The Spirit of the United Nations: Markings for the Future On the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Dag Hammarsköld, the second Secretary-General of the UN.

“The purer the eye of her attention, the more power the soul finds within herself. But it is very rare to find a soul who is entirely free, whose purity is not soiled by the stain of some secret desire of her own. Strive, then, constantly to purify the eye of your attention until it becomes utterly simple and direct.” Markings by Dag Hammarskjöld

On Thursday October 27, 2005 in conference room 3 of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Values Caucus; the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns in cooperation with the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Staff Recreation Council and numerous supporting organizations hosted a special event, in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the UN and the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the UN. The title of the event was "The Spirit of the United Nations: Markings for the Future".

This event was part of a week of celebrations taking place at UN Headquarters around (October 24), United Nations Day. This particular event celebrated the past 60 years of the United Nations by remembering its founders and also to lay “markings”, of our goals and visions of the future that reflect more deeply the values and principles upon which the United Nations was founded.

Apart from highlighting many of the values in the Charter it was also a celebration for the United Nations family, and the main focus was to bring us all together to highlight the true spirit of the United Nations, and in so doing, acknowledge the invaluable contributions of its members, over these past 60 years.

It was a truly celebratory event, The conference room was transformed; we filled it with balloons, gifts of cookies, gorgeous flowers, and beautifully printed programs creating a joyous space where everyone could be welcomed into the party, which became full to capacity with over 650 people. It was a rich program, which had been created from the ideas of a whole team of people representing a cross section of the UN community and so everyone had the feeling that it was their event – so the atmosphere in the room was one of joy and unity. See printed program The event was webcast and has been archived on the UN website at www.un.org/webcast then click on archives, then Special Events, and then you will see the program listed under October 27, 2005.

Full report with peoples thoughts on the program click here

More images as a collage click here

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Marks the 10th Anniversary of the Values Caucus at the United Nations.

This year we will be celebrating with many programs and events. On February 12 we launched the celebration by co-sponsoring an event with guest speakers, Alfredo Sfeir Younis from the World Bank, our old friend and champion, and Carol Zinn, a member of the Values Caucus Coordinating Council from 2000 to 2002. Deborah Moldow, past chair of the Values Caucus, facilitated on behalf of URI-UN. The subject was The Ethical & Spiritual Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals. More than 60 members of the UN non-governmental community attended, overflowing the small conference room. The meeting was opened with the Moment of Silence traditional to the Values Caucus. There were congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the Values Caucus including Monica Willard presenting a celebratory cake, to be shared after the meeting and a message from Ambassador Juan Somavía, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva.

"My greetings to you all from Geneva. I wish I could be there but am with you in spirit. As you know, the Values Caucus and its work has always been dear to my heart since its inception at the time of the Social Summit, and is clearly relevant in my present capacity as Director-General of the ILO. I am constantly reminded of how spiritual issues and values are essential in the world of work, and how, in fact the different philosophical, spiritual and religious traditions actually underpin what we try to do, which is help achieve decent work for all.

I salute your efforts to foster greater dialogue among the different faiths, cultures, and traditions, which the world needs more than ever, and wish you many more years of successes. I am with you in mind and sprit".

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In 2003, the Values Caucus invited many inspiring speakers join us for our monthly meetings. Individuals who are commited to highlighting the importance of values in the work of the United Nations.

We had a conversation with Shashi Tharoor Under-Secretary-General, For Communications and Public Information, on "The Role of Values in the Future of the United Nations". Although this meeting was held in one of the larger conference rooms of the United Nations we managed to create an informal environment for this rare opportunity for the NGO community to meet and have a closer conversation with Mr. Tharoor, touching on his personal sense of mission, ideals and commitments, as an individual and as well as in his capacity as Under-Secretary General.

Dr. Noel Brown President, Freinds of the UN and former Regional Director of the UNEP North American Office, addressed us powerfully on "Value, Responsibility and Opportunity of being and NGO at the UN at theis critical time." He stressed the importance of the theme of the 2003 DPI/NGO Conference, Human Security. He stated that today the world was more insecure and was in fact expressing a culture of fear, with "gated communities" and a "gated world". Human Security is essential in long term planning for the UN. He challenged us saying that the anchors of a just and stable society are disappearing. We are the crew members of this ship; we need to take up the challenge. The UN has the moral capacity; the UN is a megaphone. We should empower the Secretary-General - after all he represents "we the peoples". Provide the Secretary-General with the support and inspiration needed to make the UN hallowed ground, a safe space.

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The launch of the Values Caucus Web Site, giving the Caucus an important tool for communication with members in New York and other parts of the world.
In a natural reaction to coping with the events of September 11th, people have been reaching out to each other in ways which they never have before. The NGO community had this opportunity as well. The Values Caucus invited all NGO's to participate in a conversation where we shared with each other our experiences of these times and our heart-felt hopes for building the future and discovering new and creative ways of how we might work with each other. The title of the gathering was "Thought Filled Spaces: Conversations of the Heart". This conversation was the beginging of the series of Community Discussions that the Values Caucus now hold regularly.
In September 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed to a set of time-bound and measurable goals and targets for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. Placed at the heart of the global agenda, these are now called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Summit’s Millennium Declaration (A/RES/55/2) also outlined a wide range of commitments in human rights, good governance and democracy. At the beginning of the declaration, subtitled Values and Principles, values were considered fundamentally essential to international relations in the twenty-first century and these included: Freedom, Equality, Solidarity, Tolerance, Respect for Nature and Shared Responsibility.

