UNGA Conference 2019: Inclusive Social Development for All

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UNGA Conference 2019: Inclusive Social Development for All


H.E. Adama Dieng
Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of GenocideIn 2015, the international community adopted an ambitious, comprehensive global development agenda that promised to leave no one behind. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was not only a well-developed document, but it also reflects what humanity can achieve whenever they decide to collectively tackle most pressing challenges. This framework provides the international community with the golden opportunity to position social justice and economic development for all at the center of the global agenda.

In 2015, the international community adopted an ambitious, comprehensive global development agenda that promised to leave no one behind. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was not only a welldeveloped document, but it also reflects what humanity can achieve whenever they decide to collectively tackle most pressing challenges. Through this declaration, member states, solemnly agreed that Sustainable Development Goals should become the basis for international development cooperation.

This framework provides the international community with the golden opportunity to position social justice and economic development for all at the center of global agenda; both as an important end in itself and as an essential means to achieve peace and prosperity for all. SDGs offers a real opportunity to drive lasting change and to bring universal, comprehensive and transformative change in people’s lives. The new agenda is based on 17 goals which are interrelated but also complementary. From SDG 1 on the eradication of poverty to SDG 17 on alliances to achieve the goals, each one of them is closely linked to inequality and inclusion.

However, it is equally true that, our commitment to build an inclusive society, raises the question of inclusion in what? in what type of society are people to be included? It requires us to ask in what type of society we want to live and more importantly, how we achieve that society. We need to consider what the values of an inclusive society are and what the institutional arrangements that would embody these would be. Social inclusion is a process that aims to create a ‘society for all’, a society in which everyone is an integral part and at the center of what is to be achieved.

Social inclusion focused development, is about guaranteeing human rights and promoting social justice for all, increasing the quality of life of citizens and improving individual wellbeing. An inclusive society is one that rises above differences of race, gender, class, generation and geography to ensure equality of opportunity regardless of origin. In an inclusive society, social interaction is governed by an agreed set of social institutions. The capability of all citizens to determine how those institutions function and relate to their day to day lives, is indeed a hallmark of an inclusive society.

Inclusion requires five dimensions to be effective and indeed meaningful to a society concerned. Roughly it would include; Visibility – to be recognized as a member of the society; consideration – that the needs and concerns of all individuals and groups in society are taken into account by policy planners; access to social interactions – that everyone has the same rights to participate; equal rights – that the human rights set out in a wide range of international and regional instruments are domesticated and all members of society are able to claim them; and access for all to resources necessary to participate fully in society. Yet we all agree that these five goals are indeed aspirational, as no country can claim to have achieved them all. However, despite this reality, it is always useful to aspire to something positive whose realization can always enhance the future and wellbeing of humanity.

It is true that a nation’s most valuable resource, far greater than anything in its possession, is its people – its human capital – and how well it performs in productivity and raising living standards depends critically on how available legal and institutions framework respond to their needs and well-being. Inclusive development requires people to be at the center of development. Unfortunately, we continue to witness how extreme poverty and inequality continue to be a badge of shame and hopelessness to millions of our fellow citizens. Despite this reality, we must be candid enough to admit that this situation is not and should not be the way it is. It can and should change.

Most people in this room will agree with me that, many people around the world don’t die because of lack of hospitals or clinics. They die because of lack of access and coverage of health care system. FAO has shown that while hunger is claiming millions of victims annually, the truth is a third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow, leaving a trail of exclusion, injustice and undermining the social fabric. What is evident from this sad revelation is that, inequality, violence, and injustice threaten both short and long-term social and economic development and harms not just those who are excluded but also has the potential to undermine the fabric of the society. To reduce inequality, we must broaden access to services, opportunities and resources.

Kofi Annan, an indisputable champion of people centered development, once noted, “It is not realistic to think that some people can go on deriving great benefits from globalization while billions of their fellow human beings are left in abject poverty. We have to give at least a chance to share in our prosperity to our fellow citizens, not only within each nation but in the global community”. I sincerely believe that, injustice thrive when human rights are violated, the rule of law is considered an inconvenient barrier to those in power, political space is shrunk, legitimate aspirations of citizens are ignored or crushed altogether and many people especially youths lack positive prospects and meaning for their lives.

In many countries I have visited throughout the world, one of the most common explanations given by those who have taken up arms against their respective governments is exclusion and marginalization. The perception of or actual exclusion of certain communities or groups of people is a key driver to armed conflicts. It is important that governments distribute resources and provide social and economic opportunities to ensure equitable participation of all citizens in the development agenda.

As I conclude, let me reiterate my conviction that, if we are to achieve inclusive development and sustainable peace, we must reaffirm our commitment to the primacy of human dignity and agency of human in development itself. We must put humanity at the center of development. The central objective of any development pursuit should be to uplift humanity from the misery of poverty and injustice. As underscored by the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace.” It is our fundamental duty that we continue to solemnly honor and apply these words. But also use the very words as standard to hold accountable those who violate them. Irrespective of who they are.

PANEL 1: Inclusive Social Development in achieving the Global Goals 2030

This session aimed to convene the role of inclusive social development policies and practices that help the United Nations achieve the Global Goals 2030. The panelists and participants discussed major issues concerning social inclusion and inequalities that play an important role in sustainable development and peace worldwide. The panelists focused on current challenges and potential opportunities around key aspects of social integration policies and access to basic public services. The session on inclusive social development helped lay the groundwork for the following discussions.

Hon. Mark Botomani
Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, REPUBLIC of MALAWI

I am delighted to make a keynote address on the subject inclusive social development in achieving the global goals 2030. But before I do so, allow me on behalf of the Malawi government and the people of Malawi, to bring you greetings from the warm heart of Africa, one of the most beautiful countries in the Southern part of Africa. Allow me also to extend my appreciation to my President. I also thank the organizers for extending the invitation to me to be part of this very important discourse of leaving no one behind. I would like to express that Malawi as a country, is committed to promoting the agenda 2030. To this extent, our country has developed a medium-term strategy of achieving Vision 2030.

Let me start by saying that inclusive social development is an achievement of the Agenda 2030. Social development requires provision of critical services such as education, health, water, sanitation, energy, housing, which is far from the case that is present. Despite the progress made, substantive gender equality also remains loose in most countries. For example, women are paid twice less than men doing the same work within the same formal sector. Now the question is, what if all the public services are provided to the people in need, what should be packaged together as part of the inclusive social development? The answer is all women working in whichever formal sector, should be offered equal pay as men, if an inclusive social development is to be achieved.

The call here is to address any form of discrimination against women, people with disabilities, indigenous populations, ethnic minorities, refugees, and displaced populations. These groups of marginalized persons should access education. Part of the reason for discrimination is Poverty. It is obvious that if all people get educated then all barriers to integral human development will be eliminated in all formal and non-formal sectors.

Inclusive social development, therefore, means that the SDGs and their targets should be the means of reaching out to the marginalized. The focus should be for everyone to reach the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the furthest behind. How should governments` foreign policies assist us to achieve inclusive social development? Ladies and gentleman, governments must recognize that achieving inclusive social development requires various means.

One such means is social integration policies which should not only promote access to basic and public services but also create an enabling environment for all its citizens to acquire those services. Therefore, foreign policies of governments should contribute significantly to the achievement of the inclusive social development.

As already stated, the poor are not just deprived of the basic resources, they lack access to information that is vital to their lives. This is information about market prices for the goods they produce, about health, about the structures that contribute to their misery, public institutions, and about their rights. They lack political visibility and voice in institutions that purport to help them. They have no voice in power relations that shape their lives. They lack access to knowledge access and management and the skills that would improve their lives. The governance systems are weak. They often lack access to markets and institutions from both the government and social that could provide them with needed resources and services. They lack access to information about income earning opportunities. Governments should therefore move quickly to develop effective access to information policy to enable citizens to have access to information that benefits them. Malawi is moving quickly to enabling access to information for citizens to demand for.

The second policy area to consider in order to foster the social integration is the civic education, which is informed by participation, an essential value of any democratic state. The rationale for this policy area is that the citizen participation means having a functioning democracy where people are fully engaged in the processes to prioritize their needs. This ensures that citizens become partners with their governments and other service providers to promote good governance and human rights. If citizens fail to actively participate in these processes the foreseen danger is that policies and programs will simply be imposed upon them. A much wider bottom up approach is in favor of citizens of any country if they are accurately incorporated as key participants in their community led projects.

The third area to consider for inclusive social development to be achieved is to develop comprehensive social protection policies. If appropriately designed and implemented, social safety nets can address some of the structural drivers associated exclusion; for example, by overcoming barriers in accessing and owning productive assets, providing opportunities for increasing skills and knowledge, strengthening social networks. Malawi is implementing one of the best social protection policies through an integrated social transport and public works program which has seen improvements, good indicators amongst the most vulnerable societies.

