26 October 2020
UN Day 2020 Highlights Youth Role, Common Enemy of COVID-19
Photo Credit: Matthew TenBruggenate/IISD
story highlights

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for a global ceasefire in order to face the “common enemy” of COVID-19, and called for more countries and companies to pledge net zero GHG emissionsby 2050.

UNGA President Volkan Bozkir highlighted “the unsung heroes of the UN system” who stand behind those on the front lines.

ESCAP's event focused on the power of innovation and partnerships, especially among younger generations, in building a better future post COVID-19.

The 75th anniversary of the UN’s founding took place on 24 October, which is marked annually as UN Day. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) used the occasion to launch the SDG Solutions Lab, being established with Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.

In a statement for the Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for a global ceasefire in order to face the “common enemy” of COVID-19. He also addressed the climate emergency, calling for more countries and companies to pledge net zero emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2050. Finally, he noted the “horrific rise in violence against women and girls” that has occurred during the pandemic. As sources of hope, Guterres said a “remarkable global collaboration” is underway for a safe, affordable, and accessible COVID‑19 vaccine, and that the SDGs provide the blueprint for the world to recover better.

A one-hour commemorative event took place in the General Assembly Hall at UN headquarters. It featured a video performance by the Youth Poet Laureate and a panel discussion on the future of the UN, moderated by the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake. [programme]

In remarks at the event, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Volkan Bozkir highlighted “the unsung heroes of the UN system” who stand behind those on the front lines and make sure they can carry out their duties.

The UN Regional Commissions organized events on the anniversary as well. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) reports that Ethiopia-based UN staff, government officials, and civil society members gathered for a flag-raising ceremony. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand held an event focused on the power of innovation and partnerships, especially among younger generations, in building a better future post COVID-19.

ESCAP’s commemoration event also included the final part of a Regional Conversation Series on Building Back Better, featuring six young innovators from the region. ESCAP and Mahidol University also announced the SDG Solutions Lab, which is intended to bring together policymakers with SDG-related challenges and young innovators and entrepreneurs with ideas, to develop and implement innovative and technological solutions to accelerate progress on the SDGs. According to a press release from Mahidol, the memorandum aims to accelerate technology and innovation for the SDGs by engaging with students, young innovators and entrepreneurs to address development challenges. It says the Lab aims to function as a start-up environment and a a platform for collaborative problem solving. 

In a guest article for IISD, ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana says young entrepreneurs’ voices and expertise are needed to solve social and environmental challenges while creating economic opportunities. She offers three actions to realize their transformative potential, saying that in many ways, it is young people who are carrying the mantle of the 2030 Agenda. [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of UN’s 75th anniversary]


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