UNA-USA Participates in the UN Civil Society Conference

UNA-USA representatives recently convened in Salt Lake City, Utah,  August 26–28th,for the 68th Annual UN Civil Society Conference, themed ”Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities.”

The conference began with a series of opening remarks from UN and Utah leaders, student activists, cultural performances, and university and non-profit leaders. During her stage moment, UNA-USA’s Executive Director Rachel Pittman noted the importance of diversity and inclusion, “We all come from different backgrounds and we need all of their voices at the table to build inclusive and sustainable cities and communities.” This diversity of backgrounds was certainly represented in the audience, with over 5,000 attendees, half of whom were women and nearly 40% were young adults or students under the age of 32.

UNA-USA leadership was critical to making the UN conference a reality in Utah. UNA-USA’s Senior Director of Education Programs and Learning Troy Wolfe served on the UN Civil Society Conference Planning Committee and outreach team. Hannah Olsen, UNA-Weber State president, participated in the Utah-based youth planning committee. And Michael Scott Peters, a Utah native and 2018-2019 U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, played a large role in building excitement and interest in the conference among American youth. “As a Utahn, I was so excited to welcome the United Nations to Salt Lake City last month. This marked the first time the conference has ever taken place in a U.S. city aside from New York. We welcomed thousands of visitors from all over the world to discuss global issues that are equally important right here at home: sustainable cities, clean energy, efficient public transportation, and much more.”

Over the past year, Michael demonstrated the powerful voice that young people can have at the UN through his role: “As the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, my role was to connect young people to the UN. I met with hundreds of young people in high schools, on college campuses, and at community events across the globe to teach them to think globally and act locally. As a citizen of Utah, I couldn’t be happier to see this concept come to life in my own community.”  The youth leadership at the conference led to important conversations around climate and sustainability (read the Youth Climate Compact here.) UNA-USA also showcased the leadership of its youth members through a youth-led workshop on “Youth Mobilization for the SDGs through Service, Advocacy, and Education.” Attendees developed an action plan worksheet to identify key strategies around the following categories: 1) Education in the classroom to spread awareness of the goals; 2) Community service as an outlet to serve as local leaders for the Global Goals; and 3) Advocacy connecting the grassroots leaders to their elected officials.

UNA-USA community chapters from San Diego, Pasadena, Whittier, East Bay, Washington, D.C. and Salt Lake City also had a strong presence at the conference through workshops, exhibit hall tables, and extracurricular activities like the production of “The Post Office” play, hosted by UNA-Utah. The 55-minute production was part of an impressive civic collaboration, bringing together Plan-B Theatre, the Granite School District, Gandhi Alliance for Peace and the UNA-Utah. All of the proceeds benefited Adopt-A-Future, providing direct support for refugee education at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

Involve your chapter in supporting the goals of the 68th Civil Society Conference, by reviewing the Outcome Statement and Youth Climate Compact. To learn more about the outcomes of the conference, watch this Press Conference featuring Maher Nasser, Director, Outreach Division, UN Department of Global Communications; Jackie Biskupski, Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah (via phone); Fannie Munlin, Chair of the NGO Executive Committee; Maruxa Cardama, Chair of the 68th UN Civil Society Conference (via phone); Rebecca Hardenbrook, Co-chair for the Conference Youth Planning Sub-committee; Ali Mustafa, Co-chair of the Conference Youth Planning Sub-committee.