The fourth area is civil society organizations, which should play an active role in the participation process of facilitating the social development agenda. CSOs should continue to foster social development as they are always at the frontline of any social action by predicting the most vulnerable persons in our societies as well as monitoring the resources. Governments, therefore should be mindful of their commitment to the civil society partnerships. In doing this, they will be fulfilling SDGs Goal 17. Therefore, the role of civil societies as active players in the civil space is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda. CSOs are the enablers of social cohesion.

Promoting cultural diversity in national and international policies help to foster social inclusion and equality. For instance, promotion of human rights by accessing justice is required for inclusion and accountability.

Finally, policies, strategies and action plans integrated with the government, private sector, civil society should be designed to uphold human rights, access to justice, and equality. This is the foundation for ensuring no one is left behind. Citizen engagement in the framing of laws and their implementation is as important as framing legislative policies. Their inclusivity needs to be complemented and included in all institutions, especially of those supporting the vulnerable. We have our challenges to achieve the SDGs but we are also committed.

Dr. Macharia Munene

United States International University, International Relations and History, Kenya

First is the transformation of the mentality and attitude of the policy makers and opinion makers really to accept the implementation of the SDGs. The mentality and attitude of the policy makers and those who shape public opinion, including those in this room, matters and affects implementation seriousness. This includes those in or out of governments, state officials and those in NGOs and civil society organs.If the policy and opinion makers do not believe in the UN SDGs, and simply talk about them as a matter of political, social convenience or public relations exercises, there will be little progress, due to the little commitment on their part. Often, policy makers are the obstacles to implementation processes. Some might even work to undermine the SDGs while pretending to be supportive. There is, therefore, need to confront the reality of the policy and opinion makers with regard to their commitment to SDGs at the local, regional, and global levels, if the SDGs are to be realized.

Second is to address the mentality and attitude of the people “outside” so that they can accept the intended transformation to bring them “inside” the SDGs. These people may not be interested in the intended transformation, which might sound like external and foreign imposition or the attempt to exploit them anew. If the “outsiders” do not see the value of being “inside” the SDG, the project may not succeed. The intended beneficiaries might actually reject it. If that happens, the whole exercise would be futile. The likely explanation would be because the policy makers were presumptive and did not consider the opinions of those to be transformed.

Third, there is a need to address the plight of those people who are on the margins of being “inside” and “outside”. Policy makers tend to forget these people as they concentrate on bringing into the “inside” those who are on the far “outside”. One of the dangers is that those in the “inside” margins tend to slide “out” and tend to stop being part of those in the “inside”. Stopping those people on the margins from sliding into the deep “out” becomes an SDG challenge. The policy maker tendency to ignore those on the “inside” or “outside” margins could undermine the entire effort.

Tushar A. Gandhi

President & Founder, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, INDIA
Role of the culture of peace in social cohesion and inclusiveness

Transforming our world is such an attractive notion, everyone wants to transform the world. Some want to change it for personal gains, some want to change it to suit their needs, some for their ambitions and some for their aggrandizement, what is common amongst al these is the selfish self-seeking motive. Hitler and Milosevick also wished to transform the world, turn it into something to suit their own vision of the world, as they wished it to be. what is also common in all these desires is to transform everyone else, but true transformation happens when one transforms one’s self, changes the self to become better and then inspires others to emulate the transformation. This is the ethical and sustainable kind of transformation.

In the not too distant past we saw how the movement of transformation disguised as ‘Civilising the savages’ gave birth to slavery and colonisation and subjected humanity to brutal imperialism and oppression. These were all selfish transformations. The industrial revolution too subjected economic imperialism on humanity, today the communications revolution and Artificial Intelligence are exposing us to technological imperialism of the corporates and curbing of fundamental rights by Governments. All these are examples of self-seeking and self-serving transformation. They all suffer from the flaw of wanting to oppress and subjugate others in one way or another, but not transforming one’s self, not being the change.

Today we talk of sustainability and inclusiveness but in the past couple of decades we have created more parochial exclusivist nations and societies that exclude more than they include or embrace. Globally we have created inequalities of such magnitude that they now appear unbridgeable. Culturally too we are in a contest of cultures, each trying to show itself better and superior. A mere declaration of intent towards equality and inclusiveness is not going to bring about transformation. Transformation will have to become an individual responsibility, if we change as individuals, we will be able to change society, nations and finally humanity. The new catch phrase of this century has been Global Village, where is this global village? More and more nations are building walls, fences, barriers and breaking out of unions, isolating and insulating themselves under the garb of security. We as a society are becoming more and more exclusive, isolationist. We label one another and generalise in our prejudices, one race is labelled criminal, another is labelled savage yet another is called terrorists, we look at each other with such tainted hate filled and generalised prejudices.

We merely tolerate each other, tolerate our differences. How can tolerance become a virtue? Doesn’t tolerance mean we merely suppress our anger until it becomes unbearable and then explode and cause violence and strife. It is time we stop tolerating and start understanding, and through that understanding start respecting our differences, only then will we be able to bring about true and sustainable transformation.

No two individuals are identical everyone is different, in appearances, behaviour, habits, nature and way of life, relationships are formed and sustained when we understand and accept and respect our differences. Only those relationships are sustained which are based on understanding, respect and acceptance it is through this that love happens. A relationship based on compromise or subjugation cannot be sustained and will not survive. Transformation must also be mutual, otherwise it becomes one sided and is a form of subjugation. Subjugation does not create relationships it perpetuates oppression.

Transformation must also be based on achieving equality. Today in our consumption of the earth’s resources itself there is criminal inequality. Some nations and societies have so much and waste so much that it is a sin and then there are nations and societies who live amongst such scarcity and poverty that it is inhuman and unimaginable. But we have conditioned ourselves to be oblivious to it. We exist in our own comfort zone and have insulated ourselves to the suffering of humanity in another country, continent or of another race.

Our collective conscience is aroused only when we see pictures of the infant Alan Kurdi’s dead body washed up on a beach, or images of the vulture stalking the skeleton of the Ethiopian child dying of starvation due to a man-made famine, even then our collective outrage about such horrifying occurrences is short lived. As long as these tragedies happen in other nations other continents other races we remain unmoved. When we are so uncaring how honest is it to talk about inclusiveness?

We are now on the verge of self-destruction caused by our own greed and self-serving nature. We can change, we must change, if we change individually, one at a time. We need a ‘Me First’ movement of transformation. this world has been given to us to hold in trust for the future and it is our responsibility to ensure that when it is time to hand over this world to future generations we give it, if not better, definitely not worse than what was given to us. An Indian philosopher saint Kabeer has said, ‘Jheeni Jheeni Bini Chadariya, Das Kabeer Jatan Kari Odhi, Jyon ki tyon dhar deeni chadariya.’ It means ‘ delicate very delicately woven is the cloth of life, the servant Kabeer draped it with care and when it came time to hand it back ensured that it was as it had been gifted to him.’ For this to happen we must create a just, inclusive and understanding world of equality, of frugality, consuming enough for sustenance, not indulgence. Gandhi said ‘Nature provides enough for everyone’s needs but cannot provide for anyone’s greed’. In every aspect we must become consumers by need and not by greed.

To transform humanity, we must begin with children, they are the inheritors of the world, education is what will empower our children to become capable of inheriting the world and holding it in trust for the future. Today education instils selfishness, instils the habit of self-seeking, becoming an uninhibited consumer. Education will have to change, become more enlightening not merely a method of transfer of knowledge. But medium of enlightenment. A fountain of learning.

We as individuals will have to obey our responsibilities not just our rights but our duties too. And perform them to the best of our abilities and with honesty. There are many examples of civil society bringing about a transformation for the better but it’s not enough, much more is required we must form a global collective of good intentions and individually strive for collective success. Anuradha Bhosale, was forced into becoming a child labourer because of the poverty her family was enslaved by. Through dint of hard work and some benefactors, Anuradha educated herself and is today heading an organisation AVANI in Kolhapur a city South of Mumbai. Anuradha has rescued more than 5 thousand children forced into hazardous labour and susceptible to exploitation and has rehabilitated them and is providing education, nourishment and security to them and making them aware of their rights. This is the kind of transformation that matters. More than organisation it requires a commitment passion and responsibility.

Ila Bhatt was a Union Leader, she started working with women who worked as rag pickers and started organising them, from it was born a collective of women SEWA, the Self-Employed Women’s Association, a union of women. Today SEWA is a Nationwide Bank Of women, By Women and for women. SEWA has economically and socially transformed millions of women in India and in scores of countries across four continents and is one of the fastest growing collective of women globally empowering women and bringing about a transformation in their lives and their societies. There are many like Anuradha and Ilaben, individuals and organisations, but much and many more are required urgently.

Today we have a surfeit of self-serving ‘Me and only Me’ Leaders, we need selfless servers, servants of humanity, in the service of the needy. Not for Me and I, but for Us and All. Our greed has put life at peril. Since we have placed it in jeopardy only we will be able to save it, conserve it.

Cultures have more often than not created conflicts and strife, because cultures have always fallen prey to superiority and supremacy, my way has always been thought to be the better one. We must bring about a culture of nonviolence and peace. We must create a culture of understanding, accepting and respecting our differences, a culture of justice, peace and compassion, only then true transformation will occur. We must create a humanity which holds life as a trust and us as its trustees.

