UNGA CONFERENCE 2020: Five Years of Action Towards the SDGs

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UNGA CONFERENCE 2020: Five Years of Action Towards the SDGs

 TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD:
FIVE YEARS OF ACTION TOWARDS THE SDGs
23 September 2020 |www.unga-conference.org

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Date: 23 September 2020 (Wednesday)

Time: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM (EST)

Venue: VIRTUAL

Organizer: The Journalists and Writers Foundation, in collaboration with Global Partners

Participants: High-Level Representatives of UN Member States, the United Nations and other International Organizations, the Private Sector, Civil Society Organizations, Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Academics, Researchers, and Practitioners

Working Language: English

Goals and Objectives:

(1) Create a platform to debate on the UN Global Agenda 2030 and analyze the “Five Years

of Action Towards the SDGs”

(2) Share inclusive and gender responsive policies for the empowerment of women and girls,

through the critical areas of action outlined in the Beijing Declaration

(3) Develop local, national and global strategies, policy recommendations for implementing SDG # 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

(4) Ensure human rights and rule of law for social and economic development for all

(5) Propose a framework for an action plan on the evolving social and economic

development for sustainability in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Expected Outcomes:

(1) Adoption of a final conference statement

(2) Development of an action plan framework

(3) Follow-up action items

(4) Establish and foster new partnerships in implementing field projects

PROGRAM

10:00 – 10:30 AM – OPENING AND WELCOME REMARKS

10:30 – 12:00 AM – PANEL 1

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND GENDER EQUALITY: 25 YEARS AFTER THE BEIJING DECLARATION

  • Gender Perspectives and Women’s Leadership in Policy Making
  • Gaining Grounds on Girls Empowerment
  • Inclusive Economies for Women’s Empowerment
  • Technological Advancements for Women’s Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges

12:00 – 12:15 AM – Break

12:15 – 1:45 PM – PANEL 2

IMPLEMENTING SDG #16: PEACE, JUSTICE and STRONG INSTITUTIONS

  • Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
  • Decline of Democratic Values and the Global Rise of Autocracies
  • Rise of Violence Against Human Rights Defenders and Journalists
  • Right to Access to Information for Transparency and Accountability in Governance

1:45 – 2:00 PM – Break

2:00 – 3:30 PM – PANEL 3
LESSONS LEARNED FROM COVID-19 PANDEMIC: EVOLVING SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR SUSTAINABILITY

  • Responding to Global Emergencies and Best Practices from COVID-19
  • The New Era of Online Engagement
  • Refugee Rights during the Pandemic
  • COVID-19 and the Right to Life in Prisons

3:30 – 3:45 PM – Closing Remarks

PIONEERS IN SDGS AWARDS

  • Presentation of successful local and national projects by the Global Partners
  • 24 September 2020 (Thursday)
  • 12:00 – 1:30 PM (EST) 

TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD:
FIVE YEARS OF ACTION TOWARDS THE SDGs

The UNGA Conference 2020 will be held virtually, on Wednesday, September 23, 2020, in the margins of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. The UNGA Conference 2020 is organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), in partnership with the JWF’s Global Partners, Member States of the United Nations, UN organs and agencies, and civil society organizations from around the world.

The UNGA Conference is the flagship event of the JWF, creating a platform for diverse stakeholders to discuss the Global Agenda 2030 and offer innovative solutions, strategies, and policy recommendations, with the view of further advancing the culture of peace, human rights and sustainable development. The conference gathers a group of distinguished panelists and high-level speakers in three subsequent panel sessions, to discuss a particular agenda and propose a framework for action.

Since 2014, the JWF has proudly provided a platform for discussion for hundreds of high-level dignitaries and experts from all over the world, including Heads of States and Delegates to the UN General Assembly, UN High-Level Dignitaries (ASG, USG, PGA), UN accredited diplomats, experts, and prominent civil society actors. Last year, the UNGA Conference 2019 contributed to the SDG #17 in the revitalization of Global Partnerships by mobilizing 36 CSOs and NGOs from 24 countries.

