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Audio Guide: The Next Page - Transcripts

Welcome to the UN Library and Archives Geneva's Audio Research Guide! Here you'll find episodes from our own podcast, The Next Page, as well as podcasts and audio from or on the UN system and multilateralism.

It Takes a Global Crisis Episode 0: Introduction

by Tiffany Xiang Verga on 2022-01-12T11:33:00+01:00 | Comments

Tiffany Verga 

Hello and welcome to The Next Page, the podcast of the UN Library and Archives Geneva dedicated to conversations on multilateralism. This is, ‘It Takes a Global Crisis’, a series of four special episodes in collaboration with the SDG Lab at UN Geneva 

Edward Mishaud 

Hi, I'm Edward Mishaud from the SDG Lab. 

Tiffany Verga 

And we're Tiffany Verga, 

Natalie Alexander 

And Natalie Alexander from the Library and Archives. 

Edward Mishaud 

Together, we'll explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways set in motion sustainable development solutions, things that were often talked about but rarely implemented before the crisis. We'll also consider the challenges, the gaps, and the limitations of progress that the pandemic has highlighted. 

Natalie Alexander 

We'll be talking to a range of experts and practitioners as they work both on the ground and in advancing policy on their experiences across the themes of digitalization and connectivity. The environment as a key to resilience, sustainable cities and social protection. 

Tiffany Verga 

So, did it take a global crisis? Let's find out. 

Natalie Alexander 

Hi everyone, welcome to The Next Page podcast and to this series of four special episodes called ‘It Takes a Global Crisis’. I'm Natalie from the UN Library & Archives and I'm here with my co-host from the SDG Lab, Edward hello. 

Edward Mishaud 

Hello and welcome, so this is episode 0 and we're going to aim to do two things, first, open up the series by exploring in greater detail the 20-30 agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and 2nd to unpack why we created this four-part series on the SDG’s and the effect global crisis’ such as the pandemic have on them. 

Natalie Alexander 

And joining us here today in the studio are Nadia Isla the director of the SDG Lab, and Francesco Pisano, the director of the UN Library Archives Geneva. Hello and welcome to you both. 

Francesco Pisano 

Yeah, very excited to be here today. 

Natalie Alexander 

So, before we explain a bit more about the SDG's and start with the opening questions how does your work relate to these SDG’s and why do they matter to you? Firstly to Nadia. 

Nadia Isler 

Thanks Natalie and good morning Edward too. It's great to be here. Hi Francesco. So, so when it comes to the work of the lab, as you may know we're part of the United Nations, So what we actually do is use the very unique convening power and the neutrality of the platform that the United Nations offers to galvanize different stakeholders and to nudge them to work together and collaborate. To come up with some very concrete partnerships, ideas, collaborations that will help accelerate the SDG's at country level, so it's about this multi stakeholder collaboration that many of us are hearing over and over again and have heard over and over again for the past decade but it's about really putting that multi stakeholder collaboration in practice, so that's what we do with the SDG Lab. 

Natalie Alexander 

and you Francesco. 

Francesco Pisano 

Well for us it's mostly linked to the knowledge part, and it was set very early in the life of the agenda 2030 that it's a lot about knowledge, sharing knowledge, communicating knowledge, applying knowledge, and because we are a library and archives it is about knowledge and the history of knowledge, we take it very seriously. So just to give you one example, back in 2017, we decided to re catalog virtually our resources  by goals and see how much knowledge we were storing and bringing to our clients per SDG goal and that exercise was really enlightening for us because we saw that the agenda responds to.Through a natural and organic distribution of knowledge across the spectrum of what we call multilateralism multilateral thought. So this is what we do and we try to do it very seriously and the resources increase over time and what increases over time is also the appetite of researchers and also the public at large for these resources which is a good indicator that Agenda 2030 is there. It's happening perhaps more than people commonly believe.  

Edward Mishaud 

And just coming back because Natalie you  kicked us off on opening up about the SDG's and wanting to know more so. Nadia, this question is to you for those who aren't aware of the SDGS. Let's really begin with the foundations. What is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and what are the 17 SDGS? 

