Shared by William Gois on August 2, 2022
Among the many conversations John and I had over the years, I once asked him, not too long ago, John, when did we first meet? And he reminded me that it was at the first Global Forum on  Migration and Development (GFMD) in Brussels in May 2007. I was there to represent the newly formed NGO Committee on Migration, which gave me the opportunity to meet, for the first time, NGO colleagues from all world regions and discuss common concerns and strategies. John was there as the Social Policy Chief and Civil Society coordinator at the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Geneva.  We hit it off right away, and our collaboration and friendship grew exponentially ever since.

In 2011, when I made my first trip to Geneva to attend the 5th GFMD, I heard John address the People’s Global Action Forum, strongly advocating already then for the regularization of undocumented migrants. It was also the first of my many visits with his family in Pouilly, where a big welcome sign at the front door and big smiles by his wonderful wife Agnes and his four sons awaited me.

At the 10th annual GFMD in  Berlin in 2016. we gave a workshop at one of the sessions and John was a very proud Dad to see his oldest son, Johnny Dupre, take part in it.

The following year, in 2017,  the first phase of the UN negotiations for a Global Compact on Safe, Regular Migration began with a series of consultations on major issues, such as trafficking in persons, held in Vienna in the late summer. In that connection, John invited the ten members of the  Core Group of the Civil Society Action Committee to a retreat in Vienna, to draft a Civil Society vision for a global compact to present to member States for their consideration before they began formal negotiations of their own. The document. entitled Now and How: Ten Acts for the Global Compact, was distributed to NGOs and Member States for their consideration.

For me, this was probably the most memorable trip on which John and I were together, because I was able to show him where my family had lived before my parents and I, then a small child, had to flee to escape the Nazi takeover in 1938.

Occasionally, John also came to New York for United Nations meetings. During the lunch break a few members of our NGO Committee had lunch together at an unassuming cafeteria across the street from the U.N.  Since John loved cheesecake, we ordered it regularly for dessert, and our little group became known as the cheesecake conspiracy. When the shop went out of business, we moved the conspiracy to Muldoon’s Irish Bar on Third Avenue. There is a photo of the last meeting of our conspiracy before the pandemic, with John, his wonderful sister Mary, the indefatigable Sister MaryJo Toll, a former chair of our Committee, and Eva Richter and me, two of its three founding mothers.

As the pandemic cut off travel, John and I had a habit of frequent telephone conversations, two or three times a week, to discuss our work, our hopes, and disappointments. We tossed ideas back and forth to enrich our thinking and writing, as individuals and as a team.

Last November, I received an invitation to write a chapter on The Role of NGOs: The Committee on Migration for a book on Coming to America: Psychosocial Experiences and Adjustment of Migrants. I told John about it, he thought it was great.   I said to John, yes, but I will only do it if it is co-authored—with you. Despite much protesting, John agreed to do it, and the book editors were thrilled. This was our last joint effort, and whatever is really good in that chapter, to no surprise, is due to him.

Our last conversation took place last Monday, July 25th. John told me his cough from the virus was almost gone, he still had a cold, but if he tested negative, he hoped that Agnes and he would return to Pouilly on Wednesday.  I still asked his opinion about a round table proposal I was considering for the annual meeting of the International Council of Psychologists for which I am one of the accredited U.N. representatives. As usual, he was ready to share his views and encourage solutions. He underscored the lack of decent funding for mental health services for traumatized refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations, as well as the lack of progress in solutions that would end the smuggling and trafficking, environmental disasters and political persecution that migrants and refugees were experiencing,

As we got ready to end our conversation, I said to him:  thank you so much for your call, John, you’ve made my day; and he replied: and you made mine.

Eva Sandis
Fordham University

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