As an “intern,” my tasks continued throughout IYLA and well past its conclusion. I was considered a delegate, but one who needed to help move the process along rather than fully participate in it. In a way, this was a greater means of participation, peering at the days through the lens of a camera, diving into the footage and helping piece together a promotional video toward the conclusion of the program.
Or that would have been the case, had the video been spearheaded by another delegate. While I did help with the shooting process, my tasks were dumbed down to encompass live tweeting and further WIX edits, but I couldn’t complain. I was surrounded by delegates from all over the world, brought together in the name of change. Each and every one of these people strove to make a difference, a positive impact on the world, and each brought their own problems to the table for further evaluation. A young man from the Philippines stated they were losing their war on drugs due to corrupt cops. A woman from Seattle proclaimed the environment was a top priority. A defector from North Korea was present as a delegate; her dilemma was obvious. Everyone brought their own pains, and in the midst of it all arose a joy. Many of these people would go on to become my friends in the coming days. An exchange of cultures, culminating in celebration all in the name of change.
There it is again. In the name of change. If IYLA taught me anything, is that a want for change looks good on paper. Acting for that change is a different story. Throughout the Washington D.C. portion the delegates participated in forums at the Sustained Dialogue Institute and the World Bank, where we learned of another acronym: SDGs, short for Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations brought forth 17 of these SDGs to be recognized at the forum at the World Bank, “to transform our world by 2030.” Those goals were monumentally ambitious. They advocated for no poverty, “zero hunger,” good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, the list goes on, and these are just the main 17. In reality, there are well over a hundred SDGs ranging from women’s health in third world countries to the Korean reunification process. Everyone, it seems, has a cause.
So with this many pressing issues, what do we do about it? Awareness is the first step, proclaimed the UN, and that could not be more correct. By identifying a problem, we can then identify solutions. The delegates and a congregation of over hundred other participates split into 17 large groups, one for each main SDG. Each group delved into their issue with fervor and determination. As a cameraman, I floated from group to group and was surprised when I found them discussing the same idea: awareness can only get you so far. It’s like sharing a post on Facebook about, let’s say human trafficking. A lot of people will see it, react to it, and share so that more people become aware. The conclusions they draw are laughably straightforward: human trafficking is bad. Common sense in the grand scheme of things, except in this case, now we know it’s a bigger issue than any of us originally thought. Alarm and even discord will follow for a brief moment until we stop and ask ourselves, where do we go from here?
A lot of these groups arrived at similar conclusions regarding the SDGs. We now know that these issues are larger and more pressing than ever, but what can we do about it? The answer is, not much alone. Banding together into larger organizations is a start, but with so many SDGs and so little funding, most of these problems appear to be out of reach, at least for the time being. The World Bank focuses more on technical assistance in development and the UN is more spread thin than any of us could have realized. The UN stands for a myriad of platforms, the most prevalent of which being maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights and promoting sustainable development, key word “promoting.” While promoting is synonymous with encouraging and raising awareness, the UN does in fact act on its goals to the best of its abilities. Sub-organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) provides contraceptives for those in need and the UN Security Council does uphold its promise of issuing ceasefires and taking other measures to ensure peace when need be. Even then, there’s only so much they can do.
Success is not a promise without the proper funding. Proper funding being about three billion dollars in 2016 alone. Where on earth can the UN acquire three billion dollars in funds? From the world’s taxpayers.