Time, talent and ability along with wealth must be held and used in trust for a better present and future, beyond the borders of nation, beyond regions, races and religions, we must create a system of compassionate commerce and benevolent governance. Global village and exclusive sovereignty are mutually contradictory concepts and in today’s time are unsustainable. Humanity, if it is to survive will have to become compassionately inclusive, equal and just, the responsibility of achieving this is ours, individually.

In 1930 on the eve of breaking the Salt Tax imposed by the British. A Canadian journalist asked Gandhi if he had a message for the world. Gandhi’s message to the world was ‘I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might’. Today too, the battle of right against might is waged around the world, we must unite in sympathy and solidarity in all such battles, not remain mute spectators to rights being trampled, denied and persecuted.

The UN must become more equal and less subservient, only then can it become a truly inclusive grouping of nations an organisation serving humanity and life compassionately and humbly, equality and justice must become its creed, it is not today.

I repeat. A trust for Life must be formed which is beyond parochial nationhood, beyond race and religion based on understanding, compassion, trust, justice and equality for all. And all of us must become its trustees, its servants. If we change individually, the result will be a global transformation but it must start with “Me First.” In parting I must sound a warning ‘We are running out of time’.

Flavie Fuentes

Legal Manager, North America and the Caribbean, Thomson Reuters Foundation, USA
Importance of rule of law and democracy to reduce inequalities and implement social development policies

Today, I would like to talk to you about the law and how we can use the law and especially pro-bono lawyers to achieve the SDGs, in particular SDG 16. l have always wanted to be a lawyer, not only to make sure that human rights are respected, but also because I think that the law is a powerful agent of change.

First of all, let me introduce you to the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), which is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information services company. As you may know, it was founded in 1983 and we have now over 100 staff in 17 countries. What do we do? We promote media freedom, raise awareness on human rights and support the initiatives to strengthen inclusive economies. How do we achieve that mission? Through news, media development, free legal assistance and convening initiatives. There is an amazing team of journalists across the globe who are reporting on underreported news, that is to say news that you will not read in the mainstream media. For example, women’s rights and land rights, human trafficking, the human impacts of climate change. These journalists not only write on very important topics, but they are also making sure this news have an impact on communities.

So, to give you an example, in 2016, we had a team of journalists that went to India to investigate children who were working in Mica Mines. Mica is a naturally occurring mineral dust often used in makeup foundations, is naturally produced and particularly popular among organic and natural beauty brands. The Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation found children dying in crumbling, illegal mines. As a result of this investigation, the Indian government decided to count the number of child workers in mica mines for the first time and the chief minister of the eastern state of Jharkhand unveiled a drive to make mica child labour free. The private sector also decided to look into this matter and take action. So that’s an example of how this kind of journalism is having an impact on human rights issues.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation also has a media development team. We have a team of journalists, traveling across the globe to train other journalists and making sure that the trained journalists are reporting in an impactful way. We train them on the topics that I mentioned before; human trafficking, climate change, gender equality, discrimination.

And finally, we have our pro bono program, which I am managing in North America and the Caribbean. TrustLaw is a global pro bono program supporting organizations, NGO, nonprofits, but also social enterprises by connecting them with lawyers, who are offering their expertise. It is pretty amazing as these organizations do not have to worry about legal fees, which can be really expensive, especially in the US. We enable them to focus on their mission and allow them to achieve a greater impact.

It is also very important because the organizations that we are working with are very small organizations and most of them do not have inhouse legal counsel. I will take the example of an organization that is addressing the issue of access to water, which is a human right. As we know, millions of people do not have access to water. We work with social entrepreneurs in countries who are basically coming up with inventions to enable people to access water. If they do not protect their mission and do not have access to lawyers, who are meant to help them protect their intellectual property rights, they will not be able to reach out to communities and scale up their impact.

Pro bono legal assistance is also very important in terms of advocacy. We are working with nonprofits, grassroots organizations, NGOs who are engaging with other civil society organizations. They are trying to implement legislative and policy change in countries where human rights are not respected. We scope the legal research needed, connect the organization with law firms in one of several countries, depending on the project. The pro bono lawyers will then review the laws of specific countries, highlight the best practices and conduct research to support the civil society organization’s advocacy plans. We really think that using the law and having access to pro bono lawyers in your home country is a great way to achieve change. When you think of the rule of law, access to legal assistance is one of the pillars. I want to give you a few examples.

Three years ago, we supported the Committee to Protect Journalists. They were reviewing what we call defamation laws in the Americas. As you probably know, defamation laws mean that a journalist might be prosecuted in a criminal court just for exercising their freedom of expression. We had a team of lawyers who reviewed the laws of different countries in the Americas and highlighted best practices to make sure that journalists are protected from criminal prosecution in the exercise of their functions.

I also want to give you an example from Uganda. We supported a nonprofit called Sugur, development agency, which is working in the area of the rule of law, strengthening participatory democratic processes, and protecting human rights. We help them with what we call a “know your rights” guide for people who had been displaced as a result of the conflict. When these people returned to their lands, they just found out that they had been victims of land grabbing. So, these people came to us and they asked us to put them in contact with Ugandan lawyers, not only to explain to them their rights, but also to explain to them how they could access justice and get compensation.

We supported another amazing organization called The International Development Law Organization. They are based in the Netherlands. They came to us because they were looking into the issue of sexual and gender-based violence in several countries. What they explained to us is that sexual and gender-based violence crimes, such as rape and female genital mutilation, are not prosecuted in criminal courts due to lack of formal judicial institutions. We put them in touch with several law firms, both international law firms and local law firms, to review not only the law, but also the case law in several countries to understand how these crimes were prosecuted. What they plan to achieve with this comparative study is training judges, prosecutors, lawyers and, more generally, strengthening the judicial system, to make sure that these sexual and genderbased violence crimes are properly prosecuted, and that women’s rights are respected.

My last example is from Argentina. It is an organization called Asociacion Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, which also works in the area of the rule of law. They contacted us because they are tackling tax secrecy. And as you may know, tax secrecy often leads to corruption. It is also a violation of the right to access public information. They wanted to have a comparative study of the laws on tax secrecy and asked the pro bono lawyers to review the laws of Nordic countries, which have the best practices in this area. The Asociacion Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia will be better equipped to advocate for better laws with the Argentinian Government.


Dr. Han Entzinger

Professor Emeritus of Migration and Integration Studies
Erasmus University Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS
Diversity and Social Inclusion

Migration is a major source of diversity in today’s world, and it will continue to be so tomorrow. It is often claimed that diversity has a negative impact on social cohesion. The more people in a society differ, the less likely they may be to accept one another and to develop mutual contacts. Is this true? Does diversity negatively affect social cohesion? And, if so, what policies can control or even redress this process?

Before I shall try to answer these questions, it is important to understand the scope of migration as a phenomenon. About 250 million people (3.3 percent of the world’s population) live in a country other than their country of birth, and therefore can be called immigrants. Immigrants, however, are spread quite unevenly over the world. In traditional immigration countries such as Canada and Australia well over 20 per cent of the population are immigrants (not including the so-called second generation, i.e. children of immigrants). In the USA and Western Europe, this percentage lies between 10 and 15, while in other countries, often the migrants’ countries of origin, it is much lower. There are also countries outside the Western world that attract large numbers of migrants. The Gulf States have the highest shares of foreign citizens in the world – up to 85 per cent, while certain states in Western and Southern Africa and in SouthEast Asia serve as regional poles of attraction. And don’t forget Russia, which houses many people from countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.

Large and populous countries, such as China, India, Brazil or Nigeria may not have high numbers of international migrants, but are characterised by a substantial internal migration, often with a comparable social and cultural impact on the original local or regional communities. If one includes internal migrants, an estimated one billion people, or fifteen percent of the world population live in an area other than where they were born and raised.

It should also be noted that migration can be a major source of diversity, but it is not the only one. People also differ from one another in many other respects: religion, nationality, gender, ‘race’, sexual orientation, education, political preferences, age, skills, etc. etc. Some of these characteristics are genetically determined (‘ascribed’), others may be the result of individual choice or achievement. In the case of migrants, however, several characteristics ‘accumulate’ so to say: religion, ethnicity, physical traits, unfamiliarity with dominant values and customs and with the local language, often in combination with a relatively weak legal position and social deprivation.

Back to the question whether diversity has a negative impact on social cohesion. In 2007, Robert Putnam, a reputed US political scientist published an article called ‘E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century’. ‘E pluribus unum’, as you will all know, is Latin for ‘Out of many, one’, the traditional motto of the United States, a long-standing country of immigration. Putnam argued on the basis of empirical evidence that living in an ethnically heterogeneous environment was harmful to interpersonal trust and undermined social connections within and between ethnic groups. Faced with ethnic diversity, people would tend “to hunker down – that is, to pull in like a turtle”, as he wrote it, or, in common language, to retreat from social life. Under such conditions, ongoing immigration would erode social cohesion.

