Held on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum at the UN Headquarters in New York, the SDG Media Zone engages experts, innovators, content creators, young leader, and personalities to highlight actions and solutions in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Day 2 was filled with engaging panels covering a broad range of topics – see them all below.

Ahlan Simsim: Helping Children Cope with the Syria Crisis 

Sherri Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, spoke about Sesame Street’s goal of reaching vulnerable children directly to help with their social and emotional development. Less than 3% of humanitarian aid goes to education; and 22 million babies born last year were born in refugee camps, she said. Westin stressed the importance of investing in children and their education in order to help build emotional skills and overcome trauma. In a conversation with Georgia Frances King from Quartz, Westin also informed the audience that storylines in Ahlan Simsim will mostly revolve around inclusion and acceptance, and presented the newest Muppet, Basma.

Climate and Conservation

Aiden Gallagher, the youngest UN Goodwill Ambassador, began his activism on climate and conservation through his personal experiences with surfing and noticing ocean runoff. He became involved with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at 14 and uses his significant social media following to raise awareness among other youth to reduce environmental pollution. He campaigned for “Meatless Mondays,” which focused on plant-based diets each Monday, as a significant way to curb emissions, and encouraged everyone to do something to address the climate crisis. “Doing one thing is better than doing nothing and watching the climate collapse,” Gallagher said in a conversation with ATTN’s Janine Doyon. He mentioned the importance of acting and doing rather than idly standing by.

Hello Kitty for the Sustainable Development Goals

Hello Kitty, appearing with singer-actress Kate Reinders, launched  a new global video series titled #HelloGlobalGoals. Hello Kitty talked about her visit to Japan to meet with individuals engaged in protecting endangered species, fighting food waste and reducing climate change. These visits were recorded and made into videos, with the hope of encouraging viewers to take action as well. Kitty encouraged everyone to exercise compassion and leave no one behind. The videos will be filmed in different locations over each month next year.  A video featuring Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, was shown, in which she thanked Hello Kitty for promoting the Global Goals in Japan.

The Search for Peace and Justice: Female Perspectives

What happens when you put women’s voices in stories of war and conflict? Sarah Childress, Senior Editor of PBS Frontline, in conversation with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, best-selling author and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Sana Mustafa, founder of Sana Mustafa Consulting LLC and Syrian activist, explored what inclusive gender storytelling looks like in their respective fields. Mustafa, a female refugee living in the U.S., spoke about the power of elevating women-led films like “For Sama,” as they shift perceptions of women and generate change in public perception.

Lemmon, the author of two New York Times best sellers on women in war, echoed similar sentiments: “Women’s stories have weight, power and they are just stories at the end of the day.”

Interfaith Dialogue on Climate Change, SDGs and Children’s Rights

Reverend Andrew Morley, Reverend Fletcher Harper, Rabbi Diana Gerson and Dr. Azza Karam joined Curtis Brainard of Scientific American to discuss the role of interfaith dialogue. Rev. Harper pointed out three levels in which communities of faith can exact change: on an individual level, by supporting people in becoming more climate friendly in their actions; on an institutional level by the houses of faith leading by example; and systemically by encouraging direct public action and not shy away from civil disobedience. Rabbi Gerson emphasized that the majority of the world’s population practiced some form of faith and that communities of faith had a unique opportunity to come together for climate action. Rev. Karam highlighted the importance of governments, faiths and people working together and challenging their own territoriality.

How to Communicate the SDGs in Alternative Ways

Edie Lush and Claudia Romo Edelman, co-hosts of Global GoalsCast (www.globalgoalscast.org), spoke about creating a podcast for championing the Sustainable Development Goals and inspiring others to act. The latest season of the Global GoalsCast podcast is focused on climate action, stories of hope, opportunity and the people in the field doing the work for progress. Lush and Edelman spoke about specific stories that were covered on the podcast, for example about a man with multiple sclerosis who decided to go to the Arctic, then returned to Pittsburg and has become a climate activist.

Individual Action on Climate 

ActNow is the UN’s call to individual action on climate change, encouraging people to change their behavior and choices to reduce negative impact on the environment. Tolu Olubunmi, the UN ActNow campaign manager, hosted this discussion with YouTubers Shanna Lisa and Marissa Rachel as well as fashion influencer Thania Peck. Thania explained how she is focused on making changes wherever possible, as a life coach and influencer working with sustainable brands. Marissa discussed how she encourages sustainable fashion choices such as do-it-yourself and thrifting. Shanna agreed that small changes in the realm of sustainable fashion are easy, fun, and have significant impacts.

Consuming and Producing Responsibly Requires Cruelty Free Supply Chains

Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of Cruelty Free International, explained how her organization is working towards ending animal testing, especially in the cosmetic industry. Paul Taylor from DNVGL, a company working to safeguard life, property and the environment, emphasized that there was a change in what information customers want on how products are made. Customers wants to make informed decisions and might not consume products of companies that fail to live up to that standard. Angus Rennie, the Senior Manager at the UN Global Compact, called on companies around the world to do business in a sustainable manner. The discussion was moderated by Curtis Brainard of Scientific American.

Advocating for Climate Justice

Actor and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner spoke with Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey about their work in advocating for climate justice. Steiner stated that the UN Climate Action Summit had been incredibly successful, featuring many heads of state and CEOs who made commitments to do more to combat climate change. He especially thanked the youth for putting a spotlight on this crucial issue. Coster-Waldau stressed the importance of not pointing fingers and instead recognizing that the world is full of social inequalities. On his travels, the most recent to Peru, he noted that both the young and old population are committed to bettering the world. Steiner added that the Amazon is the largest water pump on the planet and that it is important to take good care of a forest the world desperately depends on.

Sustainable Fashion

Colleen Vien, Sustainability Manager of Timberland, said the company wanted to inspire and equip the world to make it better, committing to 100% renewable energy by 2025. Timberland is pledging to plant 50 million trees over the next five years, working closely with the Great Green Wall project in the Sahel region in Africa. Tolu Olubunmi, manager of the UN’s ActNow climate action campaign, noted that everything we do affects the climate and that therefore it was important to engage individuals in a climate action campaign. In the conversation with Tricia Cary of the Lenzing Group, moderated by Kerry Bannigan, founder of Conscious Fashion Campaign, the panelists agreed that fashion is a critically important place where an individual has a lot of power and that fashion needs to lead the change because of its large climate impact.

Science for Achieving Sustainable Development: Findings from a Global Report on SDGs

In a discussion moderated by Noma Bolani of SABC, Katherine Richardson, Professor of Biological Oceanography, emphasized that humans get rich by using the Earth’s resources, and that there is not enough to go around. We need to find new ways to share the Earth’s resources, she said. Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, Professor and Associate Director of the Cornell Population Center, stated that policies needed to be based on science and that the quality of science needed to be improved to see how the Sustainable Development Goals interact. Minimizing the trade-offs and maximizing synergies was one the objectives.