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At Matter Unlimited, we’ve been reflecting on our recent experiences at UNGA and Climate Week and what it means to be a purpose-driven organization in any sector. Many of the conversations we observed at UNGA seemed to reveal how the status quo and climate of gradualism is limiting the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aspirations of the Paris Accords, calling upon the leaders of the world to think boldly about potential solutions and action that can be taken to address the urgency of climate change.

In trying to probe beyond the air of gradualism that youth activists like Greta Thunberg have expressed frustration with, we reached out to our inspiring client partners actively working in the fields of human rights, maternal health, and humanitarian aid that participated in the events of the week to share their reflections and thoughts on how to achieve progress.

Below, you’ll hear the unique takeaways from UNGA and Climate Week participants like Arelys Bellorini, UN Representative of World Vision International, Temitayo Erogbogbo, Director of Advocacy of Merck for Mothers, and Matt Vogel, Head of Artist Relations at Amnesty International.

1. What was your most valuable learning from UN General Assembly and Climate Week 2019? 

Bellorini: The voices, views and participation of children can no longer be ignored or sidelined. We have been saying this in World Vision for years, and we will continue to shout it at every opportunity. The world was moved by one amazing young person this year, and there are thousands of others like her, living in some of the most difficult and heart-breaking situations in the world. Children must be represented and listened to, everywhere decisions are made that affect them

Erogbogbo: We assume that the need for advocating for issues related to sexual reproductive health and rights, including maternal health, is done. The WHO Trends in Maternal Mortality 2007 -2017 released during UNGA, however, show global estimates for the year 2017 at 295,000 maternal deaths. This, coupled with insights from women in countries through such campaigns as What Women Want and #GivingBirthInNigeria shows that there is much work to be done to provide the right interventions to reduce maternal mortality.

2. What was your most memorable moment?

Bellorini: Perhaps surprisingly, the quiet, early mornings. World Vision and a number of our valued partners held a reflective service in the shadow of the UN building one morning, to pray for the leaders gathered in New York, for the decisions they’re making, and for the children whose lives depend on them making the right decisions. It was the first time we’ve done this, and it proved to be both moving and important. On another quiet morning, we tried a new way of getting our message across that it’s time leaders pick up the pace to achieve the SDGs, because children cannot wait.

Erogbogbo: Kathryn Kaufman, Managing Director for Global Women’s Issues at The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) highlighted how engagement with the Merck for Mothers program has led to direct investment in maternal health Financing for MOMs (Maternal Outcomes Matters) and a review of policies and priorities at OPIC. This illustrates the role for institutional and personal advocacy to leverage our capacities for impact.

Vogel: Watching youth take the lead on the conversation of climate change was surely the most memorable moment. Amnesty International awarded Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement that week, and we witnessed the youth movement and its leadership converge as a powerful force for change.

3. What action areas will you be focused on in the next year?

​Bellorini: Hopefully, we’ll be congratulating and celebrating leaders who have acted on our call to pick up the pace, and that more of them will be making bold, powerful steps to pick up the pace to realize the SDGs for children. I can say for sure that we will continue to make the case for children’s participation, and to end violence that affects 1.7 billion children every year.

Erogbogbo: Merck for Mothers is focused on elevating the voices of women for change, bringing insights from our programmatic and advocacy work to inform policies and action at global and country levels. This work continues on our road to ICPD25.

Vogel: Amnesty International will be focused on human rights linked with climate change because of its effect on not just the environment but on our rights to life, health, food, water, housing and livelihoods. Amnesty will be pushing for accountability for states who fail to act, and will support young people, Indigenous peoples, and affected communities, to demand a rapid and just transition to a zero-carbon economy. Amnesty International will also support environmental defenders to facilitate the work of those protecting land, food, communities and people against climate impacts, extraction and expansion of fossil fuels and deforestation.