Spotlight on Development

I am fortunate to be in attendance at the 65th annual Department of Public Information and Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO, @UNDPINGO and #UNNGO2014) conference at the U.N. Headquarters in New York. This year’s DPI/NGO summit has decidedly focused on “the role of civil society in the post-2015 development agenda.” The millennium development goals (MDGs)—mentioned in the previous post—are an agreed-upon set of aims ranging from reducing extreme poverty by 50% to halting the threat of HIV/AIDS by the year 2015. As countries and international bodies approach this deadline, the United Nations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations have galvanized efforts to develop post-2015 initiatives to capitalize on yesterday’s efforts for tomorrow’s gains. This year’s conference provides a platform for NGOs, youth, and the United Nations to discuss key initiatives and develop plans for continued progress.

Sustainable development, human rights, climate change, and poverty eradication form the pillars of this season’s DPI/NGO summit which included opening remarks from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower). In addition to impassioned advocacy for LGBTI rights, Ambassador Power has consistently promoted the roles of peace in governance and the importance of focused policy initiatives. Both these aims were further emphasized during Ambassador Power’s opening remarks to the DPI/NGO attendees. As she said, although entrepreneurs worldwide are striving to foster progressive agendas that reflect this year’s core initiatives on sustainable development, human rights, climate change, and poverty eradication, individuals cannot hope to succeed in instances of conflict, war, or weak policy agendas. “No one has more stake in this agenda than the people’s lives it will change the most,” said Ambassador Power, and in order to affect change, we must equally work to secure peace and hone broad aims to specific initiatives.

The rights of persons with disabilities must similarly be reflected in policy discussions. More than one billion people live with disabilities worldwide; disability rights are human rights. Minorities across the globe have long recognized the spoken words of Mary Anne Diamond, Chair of the International Disabilities Alliance, who remarked, “If you’re not named, you’re not counted.” For that reason, it was an honor to hear Ms. Diamond address DPI/NGO attendees during opening remarks. Because, as she said, “equality and inclusion must be the driving principle on which the post-2015 development plan must be founded.”

Climate change, like international human rights, represents a “border-less” phenomenon that requires international collaboration(s). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that sea levels worldwide will rise 7 – 23 inches by the year 2099 (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2 February, 2007). A one-foot rise in sea level translates into a one-foot rise in flood level. The costs are exponential. Although carbon dioxide emissions are attributed to increasing ambient temperature, methane –another carbon-based compound—is a more potent greenhouse gas “mil per mil” and is released at increasing amounts from arctic areas with increasing temperature. Bottom line: Uh-oh.

Rapidly increasing global temperatures causes the ambient (i.e., environmental) release of additional—and more potent—greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide also has the the ability to form bicarbonate ions and carbonic acid in dihydrogen monoxide (water). Yes, excess atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to ocean acidification—like squeezing a giant lemon into the Atlantic. Lemon juice is not palatable and nor is ocean acidification.

The U.N. Association of Finland has streamlined ocean health and sustainable development though the Globe Shrinks initiative. Sign the petition to bring ocean health to the forefront of policy initiatives at the U.N.

The final DPI/NGO initiative, poverty, affects the soul of humanity. When an individual cannot meet their basic needs, how can they afford the time and expense of health care, education, leisure, and aid? Similarly, how can minorities denied basic rights satisfy their needs through societal fear, loathing, denial, or hate? Novelist, poet, and political activist Alice Walker poignantly addresses the loss of human capital experienced through poverty and discrimination in her seminal work “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens…” How many scholars, prime ministers, presidents, mathematicians, artists, poets, physicians, etc., has the world lost because these individuals were denied the right to fulfill their potential through poverty and discrimination? The human costs of poverty and discrimination are incalculable.


The opening session of the 65th annual DPI/NGO summit marks another transition from the MDGs to the post-2015 development plans. As with past initiatives, sustainable development, human rights, climate change, and poverty eradication must be at the forefront of global policy discussions and international collaborations. Equally important is the need to foster peace in conflict and hone policy agendas. We are the Millennial Generation and the most interconnected generation in history. We’ve got this. Right? Challenge yourself to be more eco-friendly; initiate change at home before attempting global tactics (you’re ambitious, I know); educate others on the framework of the U.N.; and never settle for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.



Be ready to get involved! Message me your ideas @USYouthObserver!