Putnam’s conclusions received wide attention in the media and among policy makers, serving as input to public policy debates in various countries. His conclusions have also been challenged by literally hundreds of other scholars from all over the world, who have carried out similar studies in their own countries. The results of these studies are very mixed: some confirm his findings, others reject them, and again others find no significant relationship between heterogeneity and social cohesion. This is partly due to the fact that social cohesion can be interpreted in many different ways: e.g. do we measure attitudes vis-a-vis others, or do we measure actual intergroup contacts? It is also due to the fact that countries differ not only in the composition and history of their immigrant populations, but also in their policy approaches. As a general rule, however, Putnam’s findings appear to hold much less often for Europe than they do for the USA. What also matters is the size of a neighbourhood: the larger the area under consideration, the less noticeable the negative impact of heterogeneity on social cohesion. Social cohesion is something that becomes more concrete in the direct neighbourhood. Policies to promote social cohesion, therefore, should primarily take shape at the local, if not at the sub-local level.

Yet, such policies should not be limited to the local or neighbourhood level. They should be facilitated by higher levels of governance, the state level, the federal level or even the international level. The tensions that immigration provokes today in many societies are due not only to a lack of acceptance by the native population, but also to a lack of opportunities for newcomers. This is why public authorities should develop policies to redress this situation. Several of the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations has defined provide clear guidelines for such policies. I am thinking here of goals such as ‘No Poverty’, ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’, ‘Quality Education’, ‘Gender Equality’, ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’, ‘Reduced Inequality’, and ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’. Each of these, and several others, can be translated without much effort into concrete policy measures that, if properly implemented, would benefit immigrants and native populations alike.

A crucial condition for more cohesive societies is the granting of a sound legal position to immigrants. After they have resided in a country for a certain number of years they should be given a full residential status, preferably of a permanent nature, or even full citizenship. Security of residence provides a perspective to newcomers, and for that reason it is a necessary condition for a fuller participation in society’s major institutions, such as the labour market, housing, education, health care and the political system. The principle of equal opportunity should be leading here: after a limited number of years – a ‘probation period’ – immigrants should have the same rights as everyone else, which obviously implies that they must also have the same obligations.

In the liberal democracies of the Global North we can distinguish two basic ways of creating equal opportunity. One is what I would call the ‘AngloSaxon way’: a strong anti-discrimination legislation combined with efforts of affirmative or positive action to compensate for disadvantage and discrimination encountered in the past or the present. The other one is the ‘Continental European way’, which uses the social policy instruments of the welfare state to correct and prevent social deprivation. A drawback of the ‘Anglo-Saxon way’ is that it spurs feelings of being discriminated against among members of the original population, while the weakness of the welfare state approach is that it creates dependency on the state rather than preventing such dependency. As is so often the case, the ideal solution lies in the middle, I think. Discrimination should be attacked under all circumstances, but affirmative action may be a bridge too far. And, more than in the past, social policy instruments should be used to encourage a fuller participation of everyone, not only immigrants. It is better to invest in language courses and in education and training for everyone than in the financial support of newcomers, though they too should, of course, be guaranteed a minimum income level.

A fuller participation of all members of a society, whether immigrant or not, whether at the neighbourhood level or at the national level, is indispensable to achieve more social cohesion. Still, this does not come without certain challenges. A major challenge, particularly in the case of immigrants, is that a fuller participation requires a certain degree of cultural adaptation. It would be tempting to say that such adaptation is reciprocal. In reality, however, newcomers adapt much more strongly to the dominant culture than vice versa. Opinions differ as to how far this adaptation should go; this is one of the big debates in contemporary society, certainly in liberal democracies. The potential tension between participation and the preservation of a separate identity is an issue that keeps coming back in the academic literature, but also in political debates. My Canadian colleagues Will Kymlicka and Michael Banton have labelled this as the tension between ‘recognition’ (of different cultural identities) and ‘redistribution’ (of scarce resources and opportunities). Another colleague, Irene Bloemraad, has written about the difficulty of reconciling the granting of rights, the promotion of participation and the recognition of identity in diverse societies.

It is a struggle that we all recognise, because we all live in societies characterised by a certain degree of diversity, which is increasing in nearly all cases. What is needed under such circumstances is respect for others, and also acceptance of others. That should not be too difficult as long as the other respects and accepts you, but the question is how to act if and when the ideas of the other are disrespectful or are perceived as disrespectful. There are certainly limits to the degree of diversity a society can accept, but opinions differ on how far such acceptance may reach. There is a clear and probably growing gap here between more cosmopolitan attitudes, open to diversity that stems from globalization on the one hand, and more restrictive nationalist attitudes, that wish to protect societies as they once were (or are perceived to have been), often with populist slogans, on the other. This gap is noticeable, certainly all over the Global North. Yet, I think we all agree that complete assimilation – wiping out diversity – provokes and perpetuates inequalities, while fully institutionalised forms of multiculturalism lead to segregation and fragmented societies. In order to achieve inclusive social development, we need to find the middle road that I have tried to describe here in very broad terms.

In short, we can conclude that diversity is on the increase, not the least because of growing immigration. Diversity may challenge social cohesion, but these challenges can be coped with through policies that guarantee a sound legal position, that encourage social participation for everyone, and that promote respectful ways of handling cultural differences. I am not suggesting, though, that this will be an easy road to go


Silvia Alejandra Perazzo

Civil society participation to facilitate social development

I would like to begin by highlighting the importance of the role of civil society in our current world. More than two hundred years ago, civil society began to organize around raising awareness on certain issues. This marked the birth of abolitionist movements – to fight against slavery-, organizations that tried to humanize wars and protect civilians, and organizations that, faced with atrocious crimes, cried out for human rights. As a result, international humanitarian law and the Human Rights Charter emerged.

Nowadays, it is civil society that spontaneously or collectively brings up to states the need for structural changes. It is civil society that brought to light and demanded reforms on environmental issues, on the various forms of human exploitation, on gender violence, gender equality, minority rights, free sexual choice and animal cruelty. In this sense, civil society is always a step ahead of the State; what is more, it sets the agenda for great changes.

An example of this is the everincreasingly important place that international organizations give to NGOs. Such is the case of the United Nations or the C20, and the ultimate goal of this Civil Society Summit. However, goals are not reached in an isolated manner, but through coordinated actions with the State, which can implement and execute them. Therefore, one of the functions of civil society should be to work jointly with the State, and not to compete with it. For their part, States should understand that civil society is not an obstacle to their actions and get used to considering its proposals.

This implies a huge responsibility for civil society since, apart from setting an agenda, it must propose specific measures to address major issues. One of these major issues is the promotion of social development, which cannot be considered without addressing inclusion. The best tool to address social inclusion is education. An Education that promotes, from the base of society, the values of respect and tolerance towards others and towards the environment. There is no peace possible without everyone’s commitment.

Social development cannot be achieved without inclusion and this, in turn, requires inclusive education that promotes equality of opportunities. Inclusive and quality education should not only emphasize technological and academic knowledge but also achieve everyone’s commitment to significant community issues, both national and international.

Inclusive and quality education –apart from reaching all social sectors, as well as all urban and rural areas should favor the integration of children with different abilities and with different learning abilities.

But inclusive and quality education should also focus on building a more peaceful society that does not tolerate or accept violence. It is a kind of education that should form citizens who do not accept violence in any manner whatsoever. Peace means much more than the absence of war. Peace is the absence of violence. It is the absence of direct violence, which involves acts of war and insecurity. It is the absence of symbolic violence, which refers to cultural constructions that either directly or subliminally involve some kind of aggression against others.

It is also the absence of structural violence, understood as the conditions in a country that prevent our fellow citizens from living with dignity. And it also implies the absence of cultural violence, which is the one that builds stereotypes, myths and phobias that segregate, exclude, discriminate. Regardless of the inalienable role of the State, this concept of comprehensive peace is built through Education and the active participation of citizenship; in everyday life, professional practices, civil society organizations. Peace is a way of life. Peace in its comprehensive sense is also part of social development.

Inclusive and quality education is that which promotes responsible citizenship that condemns and does not tolerate corruption or the abuse of power; and that, in turn, is educated in values to serve society in case of governing. Inclusive and quality education should also promote specific actions from all educational sectors to address unattended local issues. For example, in my country, especially in large cities, there is blatant discrimination and stigmatization of migrants.

However, if the State and the civil society take action, mass campaigns and projects aimed at getting to know each other, sharing problems and understanding different realities, it will be possible to start preventing such violent behavior. On multiple occasions, society is moved when seeing terrible pictures of refugees in distant places, but it is incapable of being touched by those who suffer the same fate in its own city. And there is where education is needed.

Inclusive and quality education contributes transversely to the other 16 SDGs proposed by the United Nations. But carrying out specific actions and making these ideas come true require the joint work between the civil society and the State, which has the economic and legal resources needed to massively promote educational actions. For inclusive and quality education aimed at the development of people to exist, it is necessary to pass Education Financing Laws that ensure the intangibility of the funds allocated to Education. Such laws should, in turn, ensure the existence of a budget that guarantees that nobody drops out of school due to economic reasons or due to the fact of living in remote areas. They should also ensure that teachers at all levels of education have access to quality training and good salaries, that there are funds for research, programs and projects, and that education infrastructure is suitable. This is a decision to be made by the State, but a cause that should be defended and promoted by all the sectors of civil society.

