More than 150 community development leaders from more than 43 countries came together under one tent on the Rose Hill campus on Thursday, June 16, to share their homegrown success stories for improving the environment, human rights practices, health conditions and food sustainability—and to help shape the global policy.
“We at Fordham are enriched and ennobled by your presence,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, as he kicked off the three-day Community Commons conference. “We want to learn from you.”
Fordham University has teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to host the forum, a precursor to the September U.N. Millennium Review Summit, during which heads of state from around the world will commit to a global development agenda for the next 10 years.
Among the conference participants is Gladman Chibememe, chairman of Chibememe Earth Healing Association (Chieha), an organization that won the UNDP Equator Initiative Prize for helping to reduce poverty and conserve biodiversity in Zimbabwe.
“We need the U.N. and member states and all governments to support all local initiatives grounded in local skills,” said Chibememe, who will address the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York next week. “Local communities have the answer; they understand the environment and what is good for them.”
Elena Cocón, who has made political strides as an indigenous woman serving in local government in Guatemala, said she hopes to discuss issues of gender equality at the Community Commons.
“I hope that this will give us more attention, especially for women,” she said. “In order for women to improve our situation, we must work together.”
Other participants said that food safety and lack of clean water were issues that need more attention from international policy-makers.
The invitation-only conference is for development practitioners with grassroots experience, graduate students working with international communities on development issues, and development policy-makers.
“Fordham has a tremendous global communication outreach already in place,” said Nancy Gillis, a student in Fordham’s International Political Economy and Development master’s degree program who helped coordinate the conference. “It is part of our mission—the creation of leaders, leaders with heart.”
Community Commons participants will hold a press conference in the U.N. Press Briefing Room at U.N. Headquarters at 11:15 a.m. on Monday, June 20, to present their conclusions and put forth policy recommendations that will inform the Millennium Review Summit.