Nadia Isler 

Thanks a lot, Edward. I think it's a great question because we get confused. Sometimes some people talk about Agenda 2030. As you just said, some people talk about the global goals. Some people talk about the SDG. Some people talk about the order date in French, and actually we're all talking about the same thing, just using different. What it inherently is is a historical commitment of every single country in the world. In December 2015, all the Member States of the United Nations got together to agree on 7 common objectives that every single country in the world is guided by now and that respond to the global challenges of our world. So, there was really a historical moment in December 2015 where all countries agreed that the global challenges that we're all facing in some shape or form have to be addressed in a universal way. We all have a responsibility and we all actually have a piece of the problem and a piece of the solution. So it was really the first time in history that this has actually happened, and it's a universal agenda. 

This is very powerful Edward, and this is what I always underscore that it's not an agenda for certain countries to aspire to, or to try to reach. Every single country has a responsibility to do so, and every single citizens. It's not a UN agenda. It's an agenda that was adopted in the premise of the United Nations but it was built, elaborated by citizens by the private sector by the public sector and by the United Nations by academics and a whole array of different stakeholders. 

Natalie Alexander 

It's an incredible project of multilateralism. Seeing how broad the stakeholders and the contributors to the agenda are in terms of the scope. We have 17 goals, that means I guess it's quite intricate, but are they connected and how are they connected? And for those who are kind of on the ground, listening to this podcast, how can we all be involved in the SDG's without feeling the overwhelm of 17 goals Francesco? 

Francesco Pisano 

To answer your two questions, I think it's pretty evident that they are connected now. If that is not evident to everyone just because they look at the 17 goals as a sequence of true statements and desired outcomes at the end of the road in 2013. So if that is not clear immediately, one could look at the targets because of the targets. Every goal is like a molecule and is surrounded by targets and those targets actually connect like muscle, like neurons, the goals to one another and so what happens if you look at that fabric? It's like turning a carpet over. You would see the targets connecting the goals with one another, so that if you move and you progress on public health you are progressing on gender issues, you're also progressing on decent work and you're progressing finally on poverty eradication and so on and so forth.  

And they're really all connected with high current or low intensity current, and so the answer there, I think it's very clear to those who want to take a look not only at the dashboard which is the 17 goals, but at the declaration of principles. Because this is the first time that all the countries in the world say yes, we envision together a world that has no poverty, a world in which men and women are treated equally, etc and a number of other things. That is very, very powerful, it never happened before, so the second question that you're putting, how can we be apart of them, I think I want to echo what Nadia was saying, this is not a lofty thing, this is not the UN Summit report kind of thing, this is really an immediate agenda for action and everyone has to at least be aware of it, but to preferably be part of it. So when you look at how the SDG's encompass all aspects of the global challenges that we're facing as a civilization now, and we are all facing, it's not governments facing something, this is for everyone to take action, this is the answer. So now when we look at what happened during the pandemic, this has been a magnifying glass in this regard. So you look at healthcare, job loss, economic downturn and the failing of the environmental entire environmental systems this has always been part of our reality. Now the obvious correlation of this sector is finally perceived, not as an abstract concept. It's a vivid reality, so the vehicle I see the COVID crisis as a vehicle to make certain things from hypothetical to real in the life of people, but I don't see that that is different from always happening much slower in terms of climate crisis, and the agenda is there and encompasses all of that, so I hope this answers your question. 

Edward Mishaud 

And thanks, Francesco for setting up the next question because it's also bringing us then to kind of why we wanted to have this episode and looking at the pandemic and I guess it really depends on where our listeners are in the world. But the pandemic has been going on for almost two years now. If we think about East Asia or well over a year and a half here in Europe where we're recording this podcast today. So, Nadia this question is to you then, so you know, while there are plenty of anecdotes of how the world has changed or is changing because of COVID-19, it really begs the question that we ask, did we need a global crisis at the magnitude of COVID-19 to make us realize the importance of the SDG's and to see how they're deeply interconnected? 