In addition, civil society should join efforts with international organizations with a view to promoting collaborative actions that have greater impact. It is true that various Civil Society Summits have not achieved the expected results; on multiple occasions egos and the craving for leadership paralyzed specific actions. This is the reason why it is necessary to bridge the differences among the various civil society organizations in order to reach consensus on the big issues and take action.

None of us grows in isolation. True world changes are promoted by civil society and implemented by institutions. We have to walk this path knowing that there still are several issues that prevent us from reaching development. Let’s take the challenge and work to make it possible.

Moneeza Burney

Writer at Dawn Newspaper, Falak Sufi Scholar 2018, PAKISTAN
The role of youth in creating inclusive social societies

Respected representatives, I’m honored to address this conference about the role of youth in creating inclusive societies. For the last 6 years I have had the privilege to be a youth program organizer in my home town of Lahore, Pakistan, and have personally managed over 1,000 youth volunteers across a partner network of over 75 NGOs, social projects and civil society organizations. Through the platforms I run, I have been able to closely observe young people of varying ethnicities, religions, genders, and economic classes come together to improve the lives of those less fortunate than them, or collaborate to tackle problems that are meaningful to them at a deeply personal level. I’d like to share one such experience with you today.

In 2013, Dr. Ali Haider, a well-known eye doctor in Lahore, was assassinated for the sole crime of being a Shia Muslim, one of Pakistan’s many religious and sectarian minorities who have been systematically targeted by radical religious militant groups. Murdered alongside him in cold blood was his 11-year-old son, Murtaza, who was on his way to school. They are just two of over 70,000 Pakistani civilians killed as a result of violent extremism since 9/11, the forgotten domestic casualties of the world’s war on terror and the rise of global militancy. The platform I work with was created a month later, with the hope of organizing and encouraging the youth to take back their culture, their country, and their religion from those who misuse it to spread evil and hatred across the world. I started a program called the Community Service Initiative to let students learn how to be responsible citizens, realize their obligation to give back to society, and strive to improve the lives of those who can’t help themselves.

Over the last 6 years, through this program, I have organized youth volunteer programs for an organization run by the widow of the late Dr. Ali Haider, and watched students from all backgrounds, Sunni, Shia, Christian, Punjabi, Pakhtun, Sindhi, Hazara, Male and Female,come together to spread religious tolerance and help the survivors and victims of violent crimes. When a bombing took place in a park on Easter Sunday in 2016, these volunteers came together to organize storytelling and art sessions for children in hospital wards, collect financial assistance for families to bear their medical costs, arrange prosthetic limbs for patients who could never be whole again after the tragedy, or sometimes simply pay the utility bills for families who had never had to survive without their primary breadwinner. When not working on such projects, the volunteers visit churches, temples, mosques of different sects, all to prove that people of varying faiths and beliefs can still peacefully coexist in a society built on equality, freedom, and mutual respect.

In an increasingly polarized world, we often think of the layers of religious, ethnic, and cultural identity as problematic, it is my personal experience that when young people from diverse backgrounds and experiences unite towards a noble purpose, their efforts take on a multiplier effect. Our personal traits and histories play a huge role in defining the world we live in and the challenges we face, and are an undeniable part of our human experience. But when we acknowledge our differences without judgment, we recognize that these only make us stronger, more complete, and more able to tackle complex problems as a cohesive whole rather than from just our limited point of reference. I have seen student volunteers who are embarrassed by their less expensive clothes, or those with an air of superiority over others, or those suffering from trauma due to marginalization, and watched them slowly realize that in the quest to serve humanity and bring good to this world, we are indeed all created equal. I have seen them transform, leave the shell of their former self, command the respect of their peers, and grow into the noble, empathetic human beings we all aspire to be.

We are once again at a generational crossroads, where identity politics has permeated hearts and minds in every corner of the globe, and sent us into our silos, threatening to unravel the peace with the spread of bigotry, religious phobias, radicalization, and hateful narratives of racial supremacy. And yet, in Pakistan I have worked with Muslim volunteers to provide food, clothes and education to Christian orphans and children, victims of systemic marginalization for generations. In Lebanon I have met Christian volunteers who help Syrian Muslim refugee children remember their traditions and keep their culture alive even when the homes they left behind have been burned to ash.

Young people are the perennial reservoir of hope, as an evolving world will always be in need of those who see past the flaws of the present and aspire to a better future. Only when we create inclusive platforms for young people of diverse backgrounds to interact freely, to share their ideas and experiences, to feed each other’s dreams with the fuel of their exuberance and optimism, only then can we hope to overcome the grave mistakes of the past and the demons that walk among us at present. These are indeed times of great suffering, but only the youth can inherit a world where that pain is a memory rather than a gaping wound. Only through them can we heal, and only by healing together can we hope to not repeat the same mistakes again.


Oral Statement 

Dr. Ada Juni Okika 

Executive Director, Center for SDG Global Education

Since the Post-2015 Era, the Center for SDG Global Education has focused on “Education Solutions in Community Classrooms” along the SDG Goal # 4 and its targets in the Global Agenda 2030. In the course of our reach, we observed that quality education and inclusion for lifelong learning seems far-fetched in communities in developing countries. Most communities still lack a curriculum on educational technology and technological facilities, qualified teachers and standard teaching and learning infrastructure. In communities with opportunities and facilities for quality education, educational practices begin with a complex curriculum that focuses on what children do not know but what they know. This hinders quality education, which is expected that SDG Goal # 4 and its targets will address globally by leaving no one behind. In addition, we launched Barr Juni and Irene Endowment Trust to raise $80,000 to help provide schools in the Community Rehabilitation Scheme, scholarships, introduce visiting teacher services to community classrooms and Global Teacher Classroom.

We are committed to these initiatives that will help achieve the Global Agenda 2030. These initiatives will support partnerships between stakeholders and UN agencies to address quality and inclusive education in community classrooms in developing countries. As we digress on the input from the 74th Session of the UNGA, it is pertinent to focus on the addendum that the community classrooms have an urgent need to improve the quality of education and the level of teaching and learning to meet the demands of SDG Goal # 4 and its target globally.


The panelists agreed that we should stop preaching but share ideas about good service delivery with humility. Therefore, a central element in the transformation of the world is to start from the self before reaching out to others. If ONE does not transform himself/herself to get rid of prejudices, how can I transform the world? Two, an inclusive economy, media freedom and human rights are important to transform our world: Inclusive social development for all. It requires respect for people’s rights to movement and migration, respect for refugees and respect for their culture and their human rights. The promotion of diversity, the reduction of barriers and the acceptance of all people where they are found help to achieve a transformed world and inclusive social development for all. Civil societies have the arduous task of removing all obstacles that hinder the direction towards the transformation of Our world for inclusive social development for all. Civic education and good communication within the respective receptive communities where refugees, migrants and internally displaced people seek comfort.

PANEL 2: Advancing Youth through Social and Economic Empowerment

This session focused on current policies and practices in the advancement of young people through social and economic empowerment, and how multiple stakeholders can work collaboratively to support youth-led initiatives and organizations. As a fundamental right recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, young people can play a crucial role in achieving sustainable development through active and inclusive participation.

Youth empowerment means helping young people to attain 21st century knowledge, develop competency skills, become responsible global citizens of people and the planet through communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. It is the responsibility of state and non-state actors to create opportunities for young people to obtain the information, skills and tools necessary to become independent, responsible and productive citizens. Specific issues that will be addressed in this sub-theme include: youth empowerment, youth participation, volunteering, education and girls and young women. It was pointed out that key priorities and challenges in accessing quality education should be addressed. Young people must be prepared to develop, improve life and acquire business skills to face the rapidly evolving labor market.


Emmanuel N.B. Flomo

Founder & Executive Director, Inspire Liberia Project, LIBERIA

Young people are a significant segment of the global population index and critical to the social and economic development of any country. Today, there are over 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years; indicating that Young people are key. We can play a significant role in enhancing global social and economic development and change if we are given the opportunity. Some progress has been made in many Countries in advancing Youth Development, but the challenges in the process are still overwhelming in many parts of our globe.

