From 25 to 27 August 2015, the 2015 NGO Conference at the United Nations was held at UN Headquarters in New York City. The event celebrated the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and its longstanding relationship with civil society. It was formally endorsed by the Permanent Missions of Canada, Denmark, Republic of Korea, Sao Tome and Principe Suriname, and Ukraine. It also had the endorsement of the newly instated Under Secretary General for the Department of Public Relations, Ms. Cristina Gallach. The program was created and led by Patrick Sciarratta,
Ms. Gallach, and Ambassadors Toriello (Sao Tome and Principe), Rishchynski (Canada), Petersen (Denmark), MacDonald (Suriname), Sergeyev (Ukraine), Garcia (formerly, El Salvador), Oh Joon and Hahn (both from Republic of Korea) addressed the large gathering of delegates. Other notable speakers included the incoming President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. US Secretary of State John Kerry; Her Excellency and Deputy Executive Director of UNWOMEN, Ms. Lakshmi Puri; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; the Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the SDGs, Amina J. Mohammed; current and former Chairs of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, Bruce Knotts and Jeffery Huffines; along with many NGO leaders from the global UN family.
The program was developed in large part through the tireless efforts of Mr. Ihor Dlaboha, the Events Manager and with the far-reaching personal contacts and leadership of Ms. Margo Lazaro, Co-Chair of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, as well as with advice and technical support from Ms. Tami Kesselman, Mr. Issac Humphrie, and a host of interns and volunteers who made the actual event a resounding success.
Commencing the program was the famous Chinese pop singer, Ms. Chen Lin; later, Ravi Kakara (UNWOMEN), Ramu Damodoran (UN DPI), and Dr. Xiangang Guo (President of the World Academy of Development Sciences) led panels during the Opening event.
Honorees during the “Honoring the Past” ceremonies included Dr. DeLois Blakely (Queen Mother of Harlem) – Honored by H. E. Mr. Koki Muli Grignon of the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the UN; Amir Dossal – Honored by Laura Turner (daughter of Mr. Ted Turner); and Peggy Kerry – Honored by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Bruce Knotts delivered a poignant tribute to his long time friend and mentor, Sr. Joan Kirby, a friend to so many in the UNs NGO community. Sr. Joan could not attend due to her grave illness. The next day, Mr. Knotts went to her home and read the recognition to her, on her deathbed, as Ms. Kerry presented her with the recognition award, honoring her. It was a moving final tribute to a great woman and member of civil society at the UN.
The second day featured experts who addressed the soon-to-be formally adopted Sustainable Development Goals – but uniquely, from the NGOs point of view. “What lessons learned, over fifteen years of MDG work in the field” could be adapted by the SDGs? How will civil society actualize the new SDGs on the ground, after the broad outlines are presented to them? Ms. Lazaro was instrumental in guiding and leading those discussions as a more than capable moderator. A special treat introduced to the conference by Margo was the ‘Oculus’ experience, which enabled delegates to experience a Syrian refugee camp and an Ebola hospital in full 3-D, virtual reality.
Mr. Sciarratta assumed the moderator’s role for the final day: “Imagining the Future.” Patrick used his own transition, from the NGO for which he led for the past twenty-two years to a new diplomatic role at the UN, to discuss how ageing leaders within civil society owe it to their NGOs, their movements, and themselves, to transition out of their current roles by encouraging younger activists to assume leadership of their organizations. An intergenerational approach to management training was noted by speakers including John Rutherford Sydel (Ted Turner’s grandson), Tami Kesselman, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, the well-respected model and leader in the field of sustainable fashion, Ms. Camilla Barungi, and many others.
The event closed with Bobby Kennedy, Jr.’s dramatic documentary, “Trace Amounts,” highlighting the increase in autism after the inclusion of mercury in vaccines given to children. Hardly ‘anti-vac,’ it encouraged a return to vaccinations without mercury, which was added to increase shelf life but seems to correlate precisely to autism’s high rise in children receiving vaccinations today.
While there is great enthusiasm for the upcoming DPI Conference set for May in the Republic of Korea, there is also a good deal of interest in a second NGO Conference at the UN in August, for those not be able to attend the Asia conference, or wish to report back on it and discuss its outcomes. For further information, or to learn about plans for a second NGO and Mission-led
conference at UN Headquarters next August, contact Mr. Ihor Dlaboha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article compiled by the 2015 NGO Conference at the UN leadership team