The Global Festival of Action (2-4 May 2019 in Bonn, Germany) is a ground-breaking event powered by the UN SDG Action Campaign with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Foreign Office and partners. The Festival brings together the global community acting to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality.

During the three days of the Festival, 1500 participants from Local Governments, Private Sector, Civil Society Organizations, Academia and everyone from different sectors working for the SDGs came together. Taking place in Bonn every year, the Festival provides a dynamic and interactive space to showcase the latest innovations, tools and approaches to SDG advocacy and SDG action. Each day of the Festival will be opened with a high-level plenary session in the Plenary Hall. The Festival will feature approximately 30 thematic milestone sessions, each designed by SDG partners across the world, offering a rich tapestry of interactive workshops in SDG Studio, Meet-up Spaces, SDG Action Zone and implementing policy simulations and ‘how to’ sessions in various halls, all designed to increase awareness, understanding and build capacity around SDG Action.

Throughout the three days, SDSN Youth participated in various sessions covering an array of topics from advocacy, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and innovation to SDG financing, education for sustainable development, and youth empowerment. We participated in 4 panels, 2 workshop facilitations and presented 1 SDG Action Talk powered by the SDG Studio which was broadcasted live on UN Web TV.

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Thursday, 2 May 2019

Sam Loni, SDSN Youth’s Global Coordinator spoke on the panel “Prizes and Awards as a Tool for Inclusive Youth Empowerment” to discuss and highlight the key role of prizes and awards in including and empowering youth in addressing climate change and promoting sustainable development. The panel was moderated by Ayman Cherkaoui, (Coordinator, Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection) who gave the floor to Sam, Sarah Marchildon (Team Lead, Momentum for Change, UN Climate Change Secretariat) and Laura Hildebrandt (Global Outreach and Engagement, UN SDG Action Campaign) to share about the work of their initiatives and perspectives on how prizes and awards can be transformational tools to engage and support youth both in the short and long term.

Later that afternoon, Kayla Colyard, SDSN Youth’s Events Project Lead joined the panel “Youth Movement 4 the SDGs” which was hosted by AIESEC. Moderated by Joaquim Sanvictores (Executive Director, AIESEC), panelists shared best case practices and tips to overcome the challenges faced in engaging youth to take action on the SDGs. Other panelists included Krissy Durant (Chief Marketing Officer, JCI) and Pablo Handl (Co-Founder, Impact Hub Sao Paulo) who helped to showcase that while engaging 1.8 Billion young people around the world may seem a difficult task, these youth movements are taking a lead in advancing the 2030 Agenda. Following the panel, the audience took part in an interactive activity led by the panelists in which they simulated best case practices on how to align one's activities to support the SDGs.


Friday, 3 May

The second day started with Sam facilitating a breakout group during the session titled “Multi-stakeholder Partnerships and Coalition Building” hosted by GIZ. As multi-stakeholder partnerships convene the public and private sector as well as NGOs and academia to cooperate on an equal footing to contribute to the implementation of the SDGs, Sam shared his experiences, opinions, and insights with participants. Groups were also led by Susanne Salz (Head of Program, GIZ Multi-stakeholder Platform), Catherine Zucco (Policy Officer Fisheries and Marine Conservation, WWF), Minu Hemmati (Clinical psychologist), Marja Innanen (Chief Specialist on Sustainable Development, Prime Minister’s Office, Finland), and Arnau Queralt-Bassa (Chairman, European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils). Participants were encouraged to share their own experiences with a focus on how to proactively make partnerships work and when forming partnerships is a suitable approach.


Hosted alongside Karol Alejandra Arámbula Carrillo (Executive Director and Founder, MY World Mexico), the session “Smart Youth Advocacy: The Case of MY World Mexico and SDSN Youth”, Sam shared successful tools and mechanisms which have positioned youth as key implementers of SDG related initiatives on the global level. To attest to the progressive work in which SDSN Youth has done in identifing vital skills, resources and people to connect and create SDG related advocacy campaigns, Bahar Özay (Managing Director, UN SDSN Turkey) spoke about our work not only at the global level but at local level as well. Bahar shared about the campaign and advocacy efforts young leaders in Turkey have pioneered and concluded by highlighting the work of our own SDG Coordinator, Buket Altınçelep. Following the panel discussion, Kayla Colyard and  Buket Altınçelep facilitated two of the five working groups whose task was to  review a local case and put into practice the knowledge gained from the session.

The session “Can we align SDGs with profit for maximum impact?” led by Ricardo Silva (Head of EU Projects, Mind the Bridge Foundation) focused on how to equate the SDGs with success and innovation and build pragmatic arguments that resonate with the business world to help us to achieve a better world. Using an open innovation framework, speakers Xavier Mallet (Coordinator, MakeSense Berlin), Natalie Magee (Founder, Changemaker Tour Berlin),Melanie Akerboomm (Co-founder, Social Innovation Meets School), and Lisa Wendzich (Chief Executive Officer, SunCrafter) shared their ideas on how to convert large corporates, SMEs and startups to engage the SDGs. Driven by profit, we know this is not always an easy task but Sam presented the trade-offs that businesses should consider when their objectives may not seem to align with the SDGs. Examples included, infrastructure companies and SDG15, including the trade-off between infrastructure development (houses, roads, electrification, plumbing, etc) and deforestation/land clearing as well as Food companies and SDGs 2, 6 and 15 focusing on the trade-off between food production and energy, water, land-use, biodiversity, and health.

In the SDG Studio, Sam presented his talk, What if we mobilized 1% of the wealth of the world's super-rich for the SDGs? on the dynamic live stage broadcasted on UN Web TV.  Achieving the SDGs is ambitious in nature and will require rapid mobilization of financial resources from all sectors of the global economy. Sam showcased the work of Move Humanity, the initiative calling upon all 2208 of the world's highest net worth individuals – those with wealth of $1 billion USD or more – to direct at least 1% of their net worth each year towards the SDGs. Sam explained the components of SDG financing, how to fill the gap, and encouraged the crowd to join SDSN Youth and Human Act and move billions for billions.

Saturday, 4 May

During the closing plenary session, Christine Albrecht announced an extraordinary opportunity for young innovators. SDSN Youth and Junior Chamber International have partnered together to offer young people the recognition, tools, training and resources needed to scale their SDG-focused projects. 50 youth-led programs—25 for-profit and 25 non-profit—will receive access to powerful tools and resources, including:


Within the three weeks since its launch, we have already received an overwhelming response and look forward to announcing the winners during the 2019 UN General Assembly in New York City!

A big thank you to the SDG Action Campaign Team - most notably Hannah Messenger, for all your assistance in session coordination. Also, a special thanks to the SDSN Youth and SDSN team members who attended the festival - Sam Loni, Amy Au, Fernanda Martinelli, Buket Altınçelep, Yagmur Atilgan, and Bahar Özay for their on the ground support in Bonn.


Kayla Colyard is the Events Project Lead at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network - Youth Initiative, based at the secretariat office of SDSN in NYC. Kayla earned dual Masters degrees in International Development & Service and Business Administration from the College of Mount Saint Vincent.