The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Global Festival of Action wrapped up on the weekend, completing three days of inspirational exchanges, learning and co-creation by over 1,700 participants from over 150 countries, once again organized by the UN SDG Action Campaign.
From 2 to 4 May, this year’s Festival – the largest ever – brought together activists and representatives from all over the world, and offered a dynamic space where participants shared different perspectives, tested and accelerated new ideas, and positioned the SDGs as the framework for political engagement and democratic participation.
Citizen-driven solutions and activism are essential to creating the change we want to see
Through discussions and Ted-style talks, the Festival showed time and again how citizen action can drive change and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG Action Awards, aimed at recognizing individuals, civil society organizations, subnational governments, foundations, networks, and private sector leaders who are advancing the global movement, received over 2,000 entries from 142 countries – that is over 2,000 action-driven solutions on the Sustainable Development Goals from people all over the world. Film director Estevão Ciavatta, who directed the film Amazon.inc on deforestation in the Amazon, said it best: ”Humans are like rivers: they get bigger and stronger when they get together.”
Climate justice is front and center in the discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals
A sense of empowerment prevailed in the audience, with chants of ‘climate justice’ erupting in the plenary hall, urging action from governments and civil society alike. Yusuf Omar, co-founder of Hashtag Your Story, spoke about digital storytelling and mobile journalism that have sparked revolutions around the world: “We are on the brink of another moment, a climate moment. This is not a future projection of what could happen — it is happening right now,” Omar said. And according to Yassamin Ansari, Principal Advisor for Mission 2020 and on the Climate Action Summit Team for the United Nations, “this generation is one that is more involved in the climate crisis than ever before. Together, outrage and optimism can be a powerful combination for action. We cannot listen to the pessimists who tell us our plans are too big or too impracticable.” She announced the #SummerofSoultions, a United Nations campaign inviting youth to submit their ideas on climate solutions.
Innovation and technology are driving action
The United Nations climate campaign Act Now was recognized for the use of artificial intelligence to encourage individuals to take and register their climate actions. The SDG Action Campaign, convener of the
Festival, launched their augmented reality SDG Wings campaign #IAMSDG, inviting people everywhere to make their support of the Goals visible by choosing the wings of their choice. The aim is to start a butterfly effect that inspires transformative change. The full toolkit and campaign will be launched soon; a beta site can be found on http://www.iamsdg.org. Other initiatives included a crowdmap for sexual violence from Mumbai, India, a data-platform tracking funds targeting social development, and a blockchain-rewards based initiative mobilizing recycling entrepreneurs in Haiti, the Philippines and the United States.
There is no limit to a person’s commitment and potential
Inspiring everyone to do their part, Eddie Ndopu, the Special Advisor for Impact and Corporate Sustainability to RTW Investments and soon to be appointed SDG Advocate, delivered a powerful message on defying the odds of his disability. As a child he was diagnosed with spinal muscular dystrophy but overcame all odds and became the first African with a degenerative disability to graduate from the University of Oxford. “Regardless of who you are, where you come from, how you identify, you matter, your humanity matters. This is what it means to leave nobody behind. It means that we need to give way for the most vulnerable segments of society to move from the back of the line to the front so that they can lead,” said Ndopu, who is planning to be the first disabled person to travel to space next year. Miki Matheson, Project Manager at the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre and member of the Education Committee of the International Paralympic Committee, shared her story of finding empowerment through sports, which earned her three gold medals at the Paralympic Games. Discussing the importance of engaging young people, she also spoke about the I’mPOSSIBLE educational toolkit designed to engage young people in the Paralympic Movement.