A blog by Dr. Nina Smart
22-23 August 2018, UN Headquarters, New York, the 67th UN DPI/NGO Conference was co-hosted by the UN Department of Public Information and the NGO/DPI Executive Committee.
“On 22 August, 2018, the occasion of the start of The 67th UN DPI/NGO Conference was marked by the presence UN officials, Ambassadors, NGO representatives and civil society. 48% of this year’s attendance was youth, between 18 and 32 years of age, thus setting a new record.
Dignitaries such as Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Ms. Alison Smale, Chair of NGO DPI Executive Committee, Mr. Bruce Knotts, Co-Chairs of DPI NGO Conference Youth Sub-Committee, Ms. Madison Ross and Ms. Shermin Luo, two very dynamic women who captivated the audience with their fierce passion, followed by the New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, Ms. Penny Abywardena, mostly women, addressed the participants about the importance of women and girls living up to their full potential. The role of the United Nations in recognizing the potential of youth to lead was emphasised by each presenter.
Soroptimist International’s mission closely aligns to the goals expressed in the opening remarks. Working together, civil society and governments, was highlighted as the most effective way to a meaningful global conversation. Achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 can only be done by translating the global dialogue to community needs.
Mirroring our SI mission of empowering women and girls, the Chair of the 67th UN DPI/NGO Conference, Ms. Winnie Byanyima, encouraged everyone to be bold and speak up. As Executive Director of Oxfam International, Ms. Byanyima encouraged civil society to continue the legacy of late UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. A moment of silence was observed to honour his memory as the UN mourned his recent passing.
A powerful spoken word performance followed, highlighting the importance of using art to bring attention to the 17 SDGs and motivate young people to become engaged. A singer, a deaf activist, a popular Youth Ambassador, and a provocative author, each drew our attention to the critical role women and girls play in achieving the SDGs.
Furthermore, the Ambassador of Ghana and Mexico to the UN highlighted the importance of listening to civil society, as we best understand what happens at the ground level. This rings true as each SI club knows what is best for its community and how to implement SI programmes to serve the needs of girls and women, bridging the gap and working towards achieving the 2030 agenda.
Multilateralism, the main theme discussed during the Opening Plenary, stresses the importance of us working together on all issues. Migration, like education, is a critical issue. Speakers asserted that self interest requires that we work together with others, pointing that solutions are no longer only national but international. It was repeated that we must find global solutions to global problems in order to create conditions for ordinary people to create a better life. Water, food security, safety, agriculture, migration, education, political, emotional, psychological and economical – all these and more must be addressed in the global space. If the issue is transnational, such as migration, it can not be solved at the national level. In addition, the youth must be involved as they are bold and bring a fresh approach to the solution.
Intersectionality was another recurring theme. The protection and inclusion of all people with disability, the plight of the girl child and the right to life and dignity was further highlighted. Education of the girl child and the use of intergenerational dialogue continue to be at the core of multilateralism, presenting the most effective ways to implement change and achieve the 2030 agenda.
The Opening Plenary of The 67th UN DPI/NGO Conference set an enthusiastic tone that reflected the optimism of the youth present, the dedication of civil society members in attendance and the commitment of officials to work together to achieve the 17 SDGs.
Soroptimist International was well represented by our UN Representatives in New York, the SI Director of Advocacy, an SI Downey Member from the Camino Real Region in California as well as international visitors working on the upcoming SI Lab”.