Salve graduate working on behalf of refugees, migrants at the UN

Colleen Cloonan ’16, ’17 (M), a fellow with the Mercy International Association’s Mercy Global Action project, will visit campus this week to share her work at the United Nations on behalf of refugees and migrants.

All members of the University community are invited to hear Cloonan discuss her work at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 in the Mercy Center for Spiritual Life. She will also visit two of Dr. Jayme Hennessy’s classes – The Quest for the Ultimate and University Seminar: Broken Halos – on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Through the Mercy Global Action project, the Sisters of Mercy maintain an office at the United Nations and enjoy special consultative status as a non-governmental organization within the Economic and Social Council. The project is the mechanism by which those associated with the Sisters of Mercy interact with the UN system.

Cloonan first learned about the Mercy Global Action project while attending the Young Mercy Leaders Conference in Dublin the summer before her junior year at Salve Regina. After the conference, she traveled to the United Nations on multiple occasions to see the Sisters of Mercy in action.

“As a global studies major, I was interested in social justice, international relations and global policy,” she says. “I had the opportunity to take a tour, join webinars with constituents from South America discussing environmental concerns and represent the Sisters of Mercy during the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015. I instantly felt a connection with the work they do and felt as though it was what I was being called to do.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Cloonan applied for the Mercy Global Action internship and began working at the UN office in September 2016. Guided by the critical concerns of mercy, her current work addresses environmental degradation, sustainable development and poverty eradication, as well as displacement of persons such as ending human trafficking and the issues surrounding migration and refugees.

“The work is accomplished primarily through NGO committees, working groups, contact with member delegations and reports and statements,” Cloonan says. “We also participate in consultations of civil society on global justice issues identified by the secretary general’s office, UN agencies, the Office of Human Rights and other entities.”

While on campus, Cloonan will share the work that the Sisters of Mercy and the United Nations are doing to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees on an international level.

“We must take a human rights approach to the large movements of refugees and migrants, truly see a person for who they are and be merciful,” she says. “Mercy impels us to act, to speak out, to work to ensure that we look at every global policy issue through the lens of the most disadvantaged. It is imperative to respect the human dignity and human rights of all people, irrespective of race, culture, gender, age, status or religion.”

Cloonan encourages students to address these issues in a variety of ways, such as volunteering with refugees and migrants, helping them integrate into a new culture and educating others on campus on the issues. “Depending on your major, you may have a different approach,” she adds. “For example, if you are in social work, political science, nursing, business or education, your critical thinking to solve an issue will be different. However, each perspective is instrumental on a global level.”

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