UN High Level Political Forum 2019
Education, Peace and Climate Change
New York, 25 July 2019
Amid the largest international forum on sustainable development, the Baha’i International Community (BIC) hosted a series of lively discussions on quality education, reframing peace, and climate and disaster risk reduction.
A delegation of Baha’is from Australia, Canada, Ghana, the US and Vanuatu joined the BIC during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) last week to share experiences of the worldwide Baha’i community as related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The annual UN Forum provides a platform for Member States, UN officials and civil society to review and follow up on progress made on the SDGs— a series of 17 global goals to be reached by 2030.
The BIC hosted three side events during the HLPF, each one dedicated to a particular SDG under review, and addressed a statement in the lead up to the Forum calling on the UN to reclaim the spirit of the sustainable development agenda.
Education for Rising Generations
A roundtable discussion on quality educational processes that can empower rising generations to contribute to social change brought together representatives from UNICEF, the Danish government, academics and NGOs.
“A consensus is emerging that pursuit of the right kind of education can lend coherence to a vision of sustainable development as a whole, and create the necessary conditions for the achievement of many other Sustainable Development Goals,” said Elena Toukan, a Ph.D. student in education and global development at the University of Toronto, during a side event titled Illuminating the World: Education for Individual and Collective Flourishing organized alongside the UN Major Group on Children and Youth.
“Today, we need to provide the kind of education that helps prepare young people for an unknown and unknowable future in a globally interconnected world, while responding with agility to the diversity of conditions at the local level. To do this will take the participation of all actors as protagonists in this process—from individual teachers and students, from local communities and families, and from government and leadership among them.”
Dawning Welliver, a Baha’i working with educational processes in Nashville, US spoke on moving away from educational structures that were competitive in nature to ones that empowered rising generations to contribute to lasting change.
“Achievement in academia as well as extracurricular activities depend on individual competition, while at the same time social concepts of self love and self care claim to minimize the stress of a competitive society. We accept competition as a norm, and individual achievement as an end in itself, but in what ways do those ideas hurt us?” said Ms. Welliver. “What would happen, then, if education were reframed and encouraged unity of vision, collaborative, humble learning, and systematic action? Our perceived successes and failures wouldn’t belong only to us, so our own egos are lessened, and with it, so are feelings of loneliness and despair.”
Fostering the Enabling Conditions of Peaceful and Just Societies
In order to build peaceful societies, it is vital to reexamine the way in which the international community talks and thinks about peace, explained Dr. Arash Fazli of Devi Ahilya University in India during a panel discussion co-hosted with the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC).
“The world is becoming highly interconnected through processes of globalization, urbanization, migration and technological developments that are pushing people of different identities in ever greater proximity to each other,” said Dr. Fazli on the panel alongside the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the UN and Professor Severine Autesserre of Barnard College, Columbia University in New York.
Dr Fazli. added that it was this same interconnectedness that also provides an opportunity to chart a new path in order to break away from outdated and divisive patterns of thought and behavior and to embrace values that allow for mutual thriving.
“It is in this context that peace is being discussed here not just as an absence of war but rather as a new framework through which to view and address the realities and complex challenges of the world of the twenty first century and beyond.”
Dr. Autesserre echoed the importance of changing the way peace was framed and argued that for peacebuilding efforts to be effective, local inhabitants should be the ones to conceive of and design peace initiatives in their regions. Dr. Autesserre cited the example of Idjwi, an island in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has maintained peace due to the active participation of all of the island’s residents in creating grassroots initiatives to stem conflict. Following the remarks, participants broke off into small groups and considered a range of questions including the relationship between inequality and peace, the critical role of women in society, the need for education that enables young people to become effective promoters of peace and the important role that an understanding of an overarching identity plays in this process.
Climate and Disaster Risk
With a rising risk of natural disasters around the world, the relationship between local capacity preparedness and international assistance was examined as part of a side event on climate and disaster risk.
The meeting opened with a passage from the Writings of the Baha’i Faith set to music in Bislama—one of the official languages of Vanuatu.
“As we move from the global level to the national, regional, local community, the silos that sometimes divide us start to dissipate. We see at the local level, the community leader is also a neighbor and a teacher,” said Daniel Perell, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in his opening remarks on the panel discussion co-hosted alongside the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). “The level of common enterprise that is so common at the neighborhood level needs to rise up to the international level.”
International responses to natural disasters is vital to bringing to stricken areas urgent humanitarian relief, material resources, and knowledge. But alongside aid, the role of local capacity and preparedness is a vital area of learning, speakers noted. The power of unity and collective enterprise as well as the importance of certain capacities at the local level has been demonstrated in a number of cases of natural disaster recovery in recent years.
The interactive discussion also allowed for representatives of civil society to share experiences from the field with regard to disaster risk response mechanisms. Willy Missack of Oxfam in Vanuatu [and an IEF member] shared the importance of bringing various networks together in order to share experiences and challenges with disaster risk reduction and shared how the participation of civil society organizations on national governmental boards in Vanuatu had enabled a collective approach to disaster risk response and policy making.
The Baha’i International Community addressed a statement to the Forum outlining a number of key principles to consider in connection with the Sustainable Development Agenda.
“The international community has achieved commendable consensus around the form of the Sustainable Development Goals as articulated in their various targets and indicators,” the statement, titled Unity in Action: Reclaiming the Spirit of the Sustainable Development Agenda reads.
“Yet translating those aspirations into lived reality will require a tremendous expansion of Agenda 2030’s “spirit of strengthened global solidarity”. Crucial in this regard will be ensuring that recognition of the interconnected nature of humanity is a prerequisite in both policy-making and action.”
Last updated 24 September 2019