Nadia Isler 

You know, Edward? I think we can't even ethically say that we needed a pandemic. Right, I think we all agree this was a catastrophe and continues to be a huge catastrophe for the whole world, and many countries have suffered even more than others. So, I'm always uncomfortable using those words. I'm even uncomfortable using the words of the silver lining of COVID. I find that almost insulting to many people, however, where I would agree, I would underline the fact that the global pandemic that we've all been through and continue to battle today has underlined, underscored the extent to which the SDG's are more relevant than ever, and in that sense, for any citizens, any political leader that had any doubts about the relevance of these goals. Indeed, the pandemic certainly took a big marker and underscored every single message of the agenda, the first one being the one that encompasses the whole agenda 2030 is inequalities we all know today, and I think we increasingly became aware throughout the pandemic about the extent to which the pandemic was hitting us as citizens in a very unequal way. 

Just the mere vulnerability to the virus was unequal and I remember at the beginning of the pandemic sudden people saying oh well, this is a great way of bringing us all to the same common denominator of being humans vulnerable to the virus. We were not all vulnerable in the same way to the virus. For instance my team certainly and myself had the huge privilege of being able to work from home right? So we had access to connectivity to the Internet, to computers to electricity. Our children also were able to to stay home, the opportunity to continue to invest in their education from home, but there are millions of people who didn't have that privilege and thus had to be exposed every single day. They had to take public transports, a cramped public transport to go to work, to actually be able to get an income and feed their families and pay for their houses. And this is not just in certain parts of the world, there were millions of people in this case, and so I think we need to be very cautious, specially when we're thinking from a podcast series in Geneva that what we experienced as professionals and citizens is under COVID, although a lot of us went through very painful times that it is certainly not the same as what another person went through in other parts of the world. So I think just making this very clear that it kind of emphasized first of all, one of the key drivers of the agenda which is inequality in the world and then, of course, it emphasized the extent to which access or not to connectivity access or not to a big house to proper housing had a direct link to how vulnerable you were or not to the virus. Just imagine you know, living in a in a small apartment with 15 people compared to living in a big house with just two people. Right, I think you don't need much explanation to understand to understand my point there and but also in terms of a job loss, right vulnerability in terms of losing one job losing one, the first source of income. So, I think in that regard we can really see the extent to which. COVID-19 was and is not only a health crisis, but it is an economic crisis, an environmental crisis and an SDG crisis. 

Natalie Alexander 

Well Nadia you do bring up the point about the inequalities in the face of a crisis like a pandemic. We were not standing on equal ground. Francesco, do you have any thoughts on that in terms of how you think we experience a crisis and the inequalities that kind of perhaps are highlighted through that? 

Francesco Pisano 

I think to the point of does it take a global crisis to stop and reflect on the importance of the sustainable development goals. I can see that for some, yes, for some. This COVID experience was a point in time where we literally stopped.  Everything stopped and we realize how many things that Nadia mentioned become evident and important, albeit in different degrees to different people. So there is that there is the fact that, uh a crisis like this acts as a booster for the will of the international community, and I think of the. People as well now in most organized societies and  international communities and organized society, the will is powerful, but the budget is which? And so that is to my second point that there is of this distraction factor, especially as things are vehicle by verifiers, by social media and media in general. We have seen that not very strongly in the case of Agenda 2030, because of the many tracks of evaluation, it's something that we haven't mentioned but Agenda 2030 is the first that ended as a serious framework for evaluation and financing through partnerships, and so those things have inertially continued. But I just want to highlight the distracting factor, because we're easily distracted as humans, but also as international community, uh, conflict after an hour, what is the latest emergency we have to take care of and that is and that is one aspect the other aspect there is always there, I said the will is strong but the budget is weak. The budget of international organisations and the way we give out funds for the common good around organizations that are regional and international per geography and per mandate and and specialization and there is acute competition over resources, so I think as we say, it takes a crisis to focus. We should also say and do not lose sight of what we really want through this agenda because we want it because we said in 2015 this is the world we want and when you want something you have to focus, so I think that those things play in a way that almost counsel one another. 

What is left is concentration on the goal and never let go of this vision that we have. We have one big vision and I think it deserves being there, it deserves the money it deserves. 

