Pen Amerca’s Emergency Congress At The United Nations

Liza Donnelly
4 min readMay 14, 2022

Concern for the world mirrors a similar gathering in 1939

I was invited by the organization PEN America, to attend and live-draw a special session at the United Nations yesterday. The leadership at PEN gathered member writers to speak at what they called an Emergency World Voices Congress of Writers to speak about a variety of issues that are urgent in our world at the moment. This event mirrored another such congress in 1939, when fascism was on the rise.

It was very moving to hear all these amazing novelists, poets, non-fiction writers from many countries speak about what concerned them. Ukraine, of course, the rise of extremist governments, dictatorships, increased violence against minorities, poverty, global climate crisis, childrens safety, women’s rights.

It is unclear to me what this accomplished. Some of the speeches opened my eyes to perspectives I had not thought of before. Perhaps that’s the point. But who outside the conference was listening? Is this sort of gathering a way to energize ourselves (writers and creatives) to action? To justify or underline or amplify the role of creatives in helping bring change or stop hate, violence, injustice? I believe it is a worthy thing to do.

Author Richard Hine has an in-depth piece about the event at the UN, and the one in…