Interview with Liberato Bautista

Liberato Bautista

Liberato was invited to Dianova's annual reunion in Palma de Majorca not only to deliver an address on the issue of global migration but also as a friend and partner of Dianova's

Liberato Bautista is Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs Ministry of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. He represents the board as a non-governmental organization (NGO) as the Main Representative to the United Nations, at the UN headquarters in New York, in Geneva (Switzerland) and in Vienna (Austria).

Liberato comes from the Philippines where he served for 10 years as the human rights coordinator for the National Council of Churches in this country. He is known in ecumenical and civil society circles in Asia and around the world especially in the field of international affairs, human rights, and social and political ethics which are also his academic pursuits and about which he has written essays and edited books and journals. Liberato has a degree in history and political science from the University of the Philippines and did his doctoral studies in Christian social and political ethics from Drew University.

Liberato was invited to the Dianova network’s annual meetings in Palma de Majorca (Spain – October 21st to 23rd) not only to deliver an address on the important issue of global migration but also as a friend and partner of Dianova’s. The General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church and Dianova have recently engaged in an agreement to collaborate on issues of common interest with regard to advocacy initiatives at the United Nations, more particularly on women’s issues, global migration and sustainable development.

Would you please tell us about your recent professional career?

Sometime during my current position as main representative at the United Nations worldwide, for  the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), I was President of the Conference  of NGOs in consultative relationship with the United Nations, or CoNGO, a position I held between the end of 2007 and early 2011. I still serve in CoNGO’s Board of Directors as immediate past president. I also spent 90 days of sabbatical and vacation days between 2008 and 2011 to teach international affairs, particularly on the role of NGOs at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, at Kyung Hee University in South Korea. I was part of the faculty of their “Summer Global Collaborative”. 

What is CoNGO ?

congoCoNGO is the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationships with the United Nations – it is a gathering of NGOs of all types and sizes, all of which have different concerns and objectives but one common need: that of having a collective voice at the United Nations. Founded in 1948, it is one of the oldest associations of NGOs focused on UN-related activities, CoNGO, since its inception, has been playing the difficult role of negotiating with the UN about how the various NGOs might be able to access the UN, both physically and politically, thus fulfilling its mission of facilitating the development of a well-informed and dynamic NGO community, capable of influencing policies and actions at all levels of the UN.

CoNGO’s vision is “to be the primary support and platform for a civil society represented by a global community of informed, empowered and committed NGOs that fully participate with the UN in decision-making and programs leading to a better world, a world of economic and social justice.”

Can you tell us about the work of the General Board of Church and Society?

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is currently organized with local churches in at least 52 countries around the world, comprising a little over 11 million members, most of whom, about 8 million plus, live in the United States, and close to three million spread across Africa, Europe and Asia. For Asia, it is mostly in the Philippines.

GBCSThe General Board of Church and Society is the social action and public policy agency of the worldwide UMC. It is one of more than 10 general agencies.  The UMC bears a historic heritage that comes from the teachings of its founder, John Wesley. For Wesley, there is no religion but social, and no holiness but social holiness. From this historic foundation, the UMC has evolved a distinctive set of Social Principles and a social creed. Through these, the UMC may choose to  address matters related to public policies and social issues where a prophetic, ethical and moral perspective is of importance. 

These issues may include matters related to the natural world and its biological and ecological composition, the economic community, the world community, the rights of workers and those of women and men, civil liberties, education, religion and state relations, etc. We have more than a thousand  pages of current public statements about different human and social issues. I believe these are the same values that Dianova and our church hold in common.

The work of the UMC is one of influence and advocacy but do you have any program per se?

GBCS, being the public policy and social action arm of the UMC is focused on programs related to education, advocacy and organizing. Our programs are based on our mandate to implement the Social Principles of the UMC. Our programs include Education and Leadership Formation, Peace with Justice  & UN and International Affairs, Environmental and Economic Justice, Women’s and Children’s Advocacy, Health and Wholeness, Human and Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Reform, Seminars on National and International Affairs, and Organizing and Advocacy.

My share of this work, the UN and International Affairs Ministry, gives focus on global migration, indigenous peoples, global human rights, and peacebuilding. The UMC does more, through its other general agencies.

We are, for example, very committed in the area of sustainable development, including sustainable agriculture. We’re not only talking of helping people rebuild their houses after they were damaged by typhoons or storms, we also support them on the longer term, helping them work their farm again, have seeds to plant, etc.

How did you get to know Dianova?

When I was president of CoNGO I first met with Elena Goti to try and convince her and Dianova to join the organization. Since then, we have come to learn of each other’s mission, vision and mutual interests and our relationship has matured enough to enter into a more specific partnership such as the one we are now developing in the US.

I feel very much at home in your meetings, actually they are not unlike the meetings we hold at the UMC: we discuss hard, debate hard, laugh hard, smile hard and have fun. I appreciate greatly the hospitality and grace of Dianova and its officers welcoming me here as if I were just one of you.