Answering the Call to Values: In December we held an informal gathering at a luncheon conversation with Ambassadors and members of the Values Caucus to further our collaborative efforts to strengthen and promote the values articulated in the Millennium Declaration.

Eleanor Rae, member of the Values Caucus, launched the Earth Values Caucus (EVC) in 2000 specifically to bring a values agenda to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg 2002, as well as addressing environmental concerns through the Commission on Sustainable Development and the UN Environment Programme. The EVC has become a coalition of more than 40 NGOs accredited and unaccredited throughout the world. The group actively participated in all the PrepComs of the Summit, wrote a position paper, lobbied delegates and conducted workshops and gatherings in South Africa in 2002.
The 1999 election added Carl Murrell, serving with Deborah in the new position of Co-Chairs.

In November the Values Caucus said farewell to Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, Representative of the World Bank to the United Nations, who was leaving New York to serve in Geneva. Mr. Sfeir-Younis had done much to further and highlight the importance of values at the United Nations, and had been a true freind to the NGO community here in New York. On November 3 we held a reception in his honor. November 4, the Values Caucus sponsored an event, hosted by H.E. Mr. S.R. Insanally of Guyana, where Mr. Sfeir-Younis gave a farewell address entitled: “Spiritual Values in Foreign Policy and Sustainable Development.”

In this addressed he also highlighted the importance of the work of the Values Caucus at the United Nations:

"In my personal view,
  • You are the most important group in the United Nations.
  • You are the custodians of values and the depository of an immense amount of knowledge.
  • You are the center stage of the debates taking place on a number of crucial issues, some of which will come with us as we cross the gates towards the next millennium.
  • You are an inspiring force and a source of sustenance for many of us in decision making.
  • You are the reason why many can speak loud and clear on matters related to values, spirituality, ethics, morals and economic development.
  • You are the architects of the needed institutional and political spaces for people like myself to enter into a high level debate on issues of common concern.
And I want to thank you for that."

During this year, members of the Values Caucus led by Jerry Spivack, Martha Gallahue and Patrick McNamara began a new tradition of preparing a lunchtime "working-shop" for the annual DPI/NGO Conference. These events have been very successful, and are especially appreciated by NGOs from out of town who are delighted to experience the work of the Values Caucus.
The Values Caucus hosted a reception entitled "Partnerships for Peace" on April 23, 1998, honoring the International Association of Permanent Representatives for their support of the Coffee Series. An impressive thirty Permanent Representatives attended.

Another significant innovation was the Values Caucus Coordinating Council. Until 1998, the Caucus was facilitated only by a Chair and sometimes a Vice Chair. In 1998, a nine-member Council was elected to model a more participatory leadership. The Council proved to be an excellent laboratory for consensus-driven decision making, blending the talents and skills of a variety of members.
After the original tri-part leadership disbanded, Bawa Jain continued to chair the Caucus, leading to its active participation in the UN Conference on Human Settlements, known as Habitat II, held in Istanbul in June, 1996. Members of the Values Caucus from New York worked actively with with the Turkish Values Caucus that had formed around this event.

Deborah Moldow was elected Chair at the end of 1996, with and Robert Kauffman serving as Vice Chair. Deborah initiated the innovative Coffee Series, inviting Permanent Representatives to the United Nations to speak on an informal basis with NGOs. This series was originally undertaken under the guidance of H.E. Mrs. Claudia Fritsche, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein, who was then serving as Vice President of the International Association of Permanent Representatives. Ambassador Fritsche was our first guest, and helped introduce the Values Caucus to other ambassadors, who were delighted to accept our invitation.

The Coffees have been, without exception, wonderful opportunities to learn the perspective from another country, while also getting to know on a personal basis one of its most accomplished diplomats. The ambassadors have also appreciated the open communication with NGOs that is rarely available to them, as well as the warm hospitality demonstrated by the members of the Values Caucus, who are always careful to treat guests with respect.
At the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Copenhagen (UNWSSD) (1995) daily experiential workshops and seminars on framing global issues around underlying values were conducted by the Values Caucus on such topics as the new visionary leadership and values -- to standing room only crowds.

In addition the Values Caucus organized an extensive and intensive lobbying process to influence the documents of the UNWSSD. Daily interactions with governmental representatives and support from Ambassador Somavia were successful in the inclusion of values for the first time in the final documents. The Values Caucus was invited to address all 184 governments. As representative of the Co-Chairs, and the Caucus Nancy Roof introduced the rationale for the fundamental need to address values in global affairs in the plenary session of UNWSSD.
A group of NGO’s convinced of the basic need to consider values in global affairs gathered at the first Preparatory Conference for the World Social Summit on Social Development (UNWSSD) in 1994. The group elected Bawa Jain, Rev. Chung Lee, and Dr. Nancy Roof as co-chairmen. Ambassador Juan Somavia, Chairman of the UNWSS became the chief supporter of the effort, giving it the legitimacy that it needed.

The Values Caucus took its inspiration from a "Seminar on Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Social Progress". The Seminar was hosted by the Government of Slovenia and financed by voluntary contributions from the Governments of Austria, France and Switzerland. It was held in October 1994 as part of the preparation for the UNWSSD to be held in Denmark in March 1995. Amb. Danilo Turk, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Slovenia to the United Nations, was one of the first guests to speak at a Values Caucus meeting and sharing his experiences from the seminar, he expressed the importance of working with values at the United Nations.