Mark Severson, a 2001 Crosby-Ironton alumnus and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, student, recently lobbied at the United Nations Conference on Women.
It was the 49th session on the commission and status of women. Severson actively participated as a member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, a non-government organization. In his time there, the U.N. addressed many human life issues, most notably advancing a vote against human cloning and passing a resolution of trafficking of women and girls.
As a member of SCSS, Severson lobbied specifically for the dignity of the human person, in accordance to Catholic social teachings.
Specifically, Severson lobbied in the field of poverty and its impact on women with a purpose to call attention to the growing need to assist women in undeveloped countries.
On why he chose to research and lobby in the area of poverty, he said, "Growing up in the home of Dr. (Paul) Severson (founder of Project Haiti, Inc.), you come to realize the value of helping the poor people of the world and how much affect one can have by just being there."
Severson noted that only 3 percent of the conference addressed the issue of empowering women in poverty.
"It was sad to see, knowing that 70 percent of the world's poor are women, that the issues of poverty were only dealt with in 3 percent of the sessions.
Unfortunately, the wealthier nations only see the world through their lens so most of their good intentions end up not being the best remedy for the poorer countries. Most of the focus was on reproductive rights, which I believe is very much an inhumane approach. Eliminate the essence of poverty, not their people."
Severson said the biggest accomplishment was helping to draft the United States resolution on trafficking.
"I never thought in my first week at the U.N. that I would actually work with the U.S. delegation to help draft their resolution. I was tremendously blessed to receive such an opportunity."
In addition to working on the resolution, Severson lobbied with other nations to co-sponsor the bill. Eventually, he, the U.S. delegation and his society specifically got 50 other countries to co-sponsor the resolution. The U.S. delegation was elated to receive the extra help, as it said the number of signatures Franciscan University was able to attain was unprecedented.
Further, the European Union had no intention of allowing the U.S. resolution on trafficking to pass because of the call to end prostitution as prostitution is legal in some European countries. As more and more signatures came in, the EU had no choice but to let the bill pass by consensus.
"A number of European countries wanted to join our trafficking resolution, but were bound to what the EU wanted. Sweden told me specifically that they would rather work with the U.S. on this issue. Ireland agreed with the bill in principle, but had to stay loyal to the EU," Severson said.
The U.S. trafficking resolution focused on eliminating demand for trafficked women and girls for all forms of exploitation. This was the first resolution of a UN body to focus on the demand side of human trafficking. The goal is to protect women and girls from trafficking of all forms, including prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation.
Severson received this opportunity from his school, Franciscan University of Steubenville.
"I hope Franciscan continues to empower students to go to the U.N. I think we had a tremendous impact during the conference. It was humbling to speak with delegates from all over the world while exchanging business cards and building connections."
Severson grew up in Deerwood and is the son of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Severson. He plans to marry Mallory Larson, also of Deerwood, and attend Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich., next fall.
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