The 68th Civil Society Conference Salt Lake City Begins with Celebration and Challenge!

A report by Dawn Marie Lemonds, SI Board Member

“Before this historic conference even began there was a lot to celebrate!

  • The largest civil society conference ever – with 8,000 registered delegates from 130 countries representing many of the 1,500 NGOs affiliated with the United Nations (UN) with 43% of the delegates are under 32 years old
  • The Preliminary Draft of the Conference ‘Outcome paper’ received many thousands of responses prior to arrival.
  • Salt Lake City Mayor, Jackie Biskupski, together with and thousands of volunteers and sponsors, welcomed us to this lovely city with grace, gratitude and joy, with a fabulous hosted reception the night before. Mayor Biskupski said: “I love looking out and seeing the world around me”.

This annual civil society conference addresses the obligation by the UN to include civil society in the collective work needed for our world. Each year a theme is chosen by the organisers of the Conference, the United Nations Global Communications Team, and the Executive Team of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee. The theme this year was ‘Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities’. The Opening Plenary included brief welcomes from UN and NGO leaders,  including youth leadership and local and state representatives. Secretary General Antonio Guterrez sent a video welcome and made special notice of the importance of the civil society and UN partnership. Organisers ensured the podium was graced by an equal representation of men and women presenters –  huge progress from prior conferences, and similarly; equal representation was given to those from the UN, Government and to NGO leaders. The following are a selection of the many highlights from a highly stimulating first plenary:

  • A moving and lovely cultural performance by Hopi Indian Dancers and musicians.
  • Mayor Jackie was quoted as saying: “Re-envision what cities can be for our growing and increasingly diverse populations… help make our cities examples of positive public policy laboratories for their citizenry… join the conversations needed for our planet and be part of the solution”.
  • Luke Mullen, actor and activist said: “I went camping with my family when I was four and it is remembered that I got up to watch the sunrise, as I didn’t want to miss anything… I now join with youth around the globe fighting for a future that they don’t know they will have. We must start now before it is too late… we need three things: HOPE, OUTREACH and HELP, so our future children don’t miss anything”.
  • General consensus by all of the presenters was that it will take the ideas and work of all of entities to make our cities and communities more resilient, sustainable and inclusive, where “no one is left behind”.

There are over 100 planned activities and opportunities to learn and share. It is only the beginning of our important conversation!

Read an introduction to the Civil Society Conference HERE

A report from the breakout session focusing on the positive impact of the SIA Dream it Be it programme written by Sue Riney can be viewed HERE

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