Summary of 67th United Nations DPI NGO Conference

Earlene Cruz, Servas Board Member and Youth Representative to the United Nations, attended the 67th DPI NGO Conference on behalf of US Servas. Here is her summary of the conference:

Opening Forum – 23 August 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. | CR 4, 67th DPI NGO Conference |

Part I: Why Act Now, Together?


This session was moderated by Ms. Winnie Byanyima, Chair of the 67th UN DPI/NGO Conference Executive Director and Oxfam International Director. Panelists included Mr. Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division, DPI; Ms. Fatma Nilufer Cagatay Professor of Economics at the University of Utah; Mr. A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi Professor, Trent University, Canada.


In her opening remarks, Ms. Winnie Byanyima emphasized a focus on solution, urging the panel to address the reasons why we must work together to try and solve problems through multilateralism and how to move forward in new ways. She addressed the fact that inequality is more extreme than ever before. She noted that in this economy, a billionaire is produced every two days — at the same time, 1 out of every 9 people in the world went to bed hungry. She spoke to the 200 million migrants that have something strong to offer in the economy, but that are often not given opportunities. She then called upon civil society to address some of these injustices. Only 4% of humans can say they live in open societies and in 153 countries around the world, there are laws that discriminate against women in the economy. In 18 countries, those which she always references —men can legally stop his wife from working — nations that meet here at the United Nations. This, she notes, is a crisis for humanity and that these injustices should not exist. She calls upon capturing this scenario and framing it as global crisis. This panel discussed universal basic income, new ways of funding, reframing and reestablishing multilateral approaches to solving problems.

Mr. Maher Nasser expressed his sense of optimism, noting that there have always been crises. Because of the UN, he noted the rise in agreements, which allow individuals to come together to address and solve problems. He addressed the general rise in distrust of governments and alluded to the need for civil society to step in and come together to further reduce the rate of poverty, which was reduced from 43% upon the creation of the UN to 11% when the SDGs were adopted in 2015. The UN is a testament of hope to this continuing. When asked to reimagine a system where multilateralism is achieved, Mr. Maher Nasser commented on populism: there have always been populism and nationalists, what is new is that we have a platform — social media and the internet — where people who were once isolated in a small church or community now have a large global megaphone. Youth is more native to these technologies and urged both women and youth not to wait to be invited, but to open their own doors. This is the first year that Secretary General’s office achieved gender parity on its staff (women are actually more), so he noted that progress is being made, but complacency is the worst enemy of any progress. Relating to a vision of a global system that is just, fair, and that gives solutions to the problems that are still there — such as inequality, poverty and gender inequality, Mr. Maher Nasser noted that the world is different now than it was in the past when the UN was created: cities, local governments, cities, and enterprises play a larger role than ever before. He noted that five companies in the US make up the entire GDP of Africa. This calls for a restructuring of the solution and a greater involvement of the private sector.


Ms. Fatma Nilufer Cagatay mentioned that what we are experiencing is a sort of reconstitution — a new order that is not very clear, filled with proxy wars and conflict. As a result, millions of people are becoming refugees and migrants putting multilateralism at risk. This kind of inequality stems from neoliberal macroeconomic policies beginning in 1980. They are taking the form of the Washington Consensus, imposed on countries of the Global South. These are policies that lead to enormous inequalities between countries of the North and within themselves. More recently, austerity policies in Europe have ushered in Right-Wing policies, leaving people feeling disenfranchised. She addressed the decrease in power of unions, along with the disappearing of the middle class in advanced capitalist countries, which makes politicians more susceptible to blame migrants and refugees who are then labeled as trading “unfairly” in the global economy, contributing to trade wars. Relating to why women are often at the bottom, Ms. Fatma Nilufer Cagatay mentioned that in the global economy, women perform 52% of all work, when one combines paid and unpaid work. More men than ever before who are committed to gender equality. Relating to a vision of a global system that is just, fair, and that gives solutions to the problems that are still there — such as inequality, poverty and gender inequality, Ms. Fatma Nilufer Cagatay emphasized the benefits of a basic income and the need for global taxation, as there is a need for much higher resources that are put in place to fight gender equality and poverty. Neoliberal systems have caused inequality, and as such, local/national and global taxation is necessary. She urged for a global fund for women and alleviating gender inequality, carbon taxation, and Special Drawing Rights, for coming up with large enough resources to specifically address gender equality and poverty.


