By Gabriel Olawale
Governments around the world, especially in third world countries have been called upon to see emerging risks as important issues which must be tackled with urgency, hence, at various countries, the need to create a platform conducive for private, public and civil society organizations to discuss and take action focused on achieving a healthy and sustainable society by leveraging on the capacity and competence of private sector institutions should be prioritized.
Making this call at the #UN75 Dialogue with the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres in ECOSOC Chamber, UN headquarters, Newyork as part of a year long global conversation to mark the 75th anniversary of the organisation was the Co-Founder/Project Director, HACEY Health Initiative; a non-profit organization committed to supporting women, girls and young people in Nigeria, Owolabi Isaiah who was among the panelists.
During the course of the discussion, the Obama Foundation Scholar and consultant on corporate sustainability, research and development initiatives was asked if he thinks people in 2045 will be better off, worse off, or about the same as today.
Responding to this, Owolabi said, ”If we use history as a guide, I will say a big yes to the world being better off. We have seen an increase in the number of women with access to contraceptive, number of girls enrolled in school, reduction in the incidence of HIV and technology advancements that is improving the quality of education, healthcare and access to finance. Though we are not where we should be. But there is a big opportunity to build on the success and learn from the challenges to achieve a peaceful, healthy and productive society. I strongly believe that we have the competence and resources to achieve this. But we need one more thing to make it happen. Character.
We need leaders across private and public sector to commit and follow up their commitment with genuine and inclusive actions for the good of the people.”
Describing the things he would love to see in the world in 2045, Owolabi explained that he strongly believe that youth leadership means we need to genuinely allow young people to be in the driving seat.
”The number one thing I will like to see is a society where people younger than 40 years are leading at least 70 percent of corporations, civil societies, government agencies and countries across the world. Including having a UN Secretary General younger than 40 years.
”Another is an equal society where all men, women, boys and girls have equal opportunities to live to their full potential no matter where they were born or live at the time and lastly, Zero Carbon society,” Owolabi explained.
While noting that HACEY has been in forefront of effective collaboration, Owolabi advised the UN Secretary General to focus efforts on accelerating impact of interventions aimed at ending inequality.
”Inequality has the power to amplify violence, increase poverty, and jeopardize the ability of billions of people from living to their full potential. The recent inequality report from Oxam shows that top 22 billionaires in the world are richer than all women in Africa combined.
”The UNDESA World Social Report 2020 shows how inequality can affect technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. I strongly believe that we have the power and resources to end inequality in this generation. The pathway to achieve this is to allow women and youth people lead the way,” Owolabi concluded.
In the same vein, Natalia Herbst who is also a scholar at Columbia University Natalia and served as the Director for Community Organizations at the National Youth Institute of Argentina charged governance actors, including governments and international organizations across the globe to shift paradigms, embrace youth leadership as part of their formal structures and not just for consultation purposes.
According to Natalia, ”it is key to innovate, to make the language, approach and spaces in which we engage with youth the most relevant to them. The ones that elevate their agency and make them feel valued as active members of our society with valid concerns as well as valid proposals to address them.”
The United Nations 75th-anniversary dialogue is held under the theme “The Future We Want, The UN We Need: Reaffirming Our Collective Commitment To Multilateralism”.
Speaking during the dialogue session, the UN Secretary General, Antonio said, ”we are here as the UN to listen and to learn becasue we want to be better. We believe that the future can be better”.
It is apt to note that the series of dialogue aim at a global partnership to realize the UN’s shared aspirations for a just, peaceful and sustainable future.
The views and ideas that are generated will be presented, by the Secretary General, to world leaders and senior UN officials on September 21, 2020, at a high-level event to mark the 75th anniversary.
Owolabi, who is HACEY Health Initiative’s Project Director was joined by five other panelists, Natalia Herbst (Argentina), Cristina Petcu (Romania), Jahan Rifai (Jordan), Amit Joshi (Nepal) and Eleonore Pauwels (Belgium) at the UN Headquarters for the session.
Founded in 2007, HACEY Health Initiative is a non-profit organization which leverages a multisectoral, multi-pronged, and inter-generational approach to significantly improve the life outcomes of women and girls.
The initiative has distributed over 25,314 birthing kits, provided HIV/AIDS counselling, testing and referral service for at least 10,000 women and provided over 20,000 long lasting insecticide treated nets. It has helped place more than 150 girls in vocational training, paired over 200 girls with mentors and reached more than 100,000 using web and mobile technology. Through “Code4impact”, they have provided media and digital skills training to over 1,000 women and girls.
UN75 is an initiative of the United Nations intended to engage constituencies across borders, sectors and generations by collaborating with a wide multi-sector network, including the UN Resident Coordinators, for a diverse and global reach, and for dialogues to be convened in every country of the world. It also aims to better understand expectations of international cooperation in light of pressing global challenges.