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Looking beyond Promises of 2030 Agenda, Global Festival Participants Commit to Concrete Action for Sustainable Development Goals

The third edition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Global Festival of Action wrapped up at the weekend, completing three days of inspirational exchanges, learning and co-creation by more than 1,700 participants from all over the world.

Once again organized by the United Nations SDG Action Campaign, the Global Festival pushed for accelerated action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Activists and high-level participants advocated for change and committed to concrete action, as the 10-year countdown to the 2030 target date for the Goals approaches in 2020.

The Festival was well-timed in the run-up to the high-level political forum, to take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York in July, when voluntary national reviews by more than 45 countries will focus on climate, inequality, peace, jobs and education.  Some countries shared their successes, challenges and lessons learned at the Festival.  Cristina Gallach, Spain’s High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, laid out how Governments can use the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for political action, emphasizing that leadership, organization and mobilization are key to building alliances with the full spectrum of civil society.  On the local level, the City of Milan’s Vice‑Mayor Anna Scavuzzo and Enrico Giovannini, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Security, expressed their commitment to prepare their first voluntary local review, taking citizens’ feedback into account.

Also featuring at the Festival was a preview of an Augmented Reality campaign by the United Nations, inviting everyone to start a butterfly effect to catalyse action for the Sustainable Development Goals.  “This campaign underscores the essence of the SDGs:  ambition, innovation, positivity and inclusion,” said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in a recorded video message.  #IAMSDG invites people everywhere to make their support of the Goals visible whilst inspiring others, showing that individual action can have a transformative impact.  By choosing the wings of their choice, people will start a butterfly effect for the causes they support.  The full tool‑kit and campaign will be revealed soon; a beta site can be found at www.iamsdg.org.

Climate was front and centre at the Festival, including discussions on deforestation, extreme weather, climate challenges and solutions.  The United Nations climate action campaign, ActNow, using artificial intelligence to inspire individual action, was recognized at the SDG Action Awards.  And a new initiative, #SummerOfSolutions, calling on young people to create innovative tech-based solutions for global challenges, was announced at the Festival.  “This generation is one that is more involved in the climate crisis than ever before,” noted Yassamin Ansari, Principal Adviser for Mission 2020 and a member of the Secretary‑General’s Climate Action Summit team.  “Together, outrage and optimism can be a powerful combination for action.”  #SummerOfSolutions is organized by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in partnership with United Nations Technology and Innovation Labs and the United Nations Development Programme.

Another new initiative offers young innovators recognition, resources and funding to scale up their projects for the Sustainable Development Goals.  Announcing the project was Christine Albrecht, Chief Strategy Officer for Junior Chamber International, in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.  Applications can be submitted until 1 June at https://sdsn-youth.typeform.com/to/LHWXn2.

Mobile journalism was a hot topic during World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, with Yusuf Omar, co-founder of Hashtag Your Story, speaking about digital storytelling and giving examples of how citizen action at the grass‑roots level can spark true change in the world.  “We are on the brink of another moment, a climate moment,” he said.  “This is not a future projection of what could happen — it is happening right now.”

The overarching theme of the Festival was moving from raising awareness to action on the Sustainable Development Goals, with engagement by citizens as an essential driver.  Among those winning recognition at the SDG Action Awards were innovative citizen-driven projects, such as Solar Mamas, which empowers women by teaching them the skills to build solar panels, and the “A White Dress Doesn’t Cover Rape” movement, which, in just two years, managed to repeal a discriminatory law in Lebanon.  For a closer look at the winners, please visit https://sdgactionawards.org/.

Female participants, as well as para‑athletes and persons with disabilities also took centre stage — among them was Eddie Ndopu, Special Adviser for Impact and Corporate Sustainability at RTW Investments and soon‑to‑be‑appointed Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.  “We are not just the beneficiaries of this Agenda, we are the leaders of this Agenda,” Mr. Ndopu said.  “To give credence to the notion of leaving no one behind requires us to move from the back of the line to the front so we can lead.”

Closing the Festival, Marina Ponti, Global Director ad interim for the United Nations SDG Action Campaign, said:  “Let’s nurture the energy we felt here knowing that the real work starts when we go back home.”  She added:  “Disruptive change does not happen in meetings — not even at our Festival — but we can use these meetings to be inspired, to raise the ambitions and to connect with others knowing that we are not alone in this quest.”

Media package, videos and photos are available at https://trello.com/b/PXi0v4a2/ sdgglobalfest-2019.

For more information, please contact Marta Rojas, UN SDG Action Campaign, at email:  marta.rojas@undp.org, tel.:  +49 228 8152 683; Martin Samaan, UN Department of Global Communications, at email:  samaanM@un.org, tel.:  +1 917 868 0584; and Arne Molfenter, UN Department of Global Communications, at email:  molfenter@un.org,  tel.:  +49 228 815 2773.

For information media. Not an official record.