Home :: News & Events :: News :: UNA-NCA Fellowship 2018 SDG and Development
12 February 2018
UNA-NCA Fellowship 2018 SDG and Development
By Grace Maliska, UNA-NCA Graduate Fellow


On February 9th, the UNA-NCA Fellowship met at George Washington University to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals with five distinguished speakers.

  • Steve Mosley, UNA-NCA President
  • Nancy Donaldson, former ILO Director
  • Asma Lateef, Bread for the World Institute Director
  • Sam Worthington, Interaction CEO
  • Yesim Oruc, UNDP Deputy Director, Washington DC office

Steve Mosley, the UNA- NCA President, set the stage with an overview of his extensive knowledge on UN development. Mosley explained that when he started working with the UN in the 1960’s, development was then driven by Cold War mentality in which nationalistic self-interest superseded good and thoughtful development efforts. Being an entity comprised of nation-states, the UN encountered major challenge from the legacy of colonialism. Citing Charter Chapters IX and X on the economic and social council, Mosley indicated that he does not believe that, on the outset, the UN had any idea of what they were getting themselves into; rather, the intention of development in the beginning referred to the reconstruction of Europe after WWII. However, as the UN was founded to attend to peace and security of the world, it is only natural that the UN is now the vanguard for development. Today, that leadership is best showcased through the Goals, both Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).  “The key to accomplishing anything is in doing it together,” Mosley stated. Due to the construction of the UN being an agreement of 192 member states, it is a radical fact that these entities can agree “that the power and capacity of each country can be beneficial for each of these goals.” This, he pointed out, is both the strength and the weakness of development and the Goals for the Westphalian-logic underbelly of the UN can both greatly enhance, or halt, progress. To help solve this issue of nationalism’s potential to undercut global peace and security, the session focused on both the intersectionality of the Goals and the importance of cross-cutting efforts. With these ideas in mind, Mosley introduced the first two speakers who addressed UN development work.

Capture_2
Steve Mosley introducing the Sustainable Development Goals and Speakers

Yesim Oruc, Deputy Director for the UNDP Washington DC office, brought to the room a wealth of experience. With 20+ years at the UNDP, including work in Turkey, Kosovo, Romania, Albania, and New York, she began by expressing her great respect for UNA as “wind in the sails for SDG.” The UNDP upholds the Goals with over 70,000+ employees world-wide working on the ever-interrelated three pillars of the UNDP: humanitarianism, peace keeping, and development. As one of the foremost entities of the General Assembly, UNDP has made the SDG their full-time focus. Oruc proudly stated that in the past 2 years UNDP has helped create 20 million jobs, which is just one example of the importance of the UNDP for SDG success. Another task of UNPD was the Future We Want ballot, which are critiques and responses to the failures and successes of the MDG. The Goals have found, and will continue to find, success largely due to the work of the UNDP to uniquely align the SDGs for each nation; this is done by focusing on the interlinkage of the goals themselves and working with governments and local authorities to establish good institutions within citizen-focused functional governance. Ultimately, Oruc made a point to explain that the “SDG are not the UN goals, they are the people’s development goals” and it is in the hands of each person and each nation-state to see the success of these Goals come to life.


Yesim Oruc presenting on the UNDP

Next, Nancy Donaldson, Senior Advisor of UNA and former director of the International Labor Organization Washington Chapter, addressed the importance and challenges the UN faces. “The hardest problems in the world end up at the doorstep of the UN,” but it is the duty of the UN, and the ILO, to foster and instigate action on “what common goals will be.” Donaldson started with a historical overview of the ILO, explainging that the organization one of the oldest entities of the UN, even predating the organization being born out of the Treaty of Versailles. Focused on rights-based development, the ILO strives to ensure that decent work is related to all development and rights, including social protection, employment, worker’s agency, and social dialogues. She emphasized that the ILO helps change laws that “are very real and on the ground” because the “UN isn’t an academic exercise. We either need to tackle these problems together or things are going to get much worse.” She went on to emphasis this point in that only through collaboration will these problems be approached and solved. In closing the first-half of the session, Donaldson addressed the Fellows directly asking that we “please try to work with the UN…you can’t just study it and say, ‘I know what the UN is.’” Donaldson suggested that we are in unique position to do so for as Fellows with mentors and access to documents such as the ODI report, we have the tools to “be a part of society and contribute… and learn new and powerful ways on how to think in a globalized world.” 