Much of the progress so far in youth development is overwhelmingly credited to developed nations, while developing nations are far from giving serious attention to these issues. For example, the European Commission considers that “Europe’s future prosperity depends on its young people and thus deserve particular support and consideration as well as seeks to strengthen people’s current and future capacities and improve their opportunities to participate in society” (EC European Policy brief, 2014). Such a policy like this is vital for Youth Social Advancement and Empowerment, but the step taken by the EU is yet acknowledged or cheer in the entire continent of Africa.
The youth of the continent is poor; education and access to jobs have been challenged. This and the lack of progress in youth development in Africa poses a tremendous global threat to the SDGs if African leaders and the young people are not proactively engaged. As part of the engagement effort, I have made continuous advocacies in Liberia with emphasis on the national frameworks that promote a productive workforce and creating opportunities that could allow the youth to make a significant contribution to nation-building. Young people should be empowered and motivated to consider political leadership as a means to serve their nation and should be oriented on anti-corruption drives with a focus on prevention, education, and strategies for fighting corruption and restoring economic development.
When we take critical development steps, a huge to the reduction in the rural and urban gap becomes visible and appreciable by the society and its people. Young people represent courage, wisdom, and energy, the will-power to do good, they are able to take leadership that would make the difference. Their energy and understanding must be respected, guided and built for future roles.

 Johnnie Lee Fielder

Director of Operations, International Youth Leadership Institute

Youth as stakeholders in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: Advocacy, awareness-raising, and capacity building
I would like to first read to you all the mission and vision statements of the International Youth Leadership Institute. The mission of the International Youth Leadership is to nurture a new generation of visionary leaders from the African diaspora who, inspired by their rich African heritage, are committed to leaving a legacy in the world. It is important for youth to be given the opportunity to express and flex their leadership capabilities and the International Youth Leadership Institute does this cultivation of leadership by introducing the concept of being a global citizen to youth who are rising ninth graders to 12th grade.
The vision of the International Youth Leadership Institute is Every day, youth of African descent are assuming leadership roles in making the world a better place, wherever they are. Leaders of the IYLI will be in multiple places simultaneously creating and generating innovative ideas and solutions to some of today’s most nuanced issues.
International Youth Leadership Institute was founded in 1989 by two African American men by the name of Keith Brown, who worked in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and Dr. Micheal Webb, who worked on education development in Africa. When the two men returned to their home city of New York, they asked themselves how can more brown and black youth experience travel as an educational and leadership tool. By encouraging young Brown and Black youth to actively engage with their communities, both local and global they are furthering the mission of some of the SDGS.
Through CSDPs, or Community Service Development Projects, youth are able to identify issues in their communities and then tackle them throughout the school year. Some past projects have been focused on eliminating violence, mental health awareness, urban farming, fundraising initiatives, and gender equity. The Community Service Development projects, then culminate in our Summer Heritage Program where youth travel to South Americans or African nations where they are then able to interact with municipalities, public officials, various non-governmental organizations and bridge cultural relations between themselves and host country nationals, and conducting ethnographic research reflecting the socio-economic and political climate of that specific Summer Heritage Program. The amazing thing about having youth as decision makers is that they aren’t corrupted by being categorized or conditioned to operate within boundaries of bureaucracies. They have all the energy and desire to make change a reality.


Sasha E. Butler

Executive Director, Changing Destinations: Journey to Excellence, Inc., USA

Key priorities and challenges in access to quality education

Despite the progress made in increasing access and participation around the world, economic and social disparities remain a threat to this fundamental right. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reported 200 million youth are out of school. Current challenges in access to quality education include lack of funding, inadequate infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms, and outdated learning materials. Adequate ongoing training resources are also an issue in high-poverty schools hindering teachers’ effectiveness and students’ ability to learn. Additionally, racial, gender, and disability discriminatory practices deny youth access to quality educational opportunities.

To achieve the goal of advancing youth through social and economic empowerment we must establish clear priorities aligned with our mission. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for fostering innovation solutions. Quality Education (SDG 4) and Partnerships for Goals (SDG 17) are at the center of our four key priorities: Social Emotional Learning; Leadership Development; Community Services; and Global Citizenship. Support for youth-led initiatives is an essential component for achieving learning objectives and preparing youth for success inside and outside the classroom. School districts, higher education institutions, local, state, and federal governments, small businesses and large corporations must share the responsibility for equipping youth with the skills and knowledge needed to become leaders and global citizens by creating grassroots, multi-stakeholder platforms where youth are given opportunities to lead.

Shared power is an important core value which motivates young people and teaches them to think critically about the world around them. They bring a fresh perspective on addressing challenges and generating innovative ideas. Youth are key to achieving the SDGs when empowered to lead and develop confidence to act and mobilize others toward a more equitable and sustainable future.

Alyson Neel

Policy and Advocacy Strategist, UN Foundation, USA

UNA-USA Youth member participation in human rights mechanisms and UN Summits

I am thrilled to be at the UNGA Conference 2019. This past week I have been thinking about the topic of youth and youth empowerment which is at the core of what the UN foundation does. As I am with our global policy team, I have been thinking about it and as I watched everything that is happening at the UN this past week. I am also wondering how we, as adults, are going on with something such as this. How we should be doing more by stepping back, listening and then doing whatever we can to put young people at the table of youth empowerment. I am really grateful for this opportunity because I have been thinking about what that means for me specifically, in my role in our team, at our foundation. l started thinking through endless, I felt l could have given my seat here to a youth advocate in our network.

I manage a loose coalition of advocates that are working on the SDGs and we could bring more young people into that network and build into these conversations. We do an internal analysis every year of the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), which are the national report cards on the SDGs progress. We should be connecting those findings to youth advocates as part of their own advocacy. With that spirit in mind, I wanted to share with you a few relevant findings on what we are seeing in these progress reports this year. I am committing myself now to everyone here that if this is interesting and you want to learn more, especially if you are working with youth or youth advocates who are interested in advocating at the UN, I am happy to share more.

Despite that there is still room for improvement, what we are beginning to see is a rise in the voluntary review of national reports. The reports are supposed to be for the whole society to use in analyzing the SDGs progress in implementation process. It also calls into question if there is progress in working towards new plans for implementation and progress. We can affirm that there is progress in the analysis with more data being generated. More Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are talking about challenges that they are facing. We are seeing a focus on interlinkages across the SDGs by looking at how the goals are interconnected. It is all really good news. That said, multi-stakeholder engagement by including the youth continues to be a challenge in both SDG implementation and reporting. Most voluntary national reviews are now committing to leave no one behind. This is the core principle that cuts across discussions on SDGs as we all know. We are seeing the youth showing up for reviews about situations that affect in consistency with the theme leaving no one behind. As an organization we have to recognize the youth as one of the most marginalized groups, which makes them a target for achieving sustainable development. Also, in terms of consultations for these volunteering national reviews, we are seeing youth specifically mentioned in VNRs of Iceland, Serbia, Sierra Leone. The reports show that Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) partners in these countries go to communities to discuss with the youth on the situation the youth find themselves in. In these communities, discussions are geared towards helping the youth ask questions and share how their communities are doing in terms of issues behind the SDGs.

We are also pleased to observe that more and more of these UN official presentations had contributions coming out as active participation of the young people. Examples are many to show how the youth are getting involved in issues that affect them most like the recent campaigns on climate change. The voice of the youth has come out stronger.

I mentioned that advancing youth is at the core of our work. I want to talk very quickly just about two programs. One of them is Girl-Up. You might have heard of this campaign which was started in 2010. The program emphasizes leadership training and development as its core mandate. Because of the nature of this programme, more and more young women are taking part in leadership training and articulation of development issues. The campaigns done through this initiative have created a global movement of young women around the world to fight for gender equity. It is this Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) which is taking the lead in providing leadership training and then creating the platform and resources for girls and young women to advocate for themselves on whatever issues they see fit for situational reflection within their respective communities.

The second is UNA USA, which is the United Nations Association of the United States. Right now, we have 20,000 members, 60% of which are under the age of 26. This is a grassroots network in the US, serving Americans. It is a network that informs and provides tools for these chapters of young people to better understand how the UN works, what the SDGs are, what they mean to them, and what they can do to push, to encourage, to ask questions of their local leaders.

One thing I have been thinking about, as part of the staff working internally at UNF, is the great opportunity we have to provide the platform for all groups mentioned earlier to share all their activities with Voluntary Local Reviews (VLR). The Voluntary National Reviews are these official recording mechanisms, even though supposed to be inclusive, for governments to come to the UN and present how their country is doing on the SDGs. Voluntary Local Reviews is an innovation which we started last year here in New York City. We encouraged New Yorkers to sign up for voluntary local reviews on SDGs. It means that even though it is not obligatory, this being the City that hosts the UN, we recognized the need to step up this campaign as a sign of New York City’s contribution to building awareness on SDGs.

Since then we have seen many other cities around the world follow suit. Helsinki, Bristol and Los Angeles (LA), just to mention the three. But there are several cities around the world which are analyzing and coming up with similar reports. Most of us championing the voluntary local reviews (VLR) have been thinking about expanding this initiative with universities. We have been thinking about how young people could go to their local leaders and push them for similar reviews. This is a great opportunity to engage leaders on the SDGs.

