Climate change, refugees and migrants, peacebuilding, sustainable development, and gender equality are just some of the issues that are prominent this week at the United Nations General Assembly.
And while they may seem vastly different, they are all connected. Let me share a few statistics:
- Climate change is causing more frequent and severe weather events. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that since 2008, an average of 26 million people per year have been displaced by disasters.
- Only 50% of refugee children are in primary school. Three in five preventable maternal deaths occur in settings of conflict, displacement, and natural disaster; so do the deaths of more than half of children under 5.
- And the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2016 states that at least 76% of people in extreme poverty (around 677 million people) live in countries that are environmentally vulnerable, politically fragile, or both.
The connections between international development, the environment, humanitarian response, and peace and justice are not just happening on a macro level, but on an individual level.
Think of the girl forced into child marriage because drought has driven up food prices, her parents can’t afford to put a meal on the table, and her community continues that harmful practice. Or the refugee child driven from home by violence, who now can’t go to school and pursue his dreams.
To ensure all people can live a life of dignity and opportunity, we need to change how we think about our work. Instead of focusing on an issue or sector, we need to focus on people.
We must address all of a person’s needs – from living in a peaceful society and healthy community to having educational and economic opportunities – and that will require working together across the many communities that care about global progress.
If you care about children’s health, climate change should matter to you.
If you care about job growth, peace and justice should matter to you.
If you care about the environment, gender equality should matter to you.
And if you care about education, meeting humanitarian needs should matter to you.
Simply put: Our agendas are connected, and lasting progress on any one of them requires progress on all of them.
With last year’s adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, we have an opportunity to work together in new and better ways to create change.
At this year’s General Assembly, the United Nations has brought together all causes, all communities, and all sectors. Let’s seize this opportunity to break down silos, talk and listen to each other, and share ideas about how we can collaborate.
In 2015, we made a promise to leave no one behind from global progress. In 2016, let’s come together to make that phrase not just a slogan, but a reality.
[Photo: Patrick Adams]