I was fortunate to attend an Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly in 2020 titled ‘Targeting Hunger: South-South And Triangular Cooperation For Transforming Agriculture’ which I have written about in this column before. The dialogue focused on how to make agriculture an economically more attractive and socially more rewarding career in developing countries. It explored which policy measures can best support smallholders and family farmers, among many other pertinent topics affecting agriculture in the Global South.
This year, I have accepted another invitation to a different, but no less fascinating event in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly under the auspices of Goalkeepers. Led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers is designed to inspire and incentivise thinkers and doers towards achieving the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The Global Goals form an ambitious blueprint for reimagining a better future for all by 2030 and were agreed upon by all member states of the United Nations. Every year, the foundation hosts an event, facilitating a yearly awards programme and convening a global community of collaborative and diverse change-makers.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, despite remarkable advances in the fight against poverty, inequality and disease, the job is not yet finished. Whereas progress is possible, it is not inevitable. Therefore, Goalkeepers is designed to be a catalyst for action, bringing leaders together from around the world to share what is working, what’s not and to forge new partnerships for action.
During this year’s UN General Assembly in New York, Goalkeepers will explore this theme and examine the challenge of disrupting inequity. I am, therefore, looking forward to witnessing how Goalkeepers accelerate progress toward the Global Goals using their powerful stories, data, and partnerships to highlight progress achieved, hold governments accountable, and bring together a diverse range of leaders to address the world’s major challenges. Beyond this, the UN General Assembly is a remarkable event to make valuable connections, share ideas, and form partnerships for progress with change-makers from around the world and I hope to revel in this opportunity.
However, I am particularly excited to attend this year’s events because Goalkeepers will focus on how data, technical innovations and good governance are critical to leaving no one behind. This is a subject I am deeply interested in and have dedicated the last decade of my life to. Since my last event at the UN, the world has witnessed a global pandemic that has widened gaps and inequalities across the world. In the wake of a climate emergency and conflicts in many parts of the world that also affect many aspects of life, from food production to trade, I have found myself contending with new topics beyond agriculture and technology. This is perhaps why I resonate with the Global Goals as I find my work directly correlated to nine of the 17 Goals.
From work in digital agriculture to nature-based solutions towards climate change and sustainable innovation in environment to support biodiversity, we key into the Zero Hunger and No Poverty as well as Climate Action and Life on Land Global Goals. Through numerous projects with rural communities and urban alike, we promote access to good health and well-being and strive for reduced inequalities in various aspects of quality education, decent work and economic growth.
Also, many aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship in our work with students, innovators and stakeholders such as universities, corporates, and risk capital providers relate to the goal of industry, innovation and infrastructure.
I am, therefore, thrilled by the opportunity to attend this year’s Goalkeepers event, which will focus on the Global Goals as the future of progress, and their role as the roadmap to a world where everyone can live a healthy, productive life. Even more valuable is the opportunity to learn, in an evidence-based way, where progress that has been made, where the need to focus efforts going forward lie, and the solutions needed to do this.
Past speakers at Goalkeepers include world leaders like New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, President Barack Obama, and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed; Nobel Peace Prize winners and inspiring young leaders from all over the world.
In the letter of invitation, signed by both Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, I was pleasantly happy to read that I have been nominated to attend Goalkeepers “by someone who thinks you are already doing amazing work to push for a better world.” It is indeed such great honour to be nominated, let alone to be considered with the potential to catalyze progress in new ways.
In six weeks, when we convene in New York, I hope to learn about existing evidence on the effectiveness of programmes and practices, share my own findings in an accessible way and offer as well as receive support from other attendees to use these findings to inform our decisions towards achieving the Global Goals. After all, progress is possible but not inevitable, and we must do all we can to ensure and sustain it in order to stand any chance of achieving the Global Goals.