Capture
Nancy Donaldson presenting on the ILO

Capture_4
Nancy Donaldson and Yesmin Oruc discussing the Fellows' questions

Thus energized, the Fellows posed a few questions to Donaldson and Oruc. To the challenge of nations understanding laws about child labor as punishment, to which they send children who used to (unlawfully) work to prison instead of school, Donaldson answered that the focus on nation-internal social dialogue can be very productive, and the UN is increasingly working on this. Child labor equating to punishment reveals an ignorant approach for it is “not about name and shame, but about becoming a member of the world community in basic rights.” Another question was posed about how government decisions get balanced with UN decisions, to which Oruc stated that it is the government’s responsibility to address the goals within and for themselves; the Goals are not laws, they are aspirations. She emphasized that this fact only serves to strengthen partnerships with nations because it gives the nations the voice and agency to apply these aspirations within their means by focusing on what is most important to that nation. The UN is only there as a guiding agency to keep the Goals balanced when a nation is focusing on specific goals for the UNDP “cannot hold anyone accountable for how they are developing, but we can help them in establishing systems to have the citizens hold nations accountable for their developments.”


With the topic of UN development work sufficiently established, the second half of the session focused on Goal #17: partnerships for the goals. 

Sam Worthington, CEO of Interaction, spoke about how NGOs and other entities gain a seat at the UN table of influence and implementation. He began on a positive note by stating that “the world has never seen better improvements to human welfare and human well-being in human history ever, across all indicators, as we do now” and the UN Goals have greatly helped with this. The MDGs accelerated humanity’s welfare, and the SDGs are framing progress for how to continue progressing. The most important focus, he made a point to note, is the shift from top-down development approaches in the MDG to a focus on local, and inclusive, non-state and local actors working with governmental entities in the SDG. The non-governmental actors have unique ability to function within conflict zones, which remains one of the main reasons why development is halted. He emphasized that NGO’s and other entities “do not ignore sovereignty, we work with sovereignty” to foster development and embolden civil society. Often functioning behind-the-scenes for governments and in conflicts, these organizations are working to keep open the seemingly shrinking civil society. Although working in local areas, these entities are truly global reaching and interconnected for “without the UN framework, the NGOs across the world would be scattered and have no purpose.”

Finally, Asma Lateef, Director of Bread for the World Institute, a US-based anti-hunger educational organization, spoke about the importance of the SDG as a dialogue within the domestic sphere. Focusing on US challenges, Lateef noted the significance of dignity and inclusion that the SDG foster. Within the USA, it can be difficult for such anti-hunger organizations to keep the momentum going for the ideology of the country can often ignore structural issues. SDG #2 – zero hunger – helped unlock the conversation to which bottom-up approaches are being fostered. For example, New York City, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and San Jose have all adopted an SDG-style development platform for their cities, plus there exists a data project focusing on US factors of the Goals (Measure of America) and a political entity to influence elections (Jeffrey Sach’s America’s Goals for 2030). Together, these programs, ideas, and dialogues indicate a positive way forward not only for the US, but the world.


Finally, Asma Lateef, Director of Bread for the World Institute, a US-based anti-hunger educational organization, spoke about the importance of the SDG as a dialogue within the domestic sphere. Focusing on US challenges, Lateef noted the significance of dignity and inclusion that the SDG foster. Within the USA, it can be difficult for such anti-hunger organizations to keep the momentum going for the ideology of the country can often ignore structural issues. SDG #2 – zero hunger – helped unlock the conversation to which bottom-up approaches are being fostered. For example, New York City, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and San Jose have all adopted an SDG-style development platform for their cities, plus there exists a data project focusing on US factors of the Goals (Measure of America) and a political entity to influence elections (Jeffrey Sach’s America’s Goals for 2030). Together, these programs, ideas, and dialogues indicate a positive way forward not only for the US, but the world.

The day wrapped up with some questions about logistics, climate change, and the US suspicions of the UN, of which there was not enough time to sufficiently answer each. However, the discussion space for the Fellows will prove to be a fruitful area to dissect these inquiries, air ideas, and further the conversation. For, from here, it is time to involve ourselves more deeply with the United Nations, not to simply study it, for the world needs our minds and hard work to overcome the growing and evolving challenges of our time.

 

UNA-NCA on Twitter