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sustainable development at the un

Joan Lurie Goldberg, one of ICJW's representatives at the UN in New York, reports on UN activities concerning  Sustainable Development.


The September meeting of the Sustainable Development Committee addressed “The Global Impact of Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development”. Prior to the speakers, the Chair of the Sustainable Development Committee emphasized the high interest, on the part of the President of the General Assembly, in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Committee will be emphasizing the SDGs and the various partnerships and coalitions needed to achieve them.

Elliott Harris, Director of the NY Office of UNEP  - the United Nations Environmental Program. (You may recall that Elliott was a very well received speaker at our New York Exec Meeting.)

UNEP is quite small so it is very important for them to partner across official lines. This can be challenging! There are different types of relationships needed to achieve the SDGs – these include government/commercial sector/civil society partnerships. Governments are accountable to their citizens; commercial entities to their stock holders. This dichotomy can cause difficulty which must be overcome to progress. We will not succeed without the private sector.

The worldwide agenda must change now! No longer can we assume problems will be solved by the rich (North) helping the poor (South). The nations of the South have experience in many areas and can help the North with implementation in many aspects of sustainability.
Bottom line: partnerships can be difficult but are more necessary than ever.
Caleb Otto, Permanent Representative of Palau to the UNC concerning the already devastating effects of climate change on his island nation, Ambassador Palau said his people try to “preserve the best and improve the rest”.

Examples of partnership include cooperation with Japan on Solid Waste Management. Palau is also undertaking a National Marine Initiative to create a sanctuary where fish will be preserved and replenished and tourism will be promoted by keeping the ocean healthy

Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNTAD) in the New York Office of the Secretary General 

The buy in of the SDGs far exceeds the buy in of the preceding MDGs. The role of UNTAD includes helping to close the trillion dollar gap – i.e. raising the money needed for developing countries to be able to effect the SDGs. She observes that small and medium sized companies aligned with the SDGs succeed better.

Of special interest were the presentations by Maria Otero of the Women’s Venture Fund and Emily McGlone of Peace Boat.

Otero’s Fund offers women loans to start entrepreneurial ventures and nurture them into successful businesses. This helps the communities from which the women come by providing jobs and stability. She is very impressive and has been successful at this for over 20 years.

Watch out for the Peace Boat which travels to over 20 countries every three months. It is based in Japan where it started in 1983. They work on SD Goal 15, Environmental Sustainability, and Goal 14, Marine Conservation. The main purpose of this venture is education. Many young people live on the boat and attend lectures etc. The boat will dock in Manhattan October 20 for a few days. The SDGs are painted on the side of the boat to emphasize the commitment to sustainability!

The 2016 Marrakech Climate Change Paper has been updated by the CSD Committee and submitted to the governments attending the Marrakech Conference. This is the updated Climate Change Paper, first submitted in Copenhagen in 2009

The NGO Committee on the Status of Women held its October meeting on the subject of “Sustainable Cities and follow up to Habitat III”

The moderator, Carol Bangura introduced the meeting by giving some background on Habitat III, the UN Housing and Urban Sustainable Development conference held in Ecuador from 17 to 20 October, 2016. It was successful in that the participants agreed to renewed political commitment for sustainable cities.

Soon Young Yoon of WEDO was the first speaker and she had just returned from Habitat III. We must have sustainable cities because by 2050 more than 60% of all women will live in cities. In parts of Africa and Asia, this represents a 90% increase from present levels. Cities will determine the future of the world. 70% of greenhouse gas emissions are from cities.

At the Women’s Assembly held in Quito just before Habitat III themes included economic empowerment of women and the need for safe cities in which women can travel, work and thrive in the face of climate change and environmental issues. Lots of good ideas but many challenges including lack of data on women in cities, lack of budget, gender bias in city hiring. 

There is progress – e.g. the United Cities and local Government Gender Committee, an international entity chaired by Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. A document called “The City We Need” describes 10 principles of World Urban Campaign. Their so-called elevator pitch: Use CEDAW to guide the fulfillment of SDG 11. There must be an end to violence in cities; there is no path to walkable and transit friendly cities if women do not feel safe.

Azedeh Khalili the founding Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity, NYC. She was appointed by Mayor DeBlasio seven months ago. Her mandate is to bring gender equity to all NYC institutions and to make government accountable for creating good outcomes for women. Currently, 61% of senior leadership in NYC government are women.

Her priorities:
  • Economic mobility and opportunity
  • Public safety for women and girls
  • Access to health care and reproductive justice
  • Pay equity and gender bias among 260,000 city workers. She has a strategy to close the pay gap and will, hopefully, with the mayor’s approval, announce it soon.
She has made NYC the first American city to join UN Women and it is also on target to become a City for CEDAW.