In the unique session entitled “Young People Driving Global Governance and Local Action” we were fortunate to hear from youth on issues pertaining to the well-being of the planet they are going to inherit. This workshop hosted an interactive engagement with the audience where they posed their questions directly to panelists. This gave way for open dialogue to explore methods for the youth to strengthen their position, while voicing their views directly to policy makers. What’s more, they discussed ways to enable their contribution to have a genuine impact on the decisions made. The session emphasized the need for inter-generational dialogue to paint an accurate picture of the problems facing our world today, and by this become better able to cultivate solutions for them.
The panel ‘Sustainable Development Goals and Covid-10: Turning a Global Pandemic in to a Global Opportunity’ covered multiple areas surrounding the impact of the pandemic on both our present and potentially our future too. The speakers engaged in a conversational-style manner to deliver their view on various issues from climate change to the social and economic well-being from both the individual perspective as well as the wider community. Methods of utilizing the current positioning to better improve our practices that would lead to a more sustainable lifestyle and environment were explored and discussed across multiple dimensions. The panelists addressed the issue of an increased use of disposal utensils and one time use plastics in light of the pandemic and stressed the importance of educating the population on the true facts behind necessary safety measures while voicing the need to filter misinformation that could be detrimental to both people and planet. The critical position to create a more resilient economy was backed by suggestions to turn to renewable energies and prevent extractive industries from depleting natural resources for non-ethical gains.
Today’s sessions brought together the reoccurring range of themes in the scope of recovery and reconstruction as well as a strong emphasis on a just recovery in a post COVID-19 world and urging all Global leaders to deliver on global commitments.
We caught a glimpse into the reality of harsh stigmas and unhealthy attitudes which have hindered the appropriate understanding of obesity as a disease. Consensus was consistent amongst participants in that before any meaningful advancements can be made in this space, behavior changes in healthcare and support systems towards stigmatized obesity must occur.
Today also welcomed discussion on advancing education for displaced populations. In these discussions, participants presented perspectives on the necessity of structural partnership between faith-based organizations, civil society and government, to increase investment in quality learning and overcome this crisis. This was further emphasized in dialogs around investment in education and critical assessment that unless substantial new funds become available to education systems, we cannot hope to deliver disability-inclusive education. Participants called on G20 leaders to act now to safeguard education financing and invest in the education workforce needed to deliver quality education for all children, including those with disabilities by: increasing their overall budgets through progressive taxation, spending at least 20% share of budget and 6% of GDP on education, addressing amounts lost each year to debt servicing and ensuring funds allocated to education arrive on time and where they need to be.
Today’s Main Stage included an exceptionally insightful discussion surrounding the infrastructure space. The session entitled “Financing Infrastructure in an Era of Global Crisis” hosted a collection of highly esteemed speakers who shared their views on their field of expertise. Infrastructure investment was mostly discussed in regard to the need for balancing both private and public contributions to ensure the resilient expansion of this space. The panelists also examined the viability of viewing infrastructure as an asset class and provided evidence to suggest a more integrated solution of public and private partnerships might be a better way to encourage investment into high quality infrastructure while safeguarding public funds from unfair risks. The speakers also discussed effective methods of financing and scaling infrastructure projects to create a risk averse option that would entice investors to enter this space but not at an unreasonable cost to the public purse. The importance of InfraTech was emphasized as an opportunity for lowering costs and developing better economic, social, and environmental outcomes to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Transparency, accountability, community-wide and stakeholder engagements coupled with public oversight and scrutiny were also highlighted.
One of the sessions on Day 3 explored civil society’s contribution to the UN 2030 education agenda in the Latin American and Caribbean region. It was determined that global citizenship provides competencies that are very relevant in the current context of globalization and in the crisis we are currently facing. The panelists agreed that the coordination of civil society is powerful in utilizing education as a tool for change and transformation. Regarding the effect of the pandemic, civil society has been critical during the pandemic in preventing wide-spread school abandonment in countries where school re-opening is still a distant prospect. The panelists emphasized how global citizenship education is a critical tool to empower people to make sustainable change. Political will and support are needed in order for schools to strive for global citizenship education and inclusivity. Finally, the session concluded with acknowledging the C20 Summit as an important forum for sharing regional learnings that provide opportunity for global solutions that prioritize sustainable development education for peace, justice, inclusivity, and tolerance.
Another important session that took place on the third day of the Summit explored how corporate leadership and accountability can incentivize performance and stimulate action on the SDGs as well as for sustainable finance. The event also underscored the role of multinational corporations in ensuring resilient supply chains and protecting vulnerable communities in light of COVID-19 through better data and disclosure, ensuring that no one is left behind on the path to 2030. Some of the C20 calls to action for the G20 included to uphold principles of transparency and accountability; to pursue existing agendas like the Paris Agreement and not use COVID as an excuse not to commit; and to take a regulatory stance on transparency and company performance… and the private sector also has a critical role to play in all of these.
Day 3 of the C20 Summit kicked off with a discussion on the important topic of racial justice and systemic discrimination. The panel discussed the age-old, universal nature of this pernicious phenomenon which has manifested in its most sophisticated and systematic form as white supremacy and colonization. Some panelists were of the view that racially motivated prejudice is a social disease and can be likened to a physical ailment and treated as such, while others stressed that intervention on an individual level should not take away from the historical and structural reality of this phenomenon and it should be treated as a societal-level issue. The global extent of racial discrimination is evident today in the confluence of the normalization of racial hatred and post-truth political campaigns marked by disinformation. Systemic discrimination based on notions of identity needs to be recognized as a political issue and resolved as such, and regulatory mechanisms around hate speech, disinformation and vilification through social media need to be looked into, brought into debate and reconsidered. States and political leaders can play a vital role in setting good examples through discourse, action, effective legislation and implementation.
The plenary session on Day 3 of the C20 Summit stressed the need for a global and universally ratified public health convention. The panelists noted the fact that there are internationally instituted regulatory mechanisms on air traffic control, global trade rules, construction requirements and use of nuclear energy, but no global framework to regulate public health. The continuing aftermath of COVID-19 presents the perfect opportunity to make concrete and actionable commitments to a global public health convention, with mechanisms to ensure that all countries actually confirm to it. Some of the limitations and challenges discussed in achieving this important milestone were building governments’ trust to override traditional notions of national sovereignty and scaling up funding for global entities like the World Health Organization (WHO) by making it independent of voluntary donations and making it mandatory upon countries to fund it commensurate on their tax base. Whether or not the WHO should be at the helm of this global public health convention was also discussed. There is a need to learn lessons from the current response to COVID-19 and improve public response capabilities and medication and equipment stockpiles, scale up diagnostic capability globally, evaluate therapeutics, improve global drug trial infrastructure, focus on universal provision of public health responses to poorer countries, and institute just and pervasive national- and international- level health insurance mechanisms even if these are only employed in emergency scenarios. Members of parliaments and governments must realize that their first priority is citizens and ensure citizen-centric policies and responses to public health crises and push for a binding global public health convention through regional, national, transnational and multilateral forums.