indigenous rights, gender justice, peacebuilding)
- Reimagining our World (Sustainable Development Goals and COVID-19 recovery)
Alongside these areas of focus, the Office continues to support the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role as a global religious leader, specifically through his engagement with the United Nations, including through his membership of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation and the UN Multi-Faith Advisory Council.
Most recently, the ACOUN joined the Primate of Tanzania, Archbishop Maimbo Mndolwa, who welcomed calls by the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council for an end to hostilities in Ukraine. In addition to being Primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, Archbishop Maimbo chairs the new Anglican Communion UN Reference Group, which helps to steer my own work and that of our team in both New York and Geneva. Archbishop Maimbo said: “As the world watches the terrible situation unfolding in Ukraine, I welcome the action taken at both the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council last week. Both bodies have spoken unequivocally of the need to end hostilities now with an urgent ceasefire, support the immediate needs of those affected by the conflict, and work together to supporting the resolution of the conflict.
Since 2018, the ACC has become an accredited observer organization to three additional UN structures: UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). All of these are environmental structures of the United Nations and commitment to Anglican presence in these spaces reflects the growing priority and urgency across the Communion given to engagement on environmental issues. We’ve already been working closely with the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) Steering Group to ensure that the voice and expertise of the Network plays a core role in how we participate in these meetings, and I’m keen that we go even further to strengthen Anglican participation in these meetings, in partnership with the ACEN.
If you want to get involved, or have any questions about Anglican Communion Representation at the UN, here are three things you can do: