Activists, development experts, changemakers and creatives join forces in Bonn, Germany, to catalyze action on the world’s most pressing development issues.

2 May, 2019 | The global community gathered at the opening of the SDG Global Festival of Action in Bonn, Germany, today to reiterate its commitment to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals. Organized by the United Nations SDG Action Campaign, the Festival stressed the need for advocacy, citizen engagement, behaviour change and political will, to drive the action required to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality.

Taking place from 2 to 4 May, this year’s Festival – the largest ever – brings together over 1,500 participants from more than 150 countries, ranging from activists to high-level representatives. It offers a dynamic space where participants can share different perspectives, test and accelerate new ideas, and position the SDGs as the framework for political engagement and democratic participation.

Nearly four years since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, progress remains slow and uneven, including on climate change – the greatest challenge of the world of today and tomorrow. “These are turbulent times. Around the world, multilateralism is coming under pressure,” said Maria Flachsbarth, the German Parliamentary Secretary of State, stressing the need for renewed political commitments for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Calling the Festival participants “a force of nature for the 2030 Agenda,” Tania Freiin Von Uslar-Gleichen, the Director for Human Rights at the German Federal Foreign Office, highlighted the need for international cooperation and ambitious multilateralism.

The 2019 SDG Action Awards embodied the spirit of the Festival’s call for action, recognizing innovative and impactful projects in 7 categories – Mobilizers, Storytellers, Campaigners, Connectors, Visualizers, Includers and Creatives – created by civil society organizations, governments, foundations, networks and business leaders. Winners included a crowd-map for sexual violence from India; a nation-wide campaign that led to the repeal of the infamous rape-marriage law in Lebanon; and a blockchain-based token rewards, called the Plastic Bank, which empowers recycling entrepreneurs in Haiti, Philippines and the United States.

SDG Action Awards winners

The United Nations climate action campaign, Act Now, was also recognized for the use of artificial intelligence to encourage individuals to take climate action.

Joining other speakers’ call for accelerated efforts by everyone – including individuals, governments, civil society and businesses, and putting individual action front and center of the Agenda, Juan Somavia, the former Director-General of the International Labour Organization said: “It is totally impossible for the SDGs to become a reality without the people.”

“We are agents of change, and if we don’t believe that, nothing is going to happen in our lives,” added Gabriela Cuevas Barron, Mexican Congresswoman and the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

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.

“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 was diagnosed with spinal muscular dystrophy as a child and became the first African with a degenerative disability to graduate from the University of Oxford. Next year, he is planning to be the first disabled person to travel into space to deliver a televised address to the United Nations on greater SDG implementation.

About the Awards

The UN SDG Action Awards Ceremony celebrates outstanding achievements and innovative efforts to ignite action on the SDGs. The ceremony recognizes some of the greatest innovators, mobilizers, connectors, storytellers, communicators and visualizers from across the globe. For a full list of finalists, click here: Winners will be updated shortly on the SDG Action Awards website. 

SDG Studio

In addition to the High-level plenary, the live-streamed SDG Studio provided a dynamic stage where Ted-style talks, interactive discussions and performances. Speakers included Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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