Mr. A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi mentioned the lack of awareness of historical parallels. We are living through a crisis of globalization, but not it is not the first. The first, 90 years ago in the 1920s and 1030s, carries many similarities: a financial crisis, jobless economic growth, disenfranchisement, an ecological crisis (then the Dust Bowl) contributed to the rise of national populism — with leaders seeking to use existential crises to mobilize support. We are living in a period of great transitions; however, we are not sure what we are transitioning to. China is operating under a different economic logic than before. There is a retreat of democratic values around the world. There is a climate crisis, which he urges us to do something about. He calls for a change in the framework — a Mother Earth that embraces us all of us equally. Relating to why women are often at the bottom, Mr. A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi mentioned that households are the ones that matter: women run the households - they bear the brunt of the labor. We live in a model addicted to men being the breadwinners: jobless growth is paired with a crisis to masculinity. He also alluded to the way that society encourages — women are continuously expected to do very traditional tasks. Relating to a vision of a global system that is just, fair, and that gives solutions to the problems that are still there — such as inequality, poverty and gender inequality, Mr. A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi noted that the end point would be a world where everyone has enough. The world has enough for everyone, but we have a problem of distribution. We need to think of mechanisms regarding the people that are doing the work and ensuring that they share in the prosperity. He urged for a universal social protection floor and that the funding could come from two sources: 1. cutting (not eliminating) military spending to level of one’s neighbors 2. eliminating subsidies on gasoline. He notes that others have called this: “Guns, Gasolines, and Giveaways.”


Part II : Solutions for SDG Advocacy and Action


“Human Rights at the Center of the Sustainable Development Goals: Leave No One Behind”


This session was moderated by Jeff Brez, Chief, NGO Relations Advocacy and Special Events, DPI. Panelists included: Ms. Peggy Hicks, Director of Civic Engagement, — Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights; Mr Peter Micek, Global Counsel, Access Now

In his opening remarks, Jeff Brez mentioned the focus of this panel on people, entities, and companies that are focusing on the SDGs and innovate usages of technologies for the SDGs.


Ms. Peggy Hicks responded to the impact the SDGs are having as a new framework that encourages consistent learning. It is a way to encourage a conversation and to interject human rights at every level of that conversation. Technology has quickly become a fundamental way to incorporate the SDGs.


Mr Peter Micek spoke to the ability of technology to surface isolated communities. Technology is built to connect struggles across borders. Governments are more sophisticated using technology at a larger scales as they realize the power of technology. In the view of Access Now, this does more harm than good as programs are rolled out at national scales that often compromise legal identities without consent like engaging in national digital identity programs.


“Innovative Uses of Mobile Technology and Partnerships: Big Data for Social Good - GSMA Foundation”


This session was moderated by Jeff Brez, Chief, NGO Relations Advocacy and Special Events, DPI. Panelists included: Ms. Hilary Kemp, Strategic Product Manager, Big Data for Social Good Programme, GSMA Foundation; Mr. Manuel García Herranz, Chief Scientist Office of Innovation, UNICEF


Ms. Hilary Kemp addressed GSMA’s representation of the the mobile operators of the world. Over 800 operators and companies play in the space, with the goal of connecting everyone and everything to a better future, and linking it to the SDGs. Big Data can be used for social good by generating the day to day activity of people using their phones, and using that data, which says a lot about location, movement, and using patterns in a suitably responsible way. For example: How do people move when there is displacement? Other uses include: tracking air pollution in Sao Paolo. This is done in partnership with Telefonica, the largest phone operator in the area, which has been doing a study with the municipal authorities to try to understand the link between pollution and people’s movements and proactively managing those using short-term predictions of pollution to minimize traffic flow and the impact on people’s health.


Mr. Manuel Garcia Herranz alluded to the UN as a highly data-driven institution. HE noted that a high geographical understanding, paired with weather forecasting are key to combating global problems. Data is complementary to filling in necessary gaps. Mr. Manuel Garcia Herranz urged that countries need to think about success differently — bringing algorithmic equity and conducting research on behalf of lesser developed countries.


