At the opening ceremony, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that the contribution of NGOs, academia and youth will be key to achieving the SDGs, for without the participation of NGOs and civil society groups, no initiative, however visionary, can be fully achieved.
“I am such a strong believer in NGOs, I constantly call on governments to expand space for you to operate,” said the Secretary-General in his address to conference delegates. “Four days ago, at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, I denounced shrinking democratic space and I urged freedom for civil society organizations and human rights defenders. Unfortunately, that freedom is under threat, including at the last place this should happen: at the United Nations. I call on Member States to stop constricting NGO engagement.”
In his address, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Kyo-ahn Hwang reaffirmed the country’s commitment to fostering global citizenship.
“We worked very hard so that global citizenship was reflected in the SDGs,” said Prime Minister Hwang. “Global citizens need to fulfil the basic values of humanity. They need to be proactively involved in solving global issues.
This conference, under the theme of ‘Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together’ will encourage people to become involved.”
The conference, held from 30 May to 1 June 2016, is being underpinned by three pillars: Formal Education; Informal Education and Training; and Advocacy and Public Information, which will be examined as a means to eliminate inequalities that create barriers to learning.
Over the next three days, the roundtable discussions, workshops and youth caucuses will focus on education as an entry point for implementing and achieving the SDGs, culminating in an action agenda for NGOs and academia, to concentrate efforts and catalyze successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Cross cutting themes such as gender equality and climate change will be a strong focus, along with importance of learning from marginalized and vulnerable groups, including indigenous people and the LGBT community.
Co-Chairs of the conference, Dr. Scott Carlin, Associate Professor of Geography at Long Island University and Dr. YuKang Choi, NGO Representative to the United Nations for Dream Touch for All, highlighted that the conference is an important opportunity to raise awareness and mobilizecivil society around the SDGs.
“The NGO/DPI Conference will bring the civil society voice to the United Nations, and foster NGO support for implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” said Dr. Carlin.
“This is the first time the conference is being hosted in Asia, providing an opportunity for NGOs in the region to tap into networks and enhance their ability to lobby governments for commitment to SDG implementation,” added Dr. Choi.
More than 2000 people were in attendance for the opening session. The conference is being organized in cooperation with the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, the Government of the Republic of Korea and the National Organizing Committee of Korea.