Issue Track: Our Planet, Our Responsibility

The UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit was held on February 23, 2018 at the international peace headquarters of the world, the hot spot for conversation; the United Nations building in the fittingly diverse New York City. Beginning the day promptly at 9:00 a.m., we were presented with speeches and insights from various representatives and advocates related to the United Nations including: the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, Munira Khalif, Her Excellency, Amina J. Mohammed Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Ambassador Kelley Eckels Currie, of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to name a few. Each expressing their advocacy and appreciation for the U.N., alongside promoting their passions and focal points of interest in regards to the implementations of these interests in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goals. A truly stirring way to start off the day, from the energy of the speakers’ passions, to the personal thoughts inevitably swarming my mind; being in the U.N. General Assembly Hall, what happens in this room, what countries’ seat I was sitting in, and the potential of what could happen here impacting our lives on the most extensive magnitude to the most local.

Following the Opening Plenary, hundreds of GenUN members, and aspiring diplomatic minds branched off into one of two “breakout sessions” held either in the U.N. General Assembly Hall or an alternative conference room. Each session featured an ‘action track’ and an ‘issue track’ discussion you could choose to attend within the four sessions throughout the day. The ‘action track’ tended to feature prominent figures and representatives of organizations worldwide, respective to the affair it was combating with focus on what is being done to eradicate or at least alleviate the problem whilst acknowledging the origin of the issue itself and how it has affected the international

community. The ‘issue track’ focused primarily on a current problem that has worldwide detriment and factors we can try to decrease within our local communities, along with insight as to how to do so. Each route placed substantial emphasis on its correlation to the Sustainable Development Goals, and concentrated its premise of alleviation and implementing these goals in communities. Prior to my arrival to the Global Engagement Summit, I was incredibly eager to engage in informative discussions about the most pressing issues in today's world. Additionally, I was greatly passionate about having the opportunity to participate with other students across the country who had the same drive to make change as myself. I highly anticipated inspiring speeches from our world’s leaders on how to ultimately improve the world we reside in. Upon my arrival to the Global Engagement Summit, I was surprised to discover that it aligned almost perfectly with my expectations. While first arriving to the Summit, I quickly observed the vast amount of participants who were just as eager as myself to immerse themselves into obtaining knowledge and discussing the most pressing issues we face today. It also came to my surprise that most of those who attended were university students rather than high schoolers, but that only propelled my confidence for engaging myself within the events of the Summit. Throughout my stay in the UN General Assembly, I listened with marvel as I was in the presence of leaders such the not previously mentioned Miroslav Lajčák, President of UN General Assembly. Additionally, I observed compelling panel discussions which allowed listeners to participate and inquire panelists about our world’s most prevalent issues.

For our first breakout session we decided to attend the ‘issue track’ entitled “Our Planet, Our Responsibility”. The purpose of this presentation was to not only reiterate how climate change is a global challenge unweary of borders but also how collaboration between the United Nations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and public-private partnerships is taking place.

At the presentation, we were introduced to several panelists including Jamil Ahmad, Deputy Director and Head if Intergovernmental Affairs, UN Environment, and Lia

Cairone, Senior Policy Advisor at New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. Also Megan Boone, Environmental advocate and actress from the hit series “The Blacklist” and Sony’s “Picture This” competition judge. Moreover, the Moderator of this inriging panel was Zephanii Smith, Liaison to the UN, UNA-USA National Council, and NGO SustainUS, Inc. The discussion began with an insight of the importance of climate change to the moderator after her experience of how the oceans have changed causing displacement of people and animals in California. Her point hovering how each panelist was passionate on this issue for their own reasons and are restlessly learning and informing the public on the problem.

Following this, Cairone noted that her position has allowed her to explore the scale of problems and solutions concluding that to alleviate this issue mass measure must be taken in the aspects of how we use electricity and transportation. Not lessening the usage, but the resources of power and energy behind fueling these conveniences. Through collaboration on policy with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Cairone was fluid with explaining the causes, effects, and solutions being discussed and acted upon in New York City. Some solutions in the works proposed included: laws on new infrastructure to be energy efficient and eco-friendly reflecting the goals and premises of policy, reports on energy consumption by 2020, and mandates of energy usage improvements on older existing buildings that are currently astonishingly utilizing enough energy to fuel 900,000 cars. Boone elaborated on the concept of valuing natural capital to a greater extent which she focuses most on in her studies. Moreover, Ahmed emphasized the importance of youth empowerment, the extent of how we use our knowledge on this issue [proclaiming we aren’t using it enough], and questioning what we are doing versus what we could be doing. He also acknowledged his conspiracy of how the implementation of the SDG’s and the involvement of the United States in the Paris Treaty is contradictory and causing political division within our country on the issue of climate change only to detract from solving the problem efficiently. Attending this panel discussion made myself greatly aware of the prevalence and repercussions of climate change on our world. As quoted by Megan Boone, the noticeable consequences of climate change are considered “an awakening of our

species,” and this panel discussion had encouraged myself to put towards even greater effort in combating the effects of climate change as a result of human actions. Having attended this aforementioned panel, I obtained great insight on steps I can take in my own life to lead the way for change regarding the effects of a human-induced drastic environmental shift on our planet. Additionally, I learned how world leaders, such as Lia Cairone, were tackling the matters regarding climate change and how we as humans can reduce our effects on the environment. I found it greatly reassuring to know that world leaders were aware and taking actions on this environmental crisis rather than simply ignoring it.

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