Highlights Vol 20, No. 09 - September 2016

UN General Assembly kicks off 71st session

As the global community is witnessing an unprecedented level of human mobility, the issue of safety and dignity for refugees and migrants will take center stage at the UN General Assembly, as it kicks off its 71st Session. Gathering leaders from around the world, the upcoming session commencing on 13 September, will also feature events to mark the one year anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, meetings of the High-level Panel on Water, the SDG Advocates and more.

Under the leadership of its new President Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji, the General Assembly will hone in on a large number of agenda items featured under overarching themes including on the promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development, maintenance of international peace and security, development of Africa, promotion of human rights and the effective coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts.

Some highlights during UNGA high-level week

But before Heads of State and Government take to the podium for the general debate on 20 September, they will focus their attention on a pressing global issue: large movements of refugees and migrants.

Described as a historic event, the General Assembly will on 19 September host the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, featuring two parallel plenary events and six round table sessions putting a spotlight on a number of important issues and challenges that the international community seeks to resolve. More information on the event can be found in our main story.

sdgsiconsCelebrating one year anniversary of SDGs adoption
On 20 September, prior to the opening of the general debate, some of the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocates will participate in a special event to mark the one year anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through an “SDG Moment” in the General Assembly Hall, the event will feature the screening of a video, highlighting the progress made on implementing the SDGs to date, also demonstrating the universal and interconnected nature of these goals, and celebrating key multilateral moments, including when the SDGs were adopted.

Access to clean water and sanitation

Today, more than 2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation and at least 663 million do not have access to safe drinking water. To mobilize effective action to accelerate the implementation of SDG 6, which focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, 10 Heads of State and Government were earlier this year appointed as Members of the High-level Panel on Water by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

The panel had its first meeting earlier in the spring and on 21 September; it is time for the panel to convene again to discuss the new action plan among other things. Covering three main areas – political leadership, mobilizing action, and identifying so called Lighthouse initiatives – the plan contains 41 proposed actions. If implemented, these actions are expected to have a major impact to address the challenges the global community is facing in this area.

UNGA Second and Third Committees
In the beginning of October, the work of the Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) and the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (Third Committee) are set to begin. Supported by UN DESA, these two committees will discuss the items on the agenda related to economic growth and development and social, humanitarian issues and human rights, respectively.

The Committees seek where possible to harmonize the various approaches of States, and present their recommendations, usually in the form of draft resolutions and decisions, to a plenary meeting of the Assembly for its consideration. The Assembly’s Second Committee deals with the economic and financial aspects of development and its Third Committee addresses social, humanitarian and cultural matters.

For more information:

UN General Assembly

UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development – 17 goals to transform our world

Sustainable Development Goals Advocates

High-level Panel on Water

Film night to celebrate indigenous peoples’ cultures and identities in cities

On 13 September, the United Nations will open the doors to an indigenous film night, paying tribute to the many indigenous peoples, living and sustaining their cultures in the world’s biggest cities far from their ancestral homes. Through Reaghan Tarbell’s documentary “To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey” (2009), we will meet the courageous Mohawk women who sustained a vibrant community in Brooklyn, while Mohawk workers were helping build Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers in the 1920s to 1960s.

Decades later, the short film “Bronx Llaktamanta” (2016) tells the story of Segundo Angamarcka, a Kichwa Kanari from Ecuador, who runs founded a radio station two blocks from Yankee Stadium to ensure the survival of Kichwa language and culture in New York.

The screenings will be followed by a discussion about indigenous peoples’ identity, cultural survival and contributions to the world’s cities today.

indigenous-4The event takes place on the day of the ninth commemoration of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly in 2007. The adoption of the Declaration was a historic event which marked the beginning of a new partnership between indigenous peoples and Member States, who worked side by side to draft and negotiate the text.

The UN Declaration defines the minimum standards necessary for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples around the world. It reflects global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples, including their rights to self-determination, lands, territories, resources, education, culture and health.

Despite progress, indigenous peoples remain amongst the poorest in all regions of the world; they lack access to education, health and decent employment and often experience displacement from their lands and territories. Indigenous peoples everywhere continue to face discrimination, marginalization and exclusion, while their cultures, identities and existence are under threat.

indigenous-3Today, many indigenous peoples live in urban areas far from their ancestral homes. How to maintain their cultures, identity and traditions in these contexts is an additional challenge.

At the same time, indigenous peoples have much to contribute to cities in terms of their traditions and knowledge about sustainable living. With the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat 3) coming up in Quito, Ecuador from 17 to 20 October this year, the discussion about indigenous peoples’ identity and cultures in urban areas is more pertinent than ever before.


Tuesday, 13 September 2016
6:15 – 8:00 pm, Conference Room 4
United Nations Headquarters, New York


Film screening “To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey” and “Bronx Llaktamanta”

Post-screening Q&A with:
Reaghan Tarbell, film maker, director of “To Brooklyn and Back” (Mohawk, Canada)
Doris Loayza, cultural producer, educator, producer of “Bronx Llaktamanta” (Quechua, Peru)
Segundo Angamarca, founder of Radio Tambo Stereo (Kichwa Kanari, Ecuador)

To register for the event, please RSVP here.

The event is organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information and the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Division for Social Policy and Development, UN DESA.

Photo credits: Mushkeg Media, Inc., Doris Loayza

For more information:

Film screenings: “To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey” & “Bronx Llaktamanta”

UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development – Indigenous Peoples

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