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14 March 2019
With Renewed Vigor: Highlights from the 2019 Global Engagement Summit
By Andrew B. Doll, Managing Director of Programs and Membership

IMG_1207-2The United Nations Association of the USA is the country’s leading grassroots advocacy movement in the United States with over 20,000 members spread across over 200 chapters.  Their members are committed to global engagement and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in their local communities. This year’s Summit marked a record participation and commitment to building a strong US-UN partnership.

This year, under the banner of “Shared Partnerships – Shared Responsibilities”, previously known as “Members Day,” the Global Engagement Summit brought together over 1500 dedicated UN Advocates and over 100 universities in the United Nations General Assembly Hall to help strengthen our mission and resolve through high level keynote remarks and panel discussions on topics such as humanitarian response to the crisis in Yemen, the UN and partners on the ground, and the affect of local leadership on the SDGs.

As one of the largest chapters of UNA-USA, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) made a strong showing with over 50 IMG_2945leaders from across the generations, including Past-Presidents, staff, program assistants,  graduate fellows, and committee leaders.  Originally, from Japan and currently studying Education at the George Washington University, UNA-NCA Program Assistant, Aika Okishige, called the experience, “One of the most memorable experiences I have had in my life.”

Convening in the General Assembly Hall, in the seats of diplomats and world leaders, can be a surreal experience.  “Although I knew in advance that I would be attending the 2019 Global Engagement Summit,” said UNA-NCA Program Assistant Thomas Oggier, “I did not really process that fact until I was standing in the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The realization of the fact that I was in the focal point of the world’s leading multilateral institution, was truly an awe inspiring moment.”

The summit began with one of the most anticipated and inspiring moments as UN Secretary-General António Guterres walked onto the floor of the General Assembly Hall to meet, shake hands, and take photos with participants before his keynote address.  A highly respected, yet casual and approachable leader, the Secretary-General welcomed participants with a call for bolder climate action.  Today, I am asking for your help in sounding the alarm and highlighting the solutions,” asking all to make the topic trend via #ClimateAction.

Climate Action and change were recurring themes during the summit, not only during the plenaries, but also throughout the breakout sessions.  These sessions provided “an extraordinary opportunity because it connects you with inspiring speakers from all over the world,” said Program Assistant Marietta deJulio-Burns, who attended the Action Track session “Shared Action for Human rights: The UN and Partners on the Ground” featuring H.E. Mr. Milenko E. Skoknic Tapia, Permanent Representative of Chile to the UN, and Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs at the Trevor Project.  Such diversity of panelists truly provided an enriching experience by covering a wide range of issues within a limited time. Other panel topics IMG_1154included “Cities and the Sustainable Development Goals” moderated by former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNA-NCA Arthur W. Johnson Leadership Award recipient, Gillian Sorensen; as well as “Conflict Resolution and Humanitarian Response: Yemen,” and “Planet Earth: Partnering for Urgent Climate Action.”  Click on the session titles to watch the livestream of the Summit, or click hereto view other sessions.

Special sessions took place at lunchtime, including a workshop about the UN Universal Periodic Review Process and opportunities to engage members in domestic consultations this fall; and a session at the U.S. Mission to the UN to learn about careers in the Foreign Service. The Summit was followed by a happy hour jointly hosted by the Young Professionals from the Southern New York Division and UNA-NCA.

The Global Engagement Summit was an opportunity for UNA members – regardless of chapter – to recharge our batteries and be reminded of the importance of our work. But, it can’t end there.  With renewed vigor, the take away from the Summit must be to engage with our peers, our communities, and our leaders to advocate for sustainable policies and actions.  Learn what you can do with the Global Engagement Summit Action Guide.