Edward Mishaud 

Nadia the SDG lab acts as a relay between governments, represented by their offices here in Geneva in what we call permanent missions, also, the United Nations family that's present here in Geneva and also the broader community of SDG actors, not only here but also in other parts of the planet. Francesco you talked about the important nuances of the pandemic that not everyone has experienced or is experiencing tracing the pandemic at the same level, looking at countries specifically and knowing that the SDG lab works directly with Member States with governments, what have you been hearing? What is the lab in hearing in terms of how Covid has brought I guess the SDG's back at the center or brought them forward or not? 

Nadia Isler 

You know, I think we're hearing so many different things from different Member States and it's difficult  to make sort of a blanket statement  on the main messages, but some things that we are definitely seeing is that in certain countries the urgency, the emergency of the situation and allowed certain policies to be accelerated in a great way. Social protection mechanisms and models and whatnots that could have been discussed over and over throughout a whole decade were suddenly put into place to react to the urgency and the urgency of the situation. The irony of this crisis in a way is to some extent it has allowed acceleration of certain modus operandi's and policies that would have taken ages had we not had that crisis and at the same time, it's unfortunate to think that that's what we need for things to move forward, but that may just be the reality of the world we're in when there's pressure and just people in the streets, people dying, people asking for help. That's when maybe everything kind of comes together and so this notion of urgency is, I think what we all need to keep going and I think that's what many people try to do also in in the latest climate summit of COP 26 is to really reiterate the urgency in which we're all that we're all facing to try and really mobilize not only all the financial resources, but the political resources, the pressure to move forward and find solutions, and the pressure that is not a pressure that is kind of inhibiting because I think some pressures just freeze people and you lack then ideas and solutions of how to move forward. What we do at the lab is trying to get out of that straitjacket, and to say, OK, can we together, instead of finger pointing and passing the hot potato onto someone else onto the bankers so that they finance the gap onto the government so that they find policies onto the academics to come with the data or on the citizens to speak louder to say OK, you all have a piece of the solution here, and instead of doing it in isolation from one another, why can't we bring you together and nudge you to actually collaborate to find those very precise solutions? 

Natalie Alexander 

Nadia, you kind of draw straight to our next question perfectly. Talking about different actors like bankers, governments, other parties in the world that contribute to this wider causes, the question to you Francesco, is what do you think is the role of multilateralism in the transition through a crisis like the one we're facing? What can we do from our different vantage points to be able to make sure we forge forward that we don't kind of fade off as you say, lose the distraction that we see now as part of this urgent crisis. 

Francesco Pisano 

First of all, I think that Nadia said it really well, it's all about working together, right? So multilateralism What is multilateralism modus operandi? It's a philosophy, it's a way of cooperating among government countries, nation. It means what have you that rests on a number of principles and shared values, so you cannot separate the multilateral thought from the values that informed it now. One thing that is interesting to note is that multilateralism manifest itself differently depending on who's playing with which. Multilateral dimension, for example, for governments it manifests itself as meetings and coordination in the UN system now. Now what you ask is very interesting. How can we leave through multilateral one connected? I think it's also something that more and more affects, reflects and involves human beings as individuals because we have the underpinning technology to talk to one another in real time that we didn't have before and so. That is really a game changer and I think that motors of the future will be a connected one in which people actually there, there will be a screen, a giant screen, there will be an algorithm running during official meetings in the UN where people can see real time, what really the people of the world opinion is on a given agenda item? 

Because that counts we've been saying that that counts and technology can provide the evidence of that. So I think that at a more immediate level here and today, with the technology we have multilateral ism as a role of catalyzing the good not only people but also in organizations, institutions and governments, and that good is the part of all these actors that wants to collaborate to face the problems that we all are facing. So there are two instincts people going rushing as we sit with COVID you know, accumulating and stocking toilet paper and the opposite instinct to go to your neighbors to get together to face the common challenge and those two coexist.  