Background

Five Years of Action Towards the SDGs: The successful implementation of SDG #17 remains at the center of the UNGA Conference 2020, as the SDGs can only be implemented with strong global partnerships and cooperation. The JWF contributes to this goal by mobilizing its Global Partners in sharing best-practices and people-centered policy suggestions on the achievement of the UN Development Agenda 2030.

In 2015, UN Member States committed to a new path of inclusive, transformative and achievable development strategy for humanity and the planet with the mission of “Leaving No One Behind”. The action-oriented 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages all stakeholders, including UN Agencies, Member States, private sector, civil society actors and experts to bridge the gap between policy and knowledge, create interlinkages between the goals and accelerate the implementation progress of the SDGs.

This year represents a strategic turning point for our global community, as the international community is still fighting the worldwide spread of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Amid this unprecedented global threat, the UNGA Conference 2020 is expected to strengthen the response of the international communication and facilitate collaboration between UN Member States, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society organizations, towards a common objective of creating peaceful and inclusive societies, where everyone is entitled to inalienable rights, without discrimination.

Following a diligent consideration of policy outcomes from relevant sessions of UN WOMEN, ECOSOC and CSW-64 / Beijing+25, the UNGA Conference 2020 will cover the topics outlined below.

UNGA Conference 2020: Five Years of Action towards the SDGs will include a comprehensive debate, taking stock of the past 5-years of actions towards the SDGs in three major areas: (1) Women Empowerment and Gender Equality, (2) SDG #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and (3) Lessons learned  from COVID-19 Pandemic: Evolving Social and Economic Development for Sustainability. Finally, the UNGA Conference will also provide a civil society perspective and assessment of major United Nations Conferences and Summits’ progress since 2015.

Goals and Objectives

In the Global Sustainable Report 2019 issued by UN DESA, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres indicated that “Despite considerable efforts these past four years, we are not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. We must dramatically step up the pace of implementation as we enter a decisive decade for people and the planet”. As the 75th Session of the UNGA in September 2020 will also mark the first five years of action towards the SDGs, SDG #17 remains of utmost importance to address the challenges of accelerating the successful implementation of the SDGs, at local, national and global levels.

Under the main focus of SDG #17 and the 3 main topics of the Panel Sessions, the UNGA Conference 2020 will address the following targets:

Target (17.09) Enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted

capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the

sustainable development goals;

Target (17.14) Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development;

Target (17.16) Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development;

complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge,

expertise, technology, and financial resources, to support the achievement of the

sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries;

Target (17.17) Encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society

partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships. 

PANEL 1 – WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND GENDER EQUALITY: 25 YEARS AFTER THE BEIJING DECLARATION

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at this landmark gathering continues to guide the work of UN Agencies, Member States, and women’s rights organizations in addressing the current challenges and constraints in the empowerment of women and girls all around the world under its 12 critical areas of concern. Panel Session 1 aims to address SDG #5 (Gender Equality) and SDG #10 (Reduced Inequalities). The panelists will discuss diverse topics focusing on women’s and girls’ empowerment, achieving gender equality in policymaking and decision-making mechanisms, and address the challenges and opportunities created by today’s technology for advancing the contributions of women to social and economic development.

1.1: Gender Perspectives and Women’s Leadership in Policy Making

Good governance and accountability with the inclusion of women and youth, both in the public and private sectors, are key to transforming social and economic development. According to UN Women, “the most recent data indicates that 44.2 percent of professional and higher-level staff are women, up from 32.6 percent reported in 1995. The number of women parliamentarians around the world has more than doubled to 25%.” However, there are missing grounds in many developing countries to have a gender-balanced government cabinet, considering and prioritizing women’s rights in policymaking, strategy and research areas, ensuring commitments for women to participate equally in decision-making at all levels in government and workforce; and lastly in facilitating a gender-responsive implementation of the Global Goals 2030.

