What to Watch at UN General Assembly 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018 - 12:37 pm
Natalie Ross

This month, thousands of representatives from governments, civil society, and the corporate sector will come together in New York for the 73rd annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Alongside the high-level conversations  within the UN, hundreds of side-events will address the world’s progress towards achieving the ambitious targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ending poverty for all, ensuring gender equality and reducing inequality within and amongst countries.

As we prepare to head to New York, here are three topics we’re watching at UNGA this year:  

  1. A Focus on Health – This year, world leaders are focusing on several health issues during UNGA. This includes a high-level UN meeting on tuberculosis on Wednesday September 26th and a day-long review of progress towards non-communicable disease (NCD) targets within the SDGs. Alongside these official talks, a plethora of side events will focus on health related topics, highlighting progress but also flagging concerns about where the world may not be on track to reach critical health-related SDG targets.

    How to Engage: The Global Health Council has published a comprehensive calendar of health-related side events at UNGA this year, which include a number of philanthropy-sponsored convenings.

  2. A Focus on Climate – For the second time, Climate Week NYC overlaps with UNGA, taking place from September 24th – 30th. The 10th annual event brings leaders from around the globe to New York to discuss key climate issues, ranging from the future of energy to climate policy and investment's impact on climate. Bloomberg Philanthropies is also holding its second annual Global Business Forum on September 26, which will bring together 50 heads of state to discuss how to strengthen both global trade and economic alliances, as well as the One Planet Summit in the afternoon, focused on the Global Call for Climate Action. Following the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in mid-September, where foundations announced $4B in new commitments towards climate programs globally, it’s clear that climate is on the minds of many leaders heading to New York for UNGA 2018.

    How to Engage: Climate Week NYC includes more than 100 climate events, looking both locally at work in cities across the US and globally.

  3. A Focus on Partnerships – In order to achieve the ambitious goals within the SDGs, partnerships across sectors are critical. Unlike the Millenium Development Goals, which focused on national government leadership, the SDGs were created with inclusive input and engagement across sectors. And instead of focusing on only eight goals and sectors, the 17 goals within the SDGs represent an integrated approach to development globally that “leaves no one behind.” This means the work of most foundations, civil society organizations, and even businesses touch the targets within the SDGs in some way.

    To facilitate partnership conversations across sectors, several platforms have been launched or expanded since 2015, which explore how different actors drive progress on the global goals during UNGA. This year, these include the Concordia Summit, the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, and the Gates Foundation's Goalkeepers event, among others. To continue building momentum towards achieving the SDGs, financing solutions for global challenges is critical, and the growth of engagement from the private sector and philanthropy represent an opportunity for even larger impact in the future.

    How to Engage: At the Council, we are maintaining a calendar of UNGA side events hosted by or featuring foundation leaders, to help you determine how best to connect with others in New York later this month.

Beyond these three themes, there is also a high-level UN plenary on global peace, celebrating the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela; side-events focused on the importance of data in the measuring progress on the SDGs; and several convenings focused on women and girls.

The Council staff will be in New York later this month to attend and speak at numerous UNGA-related events. We’ll be blogging about these trends and more, including the relevance of UNGA to corporate philanthropy, momentum around the SDGs, and how philanthropy is partnering across sectors to address complex global challenges impacting communities around the world. 


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