Looking Beyond the Promises of Agenda 2030, Global Festival Participants Commit to Concrete Action for the Sustainable Development Goals

The third edition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Global Festival of Action wrapped up on the weekend, completing three days of inspirational exchanges, learning and co-creation by over 1,700 participants from all over the world, once again organized by the UN SDG Action Campaign. Pushing for accelerated action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, activists and high-level participants advocated for change and committed to concrete action, as we approach the ten-year countdown to the 2030 target date for the Goals next year.

The Festival was well-timed in the run up to the High-level Political Forum to take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York in July, where Voluntary National Reviews by over 45 countries will focus on climate, inequality, peace, jobs and education. Some countries shared their successes, challenges and lessons learned at the Festival: Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for Agenda 2030 for the Government of Spain, laid out how governments can use the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for political action, emphasizing that leadership, organization and mobilization were key to building alliances with the full spectrum of civil society. On a local level, the City of Milan’s Vice Mayor Anna Scavuzzo and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Security Enrico Giovannini made a commitment to prepare their first Voluntary Local Review taking into account citizens’ feedback.

 The Festival also saw a preview of an Augmented Reality campaign by the UN, inviting everyone to start a butterfly effect to catalyze action for the Sustainable Development Goals. “This campaign underscores the essence of the SDGs: ambition, innovation, positivity and inclusion,” said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in a recorded video message. #IAMSDG invites people everywhere to make their support of the goals visible whilst inspiring others, showing that individual action can have a transformative impact. By choosing the wings of their choice, people will start a butterfly effect for the causes they support. The full toolkit and campaign will be revealed soon; a beta site can be found at http://www.iamsdg.org.

Climate was front and center at the Festival, including discussions on deforestation, extreme weather, climate challenges and solutions. The United Nations climate action campaign, ActNow, using Artificial Intelligence to inspire individual action, was recognized at the SDG Action Awards. And a new initiative, #SummerOfSolutions, calling on young people to create innovative tech-based solutions for global challenges, was announced at the Festival. “This generation is one that is more involved in the climate crisis than ever before,” said Yassamin Ansari, Principal Advisor for Mission 2020 and part of the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit Team. “Together, outrage and optimism can be a powerful combination for action.” #SummerOfSolutions is organized by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in partnership with UN Technology and Innovation Labs and the UN Development Programme,

Another new initiative offers young innovators recognition, resources and funding to scale up their projects for the Sustainable Development Goals. The project was announced by Christine Albrecht, Chief Strategy Officer for Junior Chamber International, in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Applications can be submitted until June 1.

Mobile journalism was a hot topic during World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, with Yusuf Omar, co-founder of Hashtag Your Story, speaking about digital storytelling and giving examples of how citizen action at the grassroots level can spark true change in the world. “We are on the brink of another moment, a climate moment. This is not a future projection of what could happen -- it is happening right now,” Omar said. 

The overarching theme of the Festival was to move from awareness raising to action on the Sustainable Development Goals, with citizen engagement as an essential driver. Innovative citizen-driven projects such as Solar Mamas, which empowers women by teaching them the skills to build solar panels, or the ‘A White Dress Doesn’t Cover Rape’ movement, which managed to repeal a discriminatory law in Lebanon in just two years, were recognized at the SDG Action Awards -- for a closer look at the winners, click here.  

Female participants as well as para athletes and persons with disabilities took center stage -- among them Eddie Ndopu, the Special Advisor for Impact and Corporate Sustainability to RTW Investments and soon to be appointed Sustainable Development Goals Advocate. “We are not just the beneficiaries of this Agenda, we are the leaders of this Agenda,” said Ndopu. “To give credence to the notion of leaving no one behind requires us to move from the back of the line to the front so we can lead.”

Closing the Festival, Global Director a.i for the UN SDG Action Campaign Marina Ponti said: “Let’s nurture the energy we felt here -- knowing that the real work starts when we go back home. Disruptive change does not happen in meetings -- not even at our Festival -- but we can use these meetings to be inspired, to raise the ambitions and to connect with others knowing that we are not alone in this quest.” 

Media package, videos and photos:  https://trello.com/b/PXi0v4a2/ sdgglobalfest-2019


Media contacts: 

Marta Rojas, UN SDG Action Campaign, email:  marta.rojas@undp.org, tel.:  +49 228 8152 683;

Martin Samaan, UN Department of Global Communications, email:  samaanM@un.org, tel.:  +1 917 868 0584;

Arne Molfenter, UN Department of Global Communications, email:  molfenter@un.org,  tel.:  +49 228 815 2773

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