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February 3, 2017

Alumni at UN Examine Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development Goals

Drawing on lengthy experience inside UN system, panelists discuss challenges and opportunities

Three distinguished alumni who hold high-level positions at the United Nations visited SIPA on January 31 for a panel discussion on opportunities and challenges presented by the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

José Antonio Ocampo, a professor of professional practice at SIPA who chairs the United Nations Committee for Development Policy, moderated the conversation—the latest signature event in SIPA’s ongoing 70th anniversary celebration.

Taking part were Cristina Gallach MIA ’86, UN under-secretary general for communications and public information, Tegegnework Gettu MIA ’83, under-secretary general and associate administrator for the United Nations Development Program, and Navid Hanif MIA ’91, director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Each offered insight based on their extensive experience inside the United Nations system.

Gallach, a communications expert, was optimistic about the positive impact the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can make for communities around the world. She said that the 2030 Agenda provides the “best opportunity we can ever have on our hands,” as it encompasses a long-term, comprehensive vision that is unanimously agreed upon and accompanied by applicable modern technology. The ‘SDGs in Action’ app, for example, can help people across the globe track progress towards the goals and hold their governments accountable.

This type of public engagement, along with effective communication of the 2030 Agenda to civil society, is crucial, Gallach said.

“We need to be sure that this is owned by all the citizens of the world.”

Gettu spoke of the challenges we face on the local, national, and global levels as we work for progress, including slow economic growth, natural disasters, humanitarian emergencies, and global inequality. He advised that we seek balance between advancing the way of life for people and sustaining the life of our planet.

In agreement with Gallach, Gettu emphasized the importance of civil society and national governments in the implementation of the SDGs. The UN system has a significant role in helping countries to build partnerships, mobilize resources, manage risk, share information, and monitor progress together. He noted that the United Nations Development Programme is already supporting 100 countries in mainstreaming their national development plans with the 2030 Agenda.

The interconnected nature of the SDGs was a theme throughout the conversation. Policy integration is necessary across sectors, argued Hanif. Policies to address issues in one area, like water, need to be developed with consideration of how they will affect other sectors like energy and agriculture.

Hanif also spoke of institutional integration. The United Nations and national governments must work together, as should development agencies and humanitarian assistance organizations, and governments with their citizens.

“This time, accountability measurement is part of the document,” Hanif said, returning to the theme touched on by Gallach and Gettu—that every person needs to be involved in this effort in order for it to succeed.

“Without inclusion and localization of the agenda,” he said, “we won’t see the future we want.”

— Kasumi Takahashi MPA ’17

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