“How an Entertainment Company and a Global Ad Agency Found Inspiration in Sustainable Development - Yoshimoto Kogyo, Dentsu, UN Information Centre (UNIC) Tokyo”


This session was moderated by Jeff Brez, Chief, NGO Relations Advocacy and Special Events, DPI. Panelists included: Ms. Miyabi Haneda, Director of Corporate Communications, Yoshimoto Kogyo; Ms. Reiko Kunieda, Director & Communication Planner, Dentsu; Ms. Kaoru Nemoto, Director, UN Information Center Tokyo (UNDPI)

Ms. Miyabi Haneda asserted the value of the SDGs and how it fits into the business plan of an entertainment company by sharing how her company uses comedians like Naomi Watanabe to spread the word about the SDGs. She shared an example about the International Movie Festival held in Japan on April 20-23, 2017 with 330,000 people coming together across Okinawa islands. Comedians walked the red carpet with the 17 SDGs. Participants were encouraged to collect stamps of favorite comedians, learning about SDGs along the way, as though playing a game. An exhibition of photography and artistry showcased a unique portrayal of 17 goals, using the power of entertainment to educate.

Ms. Reiko Kunieda worked on creating various SDG-focused video clips to promote in Japan and overseas. Her team conducted market research with 1400 respondents in Japan to understand the awareness and profile of interest in the SDGs. The study found that less than 15% of people in Japan know about the SDGs; however, the empathy level for the SDGs is high at about 70%. When asked why she should invest in the SDGs, Ms. Reiko emphasized the multilayered benefits for employers, consumers, and the company

Ms. Kaoru Nemoto reached out to Yoshimoto Kyogo successfully making the SDGs the people’s agenda by galvanizing the entertainment industry and garnering its support.


“Leading a Wave of Universities to Contribute to Agenda 2030 - De Montfort University”


This session was moderated by Tolu Olubunmi, Advisor, UN Department of Public Information. Panelists included: Mr. Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor, De Monfort University; Mr. Daniel Bewley, Student of Economics and Politics, De Monfort University; Ms. Annesah Latkan, Student of Law, De Monfort University.


Mr. Dominic Shellard responded to the question of how academic institutions are and can be a true hub for the SDGs by focusing on the eminent question about doing what is right over doing what is easy. As such, at Montfort Universtiy, an academic plan was created with the SDGs at the front cover and as a framework for all academic activities. This will be complemented by a biannual audit therof, which will be replicated between now and 2030. Afterschool, dinner clubs take place to provide meals for the homeless. The university is working with groups in India who are formerly known as untouchables with students teaching them dance, helping with literacy, establishing and assisting in the reduction of hearing deficiencies, as well as helping those who suffer from leprosy. Mr. Dominic Shellard urges that universities need to have less talking and more action. Youth need to be empowered not just by supporting but by leading. He commemorated Nelson Mandela in his discourse, who encouraged people not just to live but to inspire. He brought five hundred students into the UN to establish a plan that is currently being worked into the university’s fabric. To date, a joint together network of 57 universities from 33 countries have been created. The UN honored the university as a global hub for SDG 16, with the goal of creating 500 universities worldwide to host SDG competitions , create SDG 16 champions, and an upcoming three International conferences within the next few months. He urged that a day of talk has to be matched by a day of action.


Mr. Daniel Bewley emphasized his passion for SDG 16 when asked about the importance of the interconnectedness of both peace and sustainable development. He emphasized the importance of democracy through voting practices, so that the voters feel that they can be part of something bigger.


Ms. Annesah Latkan emphasized her passion for SDG 14 and life below water, sharing how she encouraged De Monfort University to give all the students who enroll at the university a reusable cup is given to all of the students.


“Unleashing the Power of Entrepreneurs to Achieve the SDGs - Unreasonable Goals”


This session was moderated by Tolu Olubunmi, Advisor, UN Department of Public Information. Panelists included: Mr. Dave Smith, Creative Partnerships, Unreasonable Goals of the Unreasonable Group; Mr. Ian Rosenberger, Founder & CEO, Thread

Mr. Dave Smith followed up with Ms. Tolu Olubunmi’s quote about unreasonable people, emphasizing that entrepreneurs see unattractive problems and see solutions, market-based solutions. They are the ones to forge unlikely partnerships with large businesses to be able to survive through a common framework and a common language. The SDGs, for example, are a common framework. Mr. Dave Smith aims to work with companies that provide scalable solutions, not sacrificing impact in exchange for profit. He emphasized the need for more entrepreneurs.


Mr. Ian Rosenberger spoked about the inspiration for his company from his time in Haiti. His experience of poverty alerted him to an opportunity to reduce it through the waste that was pervasive in the country. He specifically saw an entrepreneurial opportunity: creating a backpack made out of plastic bottles, which creates jobs. He emphasized the need for more jobs as the key to reducing global inequalities.

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