Nick Hatzoglou

Head of Community Projects, Football Victoria, AUSTRALIA

The role of sports for the social and personal development of youth

I would like to approach this question by distilling the many learnings I have embraced in my personal and professional life. Having made all the mistakes, I find myself in a great position to pass on some advice and wisdom. This will be summarised in 6 key areas 1. Promoting Wellbeing & Confidence 2. The Importance of Mentoring 3. Sports Can Be a Level Playing Field 4. Youth Leading Projects 5. Promote a Growth Mindset 6. More Indigenous Engagement and Respect

Sport helps with self-confidence, especially early on in life. It’s always easy to integrate into new environments using sport as the common interest. Sport when successful, improves relationships and makes people happier This is especially relevant for our youth. Sport can create opportunities and get you to the other side of the world. Football is a great gateway to navigating other cultures and countries.

Everyone should have a mentor/s. In a world where people hang out in virtual communities or are less engaged in a person to person sense, it is even more vital to have that important other you can share ideas with, ask questions and explore life skills. My strong recommendation is for youth to have older mentors and older people to have youthful mentors. In this way everyone can learn from each other and foster creativity and build tool kits for life’s opportunities and challenges. As Michael Mandalis said so powerfully upon receiving his recent Football Victoria Hall of Fame Award “I look around me and what do I see – Amazing people, amazing football players, I walked in here and I said yeah, It’s very important that we keep in touch, keeping in touch with the old and embrace the new and the new to embrace the old.

In a world that’s increasingly unfair – with more disparity in distribution of income, sports seem to be one of the few things that gives everyone a level(ish) playing field. It can lift the poor and humble the rich. In Australia, we have made giant strides in sport that better engages with under-represented groups such as females, LGBTI+, indigenous and multicultural cohorts. Our sport, football can play a massive role in bridging the gap and we are on a positive pathway with this led by young people.

We see Government inertia on many issues and a growing expectation from consumers to fill the void. Youth can make a stand as they are on climate change. Just last Friday in my hometown of Melbourne, young people were leading a march to bring more attention to climate change – Let’s let our youth lead campaigns, invest in them and guide their journey.

We must promote a Growth mindset to our youth, where they can embrace challenges, build resilience, have pathways to mastery, learn and apply criticism and find lessons from others that lead to their success.

In a world where your number of likes on a picture can determine your status – Instagram has removed the counter amid concerns it was creating pressure on users, it’s time to connect with our Indigenous communities, these collectivists societies in my opinion hold the key to a more wholesome and resilient lifestyle. As my friend Craig Foster strongly advocates, Indigenous Australia will make a positive compelling impact on Australian Football if we can turn our collective attention to engaging them (both male and female) into our sport- allow them to take risks and boost our cultural intelligence and meaningful engagement of Indigenous People. Our youth can lead this engagement and break the cycle of despair and welfare.

I want to finish by saying that getting young people active in sport is only the start. The real measure of our success lies in harnessing the power of sport and play to enhance wellbeing, to boost achievement and to help young people develop life skills, and the toolkit which will help them to thrive, be happy and healthy.

At Football Victoria during this last year, we have built on the work of previous teams in developing and running successful programmes, continued to innovate new products and pioneered new ways of working to transform young people’s lives for the better. Examples of how we have worked to enhance the social and personal development of youth are:

• Created and promoted new core organizational values for our staff – Integrity, Inclusion, Respect, Unity and Leadership.

• Promoting Go Football – We still come across (too) many sports bodies, clubs and coaches at the grassroots level who only see the world through the lens of ‘sport’, ‘winning’ and ‘performance’. They think that the whole world should support and play the real, traditional versions of their sport that they have been practising and training for ages. New social forms of football where the emphasis is on fun – Walking Football, Social Sevens, Fun Football, Soccer Mums and All Abilities programs provide welcoming environments for that critical mass of less talented and able participants that just want to play and have fun.

• Indigenous Football – Employed an Indigenous young man to lead our football forays into better engagement with Indigenous young people. Building capacity and creating employment outcomes

• Empowering African Australian communities – engaged with young people to capacity build them so they can play a leading role within their communities to feel better prepared for life through football, including further accreditation as coaches and referees and employment

Over the past 12 months, research continued to paint a concerning picture of young people’s wellbeing. Young people were increasingly likely to be obese, to be struggling with their mental health or feeling isolated and lonely. We found that too many young people are:

• Inactive – 82.5% of young people are not meeting CMO guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity every day.

• Stressed – 92% of 15 to 16-year-olds suffer from exam stress.

• Lonely – 45% of young people aged 10-15 years old reported they felt lonely either some of the time or often.

• Lacking confidence – one in five girls told us that they lack confidence. • Overweight – one in three children are overweight or obese by the final year of primary school.

• Unhappy – 27% of children aged 10-15 rated their happiness as low or medium.

• Struggling with mental health – one in eight young people aged 5-19 has at least one mental health disorder. • Lacking opportunity – 760,000 young people in the UK aged 24-years-old (10.9%) are not in education, employment or training.

Meanwhile, evidence shows these issues are magnified for girls, young people from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities and young people facing disadvantage. 


Kit Miller

Director, M.K. Gandhi Institute, USA

Importance of non-violence education and culture of peace for social empowerment of youth

The question that I want to address briefly is how are we going to ground the youth in the years to come. How do we ground people in a time of tremendous change and uncertainty; where we are at a loss in terms of self-identity, regional connection, extermination of species, where society continues to experience a culture of violence? How do we ground human beings into true values that promote non-violence and culture of peace for social empowerment of youth? How do people, humanity become their best despite the lack of grounding? I would like to discuss the importance of non-violence education and culture of peace for social empowerment of youth.

Our focus, for the last 10 years have been in the Rochester located in New York State. This city stands out as having some of the worst rates of poverty in the United States. For this reason, Rochester became an important place for us to focus our work in. We did not want to go a mile wide and an inch deep. I am going to share with you some key highlights of our main activities we have been involved in over these years.

I got inspired by Adrian Murray Brown, in the world famous 2017 book, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. The main discussion of Emergent Strategy is about the radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the future we want to live. The world is in a continual state of flux (associated with the philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus). The world is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. However, the book should inspire us to develop a visionary incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us. Answers do not have to be at the same scale as problems. Actually, thinking that answers have to be at the same-scale as problems is one of the things that holds us back. I am going to talk about some small scale solutions that I hope will inspire you regardless of where you call home today.

There is a school and it is just four minutes behind the Gandhi Institute in Rochester. It is a school with about a 98% poverty rate among the students. Our focus primarily is working with the youth between the ages of 12 and 24. We had some 11 and 12 years-old who have formed something called the brain committee. Their objective is about solving problems for the entire school. They meet with my colleagues, identify issues going on and then find solutions that are presented to the rest of the school. We know that kids, through generations that have gone by, tend to have remarkable ideas. One of our jobs as an Institute is just to empower and get around. Most of the people that work with me are actually in their twenties. I look old among them, but get inspired by their work and hence the motivation to run around and look for everything, like financial resources to support the activities.

l find the meaning of community as the native climate of the human spirit for everything we do. For me, this native climate of our spirit is when we feel like we are in community living side by side with one another. We are trying to create opportunities to bring the full intelligence of human beings by creating face-to-face opportunities, especially doing circles and using practices related to restorative justice. Restorative justice can be applied in everything we are involved in education, problem-solving, conflict resolution, grieving and mourning as we have come to experience and wanted to do a couple of times in our school and other schools across the United States. We have not had the massive school shootings that have become too common in the United States.

From these exposures we have been able to use circles to bring children together for all of us to learn, share grief and grow stronger together. The example at hand is something that took place last Sunday, September 22, 2019. The violence that ensued made all of us to get together in a very multicultural inclusive setting to talk about the topic of hatred. We brought people together across all cultures to look at hatred and try to understand how to handle it should it recur. These interactive experiential moments can assist in producing new ideas for solving future problems holistically together.

Another important piece of the work that has featured in our training program in the last three years is systems thinking. In addition to culturally informed conflict transformation modeling, which pulls on traditions or restorative practices and nonviolent communication, we are also increasingly bringing in systems tools like the one you see behind me right now, systems thinking can be taught to people of all ages. Through this initiative we have been able to reach over 18,000 youth and adults in the community. This is a critical skill because most of the outcomes that we are struggling with right now are unintended consequences of systems.

Many of them are intended consequences. Many of our systems in this country, for instance, were set up to preferentially support the advancement of white people. So, some of the outcomes that we have known as a nation are very much intended, but some of them are not. We think it is critical to reach out to all, whether the system serves you or have been left out of the system. We assist people to literally get rid of the blindness and ask for this help as a right. Therefore, systems thinking has been mainstreamed in our education system at every level. I love this quote from an educator that I learned from several years ago while working in the San Francisco Bay area. He said, “Simple answers to complex problems make problems worse.” We should not look for simple answers to complex problems or we make problems worse. I should admit the current political rhetoric in this country and in the neighborhood actually, is advancing civil problems that are making our complex problems worse. So, systems thinking is important.

I also want to put in the work we do on the importance of access to beauty and nature to help us understand where our food comes from, especially for children who are systematically deprived of access to beauty in nature and understanding. There are some of the kids who are involved in the work of beauty in nature. We have an acre of land at the Gandhi Institute. We grow and share food with our immediate neighbors. We deliver food, especially to the senior citizens around us. It is the young kids in the neighborhood who are involved with this act of charity to the elderly. The remainder is shared among households too. In every tradition, food is important for community integration and cohesion.

