UNA-UNA 2024 summit: A platform to promote the United States values and interests at the UN

Written by Dr. Florence Akano

The United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) held its annual Global Engagement Summit (GES) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Friday, February 16th, drawing a vast array of stakeholders committed to advancing the goals of the United Nations. The event is held yearly and aims to educate the American populace on the strong connection between the UN and the US.

Under the theme “PUSHING FORWARD>>>FOR PEOPLE & PLANET,” the GES2024 aimed to galvanize advocates towards bold action, resonating with the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This signature event, organized by UNA-USA, a program of the United Nations Foundation, served to inspire, educate, and mobilize individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Kicking off at 10:00 am ET, the summit commenced with an Opening Plenary featuring prominent figures including Rachel Bowen Pittman, UNA-USA Executive Director; Varsha Thebo, Senior Advisor at the Eleanor Crook Foundation; Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation; Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General; along with Sanskriti Deva and Bettina Hausmann, UNA-USA GES Planning Committee leaders.

Throughout the day, attendees engaged in panel discussions and fireside chats covering critical topics. From exploring the intersection of human rights and emerging technologies to addressing gender apartheid and women’s rights, the summit provided a platform for in-depth dialogue and analysis. Special attention was given to the enduring heartache of war and the psychological impact of crises, underscoring the importance of mental health in conflict zones.

This year, the summit showcased a Fashion Showcase introducing a novel addition, spotlighting individuals and businesses championing sustainability through their products and platforms. This segment aimed to underscore the integral role of sustainable practices in global initiatives.

The event also featured field visit videos, providing glimpses of the UN’s impact in various geographic hotspots. Among the key themes explored were propelling youth rights and responsibilities and nourishing peace for people and the planet.

The day culminated in a Sustainable Fashion Showcase, with industry leaders and experts discussing the intersection of fashion, sustainability, and environmental conservation. Opening remarks were delivered by Annemarie Hwa Hou, Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnership, followed by discussions led by Saad Amer, Vanessa Barboni Hallik, Sophia Kianni, and Yasin Samatar. The showcase highlighted contributors such as Edelweiss Vogel, Prota Fiori, Julieta Gaitan, Kaixi Yang, Tega Collective, and Remake.

In alignment with the broader sustainability agenda, the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion took centre stage at the Global Engagement Summit. This initiative, spearheaded by United Nations agencies and allied organizations, aims to harness the power of the fashion industry to drive progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Alliance’s mission resonates with the overarching theme of GES2024, emphasizing the imperative of sustainability in all facets of human endeavour. Fashion, as defined by the Alliance, encompasses clothing, leather and footwear, along with related goods, encompassing the entire value chain from production to disposal.

Within the context of the Alliance’s work, sustainability encompasses social and environmental considerations. This entails improving working conditions and remuneration for workers, reducing the industry’s waste stream, mitigating water pollution, and curbing contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

Through coordinated action and policy advocacy, the Alliance endeavours to reshape the trajectory of the fashion industry, turning it into a force for positive change in line with the SDGs. By promoting projects and policies that align with sustainable practices, the Alliance seeks to ensure that the fashion sector becomes a proactive contributor to global sustainability efforts.

Concluding the summit was a Closing Plenary featuring Claire Vlases, Time Earth Award Recipient representing youth plaintiffs in Held v. Montana; Gabriel Nagel, Chairperson of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Environmental Youth Advisory Council; and Farah Salim Eck, UNA-USA Senior Director of Programs and Policies.

The 2024 Global Engagement Summit, with its diverse array of discussions and initiatives, underscored the crucial role of collaboration and action in advancing the United Nations’ mission for a better world.

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Dr. Florence Akano

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