1.2: Gaining Grounds on Girls Empowerment

The report “Women’s Rights in Review after 25 Years Beijing,” published by UN Women, indicates that, in 2020, “an estimated 32 million girls of primary age are out of school.” The elimination of barriers to access quality education, training, and skills development promote girls’ participation in all sectors of society. Fulfilling her education creates lifelong opportunities for the girl child in her transition to be a young adult and professional. Discrimination in girls` access to education is directly linked with the gender-biased traditional norms, early marriages, heavy domestic work, and lack of reinforcement of girls` self-esteem, especially in underdeveloped countries. Civil society and mass media have a critical responsibility to raise awareness, combat the stereotypes in society, and provide an informal education on the importance of girls’ access to STEM and higher education. Governments are also expected to allocate sufficient resources to promote girls to go to school.

1.3: Inclusive Economies for Women’s Empowerment

Women play a critical role in the labor force, however, there are still inadmissible differences in women’s access to occupational training and financial resources. They lack representation in higher-level decision-making positions in the private sector. While women’s share in the economy continues to rise due to the modern era’s changing gender norms, there are still many barriers for women to achieve their full economic potential.

The gender pay gap is one of the critical issues discouraging women from participating in the economy. The report “Women’s Rights in Review after 25 Years Beijing” underlines that “the gender gap in labor force participation among adults aged 25 to 54 has stagnated over the past 20 years, standing at 31 percent” and that “women are paid 16% less than men”. Ending occupational segregation, tackling violence and harassment at the workplace, and work-family reconciliation policies are the priority areas that need improvement to boost women’s active participation in the economy.

1.4: Technological Advancements for Women’s Empowerment:

Opportunities and Challenges

New technologies and the emergence of innovative occupational structures are leading the global economy to be more inclusive for women and girls. However, technological advancements carry with them both, opportunities and challenges. Increasing women’s access to technical resources encourages them to be entrepreneurs and thus contribute to the economy through remunerative work rather than the domestic economy only. On the other hand, the rising trendline of cyber violence against women should also be addressed. There is in addition, a globally growing harassment cutting across national borders, cultures, and races, increasing online hate crimes.

PANEL 2 – IMPLEMENTING SDG #16: PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS

Panel Session 2 will focus on the review of five years of actions in implementing SDG #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. SDG #16 is an intersectional enabler for the implementation of the Global Agenda 2030. Despite its vital role, there are many global threats against establishing peaceful and just institutions, including: shrinking space of the civil society, severe human rights violations, particularly against women, immigrants, and people of color, increasing conflicts, and violence. The HLPF 2019 SDG 16 Conference organized by UN DESA indicates that the “SDG #16 is considered one of the most difficult SDGs to monitor,” due to data collection’s political sensitivities and related complexities.

The panelists will discuss the SDG #16 with a particular focus on promoting and protecting human rights, the decline of democratic values and the rise of autocracies globally, the increase in violence against human rights defenders and journalists, and the right to access information for better transparency and accountability in governance. While identifying these issues, the panel also aims at providing a framework of collaboration between the development stakeholders, to tackle the challenges of implementing SDG #16.

2.1: Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Agenda 2030 declared the objective to leave no one behind; therefore, advancing sustainable development through human rights is an essential process. Promotion and protection of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights are essential to mitigate national and international crisis. The Member States, national human rights organizations, and civil society should prioritize the integration of human rights, in order to create peaceful, just, and strong institutions.

2.2: Decline of Democratic Values and Rise of Autocracies Globally

Promoting democratic values is directly linked with the SDG #16. Public confidence in the judiciary mechanisms, morality, and ethics in public institutions are of utmost importance. According to Freedom House, there are 14 consecutive years of decline in global freedom. This negative trend inevitably affects building strong institutions to create inclusive societies. The freedom in the World 2020 indicates that “The unchecked brutality of autocratic regimes and the ethical decay of democratic powers are combining to make the world increasingly hostile to fresh demands for better governance.” Recently, rising calls for democratic values show that ethnic, religious, minority, and racial groups are combating autocracies globally.

2.3: Rise of Violence Against Human Rights Defenders and Journalists

Threats against human rights defenders and journalists worldwide are an alarming setback of the failing democracies and unjust institutions. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019 underlines that “United Nations recorded and verified 397 additional killings of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists across 41 countries.” The civic space for human rights defenders and journalists is shrinking more than ever. UN Member States and other inter-governmental organizations are obligated to protect the defenders and journalists’ fundamental rights, who are standing up to create peaceful and just societies for all, leaving no one behind.

