The UN General Assembly marks the time of the year when the UN is not just a setting for the world stage, it is the world stage. And as with all good stages, there are major acts which draw in stars and celebrities, sideshows that provide a glimmer of niche perspectives, and lots of behind-the-scenes work that makes the production successful. SDSN and SDSN Youth, as initiatives of the United Nations, were fortunate to have the chance to host, organize, and lead a variety of events during the UNGA proceedings. A team from SDSN Youth was present at many of these proceedings, and their attendance at these events was a source of personal growth and development for each individual, and is now an opportunity for other youth to harness their learning into a renewed commitment for SDGs action. Here is a snapshot of some of the events attended, and what their outcomes mean for us as youth.
The SDG Costing & Macroeconomics: Spending Needs for Achieving Selected SDGs Session at United Nations HQ was jointly hosted by the IMF, World Bank, and SDSN. Chief fiscal and revenue policy advisors at the IMF and World Bank, along with SDSN’s Director Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Amina Mohammed, released a new, groundbreaking report that models the resource gap between current spending towards the SDGs and what is needed to achieve the goals. The identified gap, 0.30% of worldwide GDP, represents a significant challenge to resource mobilization, but there is hope in the fact that economists now have a financial estimate to work with in advising government policy and that solutions, financial and otherwise, exist to alleviate the challenges our global community faces.
The SDG Costing & Macroeconomics session also marked the official launch of SDSN’s Move Humanity movement, a global initiative to end extreme poverty through campaigns to raise private development assistance.
The International Conference on Sustainable Development was hosted at Columbia University and featured research presentations, lectures, and panels with some of the most well-respected scholars, world leaders, researchers, and artists in the world. Keynote speeches were given by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway to the delight of the audience, especially for our SDSN Youth members. PM Ardern discussed at length how New Zealand is using governance to lead the way in sustainability and called for politics to become a more appealing work environment, especially for women. HRH Crown Prince Haakon discussed his optimism for the future of sustainable development, culminating in his appeal for greater awareness for the SDGs and action for SDG 14, life below water and clean seas.
The Concert for a Sustainable Planet was a unique event that combined the highest level of artistry with a clear commitment towards the SDG implementation. Classical music, jazz, dance, and video art inspired the attendees to get more actively involved in the 2030 Agenda and work for a better world. From Vivaldi to Gershwin and Villalobos to PDQ Bach, the concert featured music from all over the world and different time periods that coalesced into an extraordinary experience for the audience and artists.
As a project connected to the Arts Twenty Thirty Program, the annual Concert for a Sustainable Planet at Carnegie Hall is a principle example of how art and music can be used to motivate change for a more sustainable and peaceful world.
Accelerate 2030: Scaling the Impact of Entrepreneurial Solutions for the SDGs was an inspiring and interactive discussion led by Impact 2030. The discussion featured innovators and entrepreneurs tackling the SDGs, who shared what they had learned from the opportunities and challenges that come along with scaling impact. The highlighted solutions ranged from converting pollutant waste tires into green fuel (HM Energy Mexico) to a motorcycle ride-hailing and on-demand services platform designed to increase the safety of Rwandan roads (SafeMotos).
High-Level Side Event on Social Business, Youth and Technology - Innovate Together for Achieving the SDGs was an event that brought together government leaders, Nobel peace laureates, UN SDG advocates, business leaders, innovators, social entrepreneurs, and young leaders together in one room. These high-level leaders met to discuss how they could empower community-led actions and innovation together for achieving the SDGs.
One of the most inspiring parts of this session was a speech given by Shamma Al Mazrui, the youngest government minister in the world. As the Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the United Arab Emirates, she was able to give the audience unique insight into how youth engage with the UAE government and what it is like to serve in a government that has a large representation of young people.
The Nelson Mandela Peace Summit was convened to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Mandela. Like other social justice warriors, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela was committed to the cause of equality, had a larger-than-life persona, and his service before self and acts of defiance in the face of resistance is sheerly mind-boggling. The Mandela Peace Summit submitted a declaration before the General Assembly to commemorate the incredible sacrifice Mandela was forced to endure: 26 years in prison for standing against injustice. The summit attendees were privileged in hearing the powerful words of Kumi Naidoo, and they were reminded, as young people should be, that silence in the face of injustice is akin to collusion and should be heeded against.
The IAP Forum launched the “2018 report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent (IAP).” The report focused on finding and presenting strategies to bring the private sector in to work alongside governments and NGOs to promote basic health care. The forum included a panel with representatives from the governments of Finland and South Africa, as well as IAP.
Global Citizen’s Women in Law Panel addressed the intersection between women’s issues and legislation that can meet the needs of women. Speakers included the UN executive director to UN Women, the Foreign Affairs and Development Minister of the United Kingdom, and activists Pearl Thusi, Martin Chugong, and others. It was certainly an event to remember, and one that has implications for young women now and in the future.
TReNDS’ Annual Data Day is an initiative of SDSN’s Data and Statistics for Sustainable Development. The morning session highlighted innovative, new data and statistical approaches to monitoring and evaluating the SDGs, such as Citibanamex’s Competitive and Sustainable Cities Index and the SDG National Reporting Initiative. As data becomes increasingly prominent in academic and sustainability circles, it will be more important to youth to understand how data can be used for sustainable development and to know what resources/tools can be used to support their original policy ideas and solutions.
Miscellaneous and Fun UNGA Sightings!
Author: Sienna Nordquist
Contributors: Isabel Perez Dobarro, Ana Ynestrillas, Jalal Awan, and Muriam Fancy