Next Steps for the UN's MDG
The conference provided an opportunity for civil society, international networks and activists to develop an ‘ActionAgenda’ to mobilise messaging, advocacy strategies, partnerships and accountability frameworks in the lead up to the launch of intergovernmental negotiations at the beginning of the 69th session of the General Assembly for the adoptioon of the post- 2015 development agenda, due to culminate at a summit in September 2015. During the conference, attended by close to 4,000 individuals representing 900 NGOs worldwide, delegates were given an opportunity to participate in making recommendations and action for consideration on in the drafting of the declaration. Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations welcomed all the participants and re-emphasised the importance of the input by NGOs into the submission of the declaration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which were to be gathered throughout the conference. While climate change and sustainable development dominated the agenda, other issues such as human rights, gender equality, international cooperation, youth development poverty eradication, and global health were also discussed. Global citizenship as a pathway to peace was highlighted.
The workshop sponsored by the Association of International Educators, NAFSA, entitled Local Communities and Global Commitments: Grooming Global Citizens through Participation, Advocacy and Partnership was particularly noteworthy. Workshop panellists were invited to tackle the central question of how universities can foster conscientious global citizens and leaders. A germinal list was offered: promote global service; host opportunities for cross-cultural communication and engagement; support culturally-sensitive educator training worldwide; and work to improve global health through education and partnerships.
These inspirational ideas and others generated at the workshop, like creating ‘Global Hangouts’ or online spaces where students from around the world can talk, were submitted to the drafters of the Conference Declaration, a final document intended to reflect the positions and recommendations of NGOs on the SDG. The input will likely be viewed as critical support for proposed SDG #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all. The workshop on Education on for Global Citizenship – A return to the founding spirit of the UN as a transformative approach to post-2015 was also an opportunity to help participants see global citizenship as vital post-2015 and meant to frame advocacy for all, becoming connected to the UN through OWG education goals, the SDG’s eff orts as global citizenship education and relevant UNICEF initiatives.
Also from an education perspective, the workshop on Fostering global citizenship through collaboration: higher education, NGOs and the UN, was an opportunity for the academic panel to challenge the viewpoint that global citizenship remains an ill-defined buzzword. By joining coursework, internships and collaboration among institutions of higher learning, service oriented NGOs and the UN enable students to engage real world problems and offer practical, globally-minded solutions. Developing programmes that foster global citizenship and how to measure global competency were among the topics discussed with an emphasis on three major components: attitude, knowledge and skills.
The conference was a fabulous opportunity to meet a large number of people from a diverse background and ethnicity, all of whom shared the over-aching MDG aim of ending poverty in all forms by 2015. It certainly was valuable to have a U21 representative participate in this important conference. It was also an excellent opportunity to meet colleagues from other third level institutions, mainly based in the US, and share example of best practices and student initiatives. The main highlight was what was described by most of us as an historic opportunity to be a part of setting an agenda for transformational change, particularly given that it was held just weeks prior to the 2014 Climate Summit and the start of intergovernmental negotiations on the SDGs by the General Assembly. The Declaration will feed into the Secretary General’s forthcoming report to the General Assembly on the future of the SDGs so its importance cannot be overstated. It represents a collection of passionate ideas garnered through a transparent and inclusive process from a multitude of NGOS that believe in the human rights of all people and the protection of the planet.