2.4: Right to Access to Information for Transparency and Accountability in Governance

The right to access information is essential in establishing accountable institutions. Transparency, accountability, and access to information are the key to building sustainable and strong institutions. Uninformed citizens cannot hold their government accountable for violations of human rights and public sector corruption. HLPF 2019 SDG 16 Conference, held in Rome, recommends that “Governments should connect human rights data collectors and the central SDG monitoring/collection bodies at the national level. SDG monitoring bodies should request data from human rights institutions and information commissioners.” There is, therefore, a clear linkage between right to access information, transparency, and accountability.

PANEL 3 – LESSONS LEARNED FROM COVID-19 PANDEMIC: EVOLVING SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Panel Session 3 will discuss the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on SDG #3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG #17: Partnerships for the Goals. This ongoing pandemic continues to pose an unprecedented threat to the global community without sparing any country or region. Implementation of the Global Agenda 2030 is now more challenging than ever as this historical situation has evolved the social and economic development for sustainability. Extraordinary circumstances redefined governments and societies’ essential functions as the global community is going through difficult and challenging times, since the emergence of the coronavirus.

The panelists will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on the response until now to this global health crisis emergency and best practices, the new era of online engagement, refugee rights during the pandemic, and the right to life in prisons for journalists, political prisoners, women, and children.

3.1: Responding to Global Emergencies and Best Practices from COVID-19

Some of the highlights that the global community had experienced and excelled during the COVID-19 include the importance of data collection and its analysis, global information, and communication systems, civil society contributions to facilitate solidarity, compassion, unity, and the assessment of public health readiness for health crises. While the pandemic has inevitably strained national finances, civil society organizations significantly contributed to assisting governments in combating the crisis.

The COVID-19 is not a health crisis by itself. The UN Report “COVID-19 and Human Rights” indicates that, “[Pandemic] is highlighting deep economic and social inequalities and inadequate health and social protection systems that require urgent attention as part of the public health response.” Therefore, the global response to the pandemic has put human rights at the center to achieve the best results in combating the spread of the coronavirus.

3.2: The New Era of Online Engagement

The right to health care services has been at the center of the pandemic crisis management. However, months of lockdowns throughout the world have created additional needs and requirements to assist elderly citizens, immigrants and other individuals in need, and restrained children’s right to access quality education in schools. The civil society organizations and the private sector have been incredibly creative in their online engagement to alleviate the governments` recovery policies. Mental health service centers have also carried out an essential mission of supporting individuals during their isolation in the quarantine process. Educators have developed innovative distance learning tools and implemented online schooling programs. This new era of online engagement has seemingly made limited resources more accessible for many individuals.

3.3: Refugee Rights during the Pandemic

Refugees, the people on the move, are disproportionately affected by the Pandemic because of their limited access to social and health services, restrictions of their freedom of movement, and resettlement efforts. Unsanitary and crowded living conditions in refugee camps have put the refugees even more in danger of getting infected. The UN Policy Brief, “COVID-19 and People on the Move”, rightly states that “all of the above risks are compounded by the difficulty of delivering humanitarian assistance to the world’s most vulnerable people on the move in light of canceled flights, closed borders, lockdown, and some countries placing export controls on medical supplies and equipment.” Despite the severe constraints, there are also countless examples of refugees contributing to their new countries: youth immigrants mobilizing resources for elderly, qualified immigrant doctors getting their licenses, and serving on the front line in hospitals. Many other such contributions once again showed how valuable immigrants are for their new homelands.

3.4: COVID-19 and Right to Life in Prisons

Given the conditions of limited space, overcrowding, and limited access to health services, the right to life in prisons has been another critical issue during the Pandemic. Human rights and intergovernmental organizations have therefore repeatedly urged governments to take urgent action in addressing the full range of infection risks faced by persons deprived of their liberty. In closed settings, in particular prisons, UN Member States must respect human rights of those deprived of liberty. Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has in addition warned UN Member States to comply with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules) to protect individuals under detention, vulnerable prisoners and prison officers.