Environment: nine recommendations for sustainability from the International Union of Superiors General (UISG)

The organisation, which represents 600,000 Catholics Sisters worldwide, marks Laudato Si’ Week with this call for an alliance between Sisters and civil society to protect the Earth and support communities affected by environmental breakdown


Rome, 24th May 2023

During Laudato Si’ Week 2023 – the week dedicated to Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’ – the Catholic Sisters of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) launch a policy brief outlining nine recommendations to address the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, with a particular focus on vulnerable people. UISG is an umbrella organisation for the leaders of Catholic women’s congregations, bringing together 1,900 members who represent over 600,000 Sisters worldwide.

These recommendations emerged from April’s Sister-Led Dialogue on the Environment, the first in a series of dialogues organised by the UISG initiative Sisters Advocating Globally, supported by the Global Solidarity Fund. The gathering took place in Rome on the 17th of April 2023, with the participation of representatives from Vatican institutions, embassies to the Holy See, UN bodies, international organisations, civil society and academia.

UISG’s nine recommendations are: 1. Economic action: advocate for a new, values-driven impetus for collective action, in order to build the financial infrastructure that can enable an economy of sustainable development. 2. Educational action: support institutions and initiatives that transmit knowledge, raise public awareness, and involve local actors in a sustainable manner. 3. Legislative and legal action: encourage governments and international organisations to mandate issues related to environmental sustainability, and legislate concrete measures to guarantee inclusivity. 4. Environmental and social action: emphasise the interconnectedness of environmental and social action as the only path to achieving social justice. 5. Religious engagement: harness the rootedness and reach of religious engagement to ensure the success of environmental initiatives. 6. Partnerships, institutionalisation and accreditation: Institutionalise women-led and faith-led capacity-building, and expand secular-religious partnerships with accredited national and international bodies. 7. Integrative dialogue: foster dialogue as an inclusive mechanism that can amplify marginalised voices, and ensure a leading role in global decision-making for local communities facing environmental challenges. 8. Media and the arts: channel the role of media and the arts in educating the public, changing the narrative on environmental breakdown, and focusing global attention on local issues. 9. Scientific research: utilise the potential of research and education to help both leaders and local communities to make informed decisions and plans for action.

“In order to tackle the root causes of problems that are generated by human activity and by our systems of profit, we need to imagine a transition across all areas of our lives – says Sister Maamalifar M. Poreku, Coordinator of UISG’s environmental campaign Sowing Hope for the Planet. – As Catholic Sisters, this is how we approach the implementation of outcomes from COP27 and COP15: as a holistic challenge to strengthen our care for Creation. We must encourage global leaders to think outside the box when it comes to financial commitments and lifestyle changes, and seek radical solutions to radical challenges.”

A few days ago, the World Meteorological Organisation warned that, within the next five years, global temperatures are likely to exceed the 1.5°C degree limit set out in the Paris Agreement, at least temporarily. “An alliance between peoples, governments and international organisations is essential to protect our common home and bring excluded voices into the centre of dialogue, moving away from waste and greed towards a regenerative economy, in balance with nature and human needs – adds Sister Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary at UISG. – The role of women religious has traditionally been limited to education, healthcare and community development. Yet there are many areas of advocacy for systemic change in which Catholic Sisters can play an active and leading role, particularly in relation to the environment. The potential for religious involvement must be fully harnessed. Time is running out, and humanity cannot afford to procrastinate any longer.”

Policy brief: https://advocacy.uisg.org/environment-policy-2023/

International Union of Superiors General: https://www.uisg.org/en/

Sisters Advocating Globally: https://advocacy.uisg.org/

Sowing Hope for the Planet: https://www.sowinghopefortheplanet.org/

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