Nadia Isler  

Maybe if I could just add to that Francesco, 'cause I think your example was was very good. That you know there is a risk also in a way that many governments look now inward, right? Because of the crisis, because people are in the street asking for for jobs, asking for stability, asking for access to health, access to vaccines, etc. There is a huge risk because of the economic consequences too that politicians leaders actually look inwards and and I think that the role we at the United Nations have but also that citizens have is to remind everyone what the heart and DNA of the SDG's was and why it was so historical. It was historical because we recognized once and for all that all the SDG's all the global challenges are interconnected, but also that all countries are interconnected as a very simple example, if every citizen who wants to doesn't have access to a vaccination we will never end this pandemic right And so I think there's not a better example to show the extent to which it is important to take a global perspective on these global challenges and you can't find solutions by looking inward. 

Natalie Alexander 

We are all connected, this is the road of exploration we're going to take as we speak with a range of experts and practitioners in this four-part series, Edward is our host for these four conversations, so Edward, what are the four areas we're covering? 

Edward Mishaud 

So yes, I'm the host and I'm excited about the four episodes coming up, but it was a tough decision. We must admit in coming up with the episodes and trying to keep them really focused and concise. So episode one, we're going to take a deep dive on how COVID has advanced digitalization and connectivity. I think that that's something that we've all experienced I could think globally as well in most region. Since episode 2, it's going to be a big focus on people on nature and the planet and how the environment is a really vital key to to resilience. And we saw that come really to the forefront in in this current global crisis for Episode 3, we're going to look at the role of cities in building a more resilient sustainable future and our last episode, we're going to examine, you know why is it important to invest in social protection, and this is a very broad issue, but we thought it's crucial to look at how you know advancing a people centered approach can take us way beyond COVID and really also deliver on the SDG's by 2030 and I guess I want to bring Nadia bring you back into this conversation why have we chosen from your perspective these themes for the series? 

Nadia Isler 

For, well, you know, I think we could have probably selected, uh, even broader range of themes no doubt. And especially as we don't have access to all the experiences of every single country in the world too, and I'm sure we're missing certain policies and modalities that were developed under the emergency and urgency of the pandemic. Soo these were just some of the examples where we felt that in these themes we could come up with some very concrete examples for our listeners instead of speaking in a sort of very overarching way that we would come with some very concrete examples of policies, modalities, tools, instrument that were developed at policy level at innovation level at technological level to try and deal with this pandemic and maybe also see the pandemic through this lens. Again, I'm not saying it's a silver lining because I struggle with that, but to say there are certainly some very innovative, unexpected accelerators of the SDG's that within the context of of the pandemic that we would like to highlight and that we would like to make better known to our listeners.  

We hope also that this series will be able to galvanise some energy for, for governments and other stakeholders to come back to us in terms of other tools, modalities and policies that were developed across the world that we haven't heard about yet and to create really a critical mass that we can be that we can share as a global good. 

Natalie Alexander 

Fantastic Francesco, any final words as we end episode 0. 

Francesco Pisano 

Well I like the concept of acceleration, I think that it is true in some areas we are accelerating. I go back to the point I made before and I want to underline it again, what happens? What do you do to keep on track when you accelarate? You focus more. It's very important you accelerate, you decrease the opportunities to be distracted. And that is very important. That's my final thought. 

Natalie Alexander 

Great thanks Francesco. Thank you, Nadia. We hope you enjoy these critical reflections we'll have in these four episodes hosted by Edward. Thank you both so much for joining us today on the podcast. 

Natalie Alexander 

It takes a global crisis is produced by the UN Library and Archives Geneva and the SDG lab.  

The production team is Edward Mishaud, Marlene Borlant, Evgeniya Altukhova, Tiffany Verga and Natalie Alexnder.   

If you'd like to give us feedback or share your comments, you can email us at SDG hyphen lab at un.org. and don't forget to subscribe, leave us a review or find us @UNOG library on Twitter and UN Library and Archives Geneva on Facebook.   

Evgeniya Altukhova 

Or find us at SDGLab on Twitter, or SDG Lab at UN Geneva on LinkedIn. 

Natalie Alexander 

Thanks for listening.  

Bye for now. 

 


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