I want to speak about a different kind of project that we took on a year and a half ago with the help of the public foundation in Atlanta. We wanted to recognize how much time young people, especially with all of us spend on our phones, pretend to have a phone in my hand right now, please. We were also realizing that too many young people were getting swept up into extremism, both in this country and elsewhere because of the recruitment that was taking place online. Some of you may have read that there are specific recruitment strategies and external script used in online spaces to get young people engaged in acts of extremism leading to terrorism. We felt that it was unfair for us a community to leave vulnerable young people alone in those spaces they engage in online.

We created a project called nonviolence now and we were able to put advertisements out and received about 4 million impressions. We put advertisements in spaces where violent video games were played. We placed advertisements in spaces where weapons are marketed. Other advertisements we wanted to promote were to be in pornography sites but those concerned would not allow us do it.

We are trying to put nonviolence materials in spaces found online where too often the lowest common denominator of humanity predominates. We are working on that project now and I hope very soon you will access on your phone this new nonviolence project. One of the outcomes that we had from the project was we ended up creating a nonviolence new service. When we were running our research on the project, dozens of stories started reaching us every week about the use of nonviolence globally. As you are aware, nonviolence movement is strongly associated with Gandhi.

And we know how important it is to teach young people and people of all ages around how powerful and important strategy that nonviolence can be. The youth need to be aware of everything: from the climate strikes and other social challenges that affect humanity today. As part of the global family, we can influence change through small initiatives that build awareness on the ever-rising challenges. The young can help people know how to engage with these situations.

We also know how vulnerable journalists are. We have seen on social media, television stations how journalists take great risks to inform the world about emerging challenges. They cover events in war zones, among gangs of criminals, terror groups and even home bred violence. It makes us feel privileged to be among you, with this particular group of people given the recent highlights on how difficult it is to be a journalist anywhere around the world.

As my conclusion, I am excited about the idea of advancing strategic nonviolence to young people. They are going to learn why it is critical that a free press becomes part of all global societies.

Maria Cruz Rodriguez Del Cerro

Former Vice President, UNESCO Center of Getafe-Madrid, SPAIN
Education as a tool to create peaceful and inclusive societies

I would like to present some of my experiences as a mother, grandmother and neuroscientist about something important: The effects that LOVE has on our brain during our development and in our first years of life.

My aim is to highlight the importance of the first parentbaby relationship for the future of the individual and, thereby, of society. The title indicates that we can shape our brains and thereby our behavior mainly through early life affective interactions. A bit later in life, enters another powerful factor, Education. Affection and Education: both impact the way in which people live their lives. The structure of our brain is based on the research of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the eminent neurophysiologist who is well known as the father of neuroscience. One of his most significant contributions to the knowledge of the nervous system was the phenomenon of the growth and development of neurons in mammals, as a function of their behavioral experience.

Why do I introduce my talk with this insight? It is because the idea of the statement, EDUCATION FOR PEACE, is directly linked to the concept of brain and behavior. Considering these ideas, we can assume that family and school are the major influences on the structural and functional development of our brain and our behavior. The environment is a third factor that plays a significant role in this process. During gestation and during the post-natal period, through our mothers, the environment, internal and external, affects our brain development.

“Education, as one of the critical factors, … shall be directed toward the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” (Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). On the other hand, “Peace education is the process of acquiring the values and knowledge, and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment.”

Frequently, the programs devoted to Education for Peace are directed toward Educative and NGO policies. My aim here, today, is to alert stake-holders and representatives from different institutions involved in peace education programs as to the ways in which gestation, the perinatal period, and the first years of life, play a crucial role in the structural development of the brain and the subsequent development of the behavior of individuals. This unifying concept is based on neuroscientific studies of my colleagues and my own research group of UNED, Madrid, Spain and Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA.

How do we develop our understanding of brain and behavioral function? We need to use animal models to study questions such as molecular processes underlying brain development, neurochemical mechanisms, neurotransmission, and communication among neurons. Using Positron Emission Tomography imaging technology (or PET), neuroscientists have found dramatic changes in the level of energy use by children’s brains over the first several years of life—from very low at birth, to a rapid rise between infancy and early school years, to a gradual decline to adult levels between middle childhood and the end of adolescence. Imitation using so-called mirror neurons of the cortex of the brain is one way by which baby and parents communicate.

Touching, listening, kissing and all types of interactions, contacts with the baby, healthy or even unhealthy, can produce specific responses of hormone secretion in the baby, which will affect its brain structure and neural transmission systems. Behavior “per se” can be a significant factor affecting brain development. Inappropriate maternal or paternal care of children has been shown to have a detrimental influence on the development of children’s affective behavior and cognitive ability.

During the first years of life, connections among neurons are forming for the processes of learning and memory. Approximately 70 % of the total number of synapses, which are the connections among neurons, are formed from 0 to 6 years. An additional 20% of synapses form between the ages of 10 and 15.

The main message that we should transmit to our young people is to appreciate the effects of both internal and external environmental stimuli on the plasticity of the brain, which thereby profoundly affects subsequent behavior. Currently, some programs that convey such information to young people are: Brain Awareness Week at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in the US, Semana del Cerebro – UNESCO, Getafe-Madrid, Spain, and E4P-Education for Peace in Switzerland.

I want to emphasize that as a priority, we need to introduce, in the UNGA agenda, the following statement: good care during gestation and the early post-natal period can promote healthy development of relationships and social behavior and help to reduce anti-social behavior. Through simple and inexpensive educational programs, we may contribute to sustainable peace by demonstrating to children and young people the importance of their early brain developmental period. If we would pay more attention to this critical period of human brain development, we could most likely significantly reduce anti-social behavior, thereby benefiting society. Thus, this issue is in direct support of the goals of the 2030 UNGA agenda, that is, better care for women and children including their empowerment at the local, national, and global levels.

In conclusion, I would like to answer the question “Why Brain and Peace Education?” Let me answer it with the following quote from the preamble of the UNESCO Constitution. “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”

Oral Statement 

Vincent Tucci

Student, Changing Destinations: Journey to Excellence, Inc.

I was invited to talk today about a few things that are very close to my heart, one of which is youth engagement. What l have experienced most recently is that a lot of the youth are addicted to their phones. This addiction is so much that when I am at lunch in my school, people are sitting across from each other, but instead of talking to each other, they are texting each other. They are just five feet away from the other and yet they text each other.

The greatest resource at risk for my generation is hope. Hope has been fading away since technology has become more prevalent and increased level of usage. Everyone is worried about updates and who is going to snap them next, who is on Instagram and who is present.

Another perspective that I wanted to talk about is social isolation. Social isolation leads to things such as being antisocial, depression leads to suicide, and eventually separates yourself from your community. I think some of the solutions for this issue is collaboration and becoming a part of the community. The community is what sets people up for greatness. Dignity is another thing that is really important to me. When I was six, I was in Baltimore City, on my way to church and I saw a homeless man sleeping in a box. I asked my mother “What can I do to fix this?”, and she said that “I do not know, you tell me”. That is when my brain went to overtime thinking. What can I do? How can I fix this? That same winter, I had 175 blankets collected and distributed throughout Baltimore City.

The real question is how do we give hope. We can give hope through donations. Caring for one another is another way to spread hope. Food and shelter gives the homeless hope today and tomorrow.

The last thing that I want to talk about is social action. I am going to start a campaign once I return to my community called “Put down the Phone and Pick up a Friend”. Everyone is so attached to their phones, worried about what is going on and who is doing what. It is time that we put down our phones and look for people to connect with, to engage with and become a good social community. If I were to ask you whether you have your phone on you right now, I bet 99% of you will raise your hand. So, with this campaign “Put down the Phone, Pick up a Friend”, I want to help more people increase the amount of social interactions within my community.

I would like to end with this saying. When you find a friend, look at life through their views, walk a mile in their moccasins, look at things from their point of view, and maybe you will rethink about how you judge them and what you think about other people.


The panelists agreed that Youth represents one third (1/3) of the world’s population and cannot talk about social and economic development without significant participation of the youth who are most affected by the results of the Global Agenda 2030. The youth has always been considered as an important human resource for sustainable development by the United Nations. Young people are agents of social change, economic growth and social development. Consequently, the participation of young people in the decision-making and implementation processes is essential for sustainable development. Resolution 58/133 of the UN General Assembly also reiterates the “importance of the full and effective participation of youth and youth organizations at local, national, regional and international levels in the promotion and implementation of the Global Program of Action and in the evaluation of the progress achieved and the obstacles encountered in its implementation ”.

The importance of quality education in the empowerment of youth must be recognized by all stakeholders, especially the public and private sectors. However, panelists recognized a gap between policies and practices when it comes to the implementation of sustainable development goals. Public funds and investment in the education of young people are not enough to obtain successful results. Recalling Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Youth, repeatedly stressed the importance of meaningful youth participation throughout the United Nations Development Agenda.

PANEL 3: Protection of Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights

Oral Statement