AFTER serving 10 years under the name “Dominicans for Justice and Peace” and working together with Franciscans International (FI), the Order’s office in the United Nations will now be known as “Dominican Network,” operating separately from FI.

“We have been sharing the office in Geneva with [FI] since the very beginning. We decided to move out of that office for the more basic reason of economics knowing that we could find a better arrangement outside of that office by having a house of our own in Geneva,” said the Prior Provincial of the Philippine Dominican province, Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, O.P.

However, he gives credit to FI since most of the expenses of the then office were shouldered by the Franciscans, who have more people working in the office thus utilizing it more.

“But this does not mean ending our work with them.”

The change of name was the suggestion of the new Permanent Delegate of the Dominican Order at the United Nations, Fr. Olivier Poquillon. Poquillon said the new name would appeal to all kinds of ideological leanings in over 100 countries where the Order is present.

“Although the name Justice and Peace is accepted in the Church, we cannot avoid some people who are more on the conservative and are a bit turned off by the name,” Pedregosa said.

However, Pedregosa was not really in favor of the change to Dominican Network because the former name gives a definite focus on what the office is for and that he is not sure if the new name really serves a good purpose.

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“The name Justice and Peace has already established its own track record and has become a point of reference for many people. Also, sticking to the name is more consistent with our emphasis on Justice and Peace issues,” Pedregosa said

Meanwhile, proponents of the name “Dominican Network” claim that it will broaden the Order’s appeal, making members Dominican family more at home with the arrangement.

“But the name would not affect our commitment to justice and peace. Still the heart of our commitment in the UN, Geneva office is for the pursuit of justice and peace issues,” Pedregosa said.

The Dominicans for Justice and Peace at UN is an office in Geneva that opened a decade ago in response to the need for protection of human rights all over the world. It was launched in partnership with FI, which is another non-governmental organization.

FI, much like the Dominicans for Justice and Peace, unites the voice of Dominican brothers and sisters in their utmost concern for the poor, care of creation, and peacemaking.

In the turn of years, FI reached a General Consultative status at the UN while the Dominicans for Justice and Peace attained Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, which allows the Dominicans to speak at the Human Rights Commission but not to vote.

The two organization, operating jointly for the protection of human rights, were able to raise issues concerning poverty, human trafficking, and rights due to children and women.


New Delegate

Along with the aforementioned changes is the appointment of Poquillon as the new permanent delegate.

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After serving for almost a decade as the delegate of the Order at the United Nations (UN) Council on Human Rights, Canadian Fr. Philippe LeBlanc has vacated his position and returned to his province.

“In a sense he has served longer than expected because the [usual] practice of term in an office is only three to four years and then you can get reelected or reappointed but normally we don’t go for a third term,” said Pedregosa.

“Although it was a personal appointment, [LeBlanc] has already served more than two terms and besides he is growing old already.”

Nevertheless, the Order was able to find a successor fit for the position in the person of Poquillon of the province of France.

The seek-out for a replacement was based on the qualifications such as the interest in justice and peace issues, knowledge on international law, international language capabilities and contact with the office of the Order in Geneva.

“Given the fact that Poquillon is an expert in international law, he simply fits in the position. Also, his language capabilities, being a Frenchman he definitely speaks French and English and I presume Spanish too,” Pedregosa said, adding that Poquillon has worked for LeBlanc for some time.

Poquillon also lived and worked in Iraq where human rights violations are relatively high.

Poquillon now takes over the task of carrying out the mission of the Order in “influencing state policies to take on a Gospel vision; to support apostolates and to be at service of the Order and to men and women of our time; and to seek concrete effects on the ground on matters raised at the UN.”

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Despite the changes, Pedregosa believes that the office will still work efficiently.

“We have the assurance from the new Permanent delegate that still the focus is justice and peace and the real lifeblood of the office is the commitment of the Dominicans on the ground in different countries encountering human rights issues to work with the office,” Pedregosa said.

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