CTAUN Conference at the UN

The 17th annual Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) Conference was held on January 22, 2016, at the UN Headquarters in New York. The theme of the conference this year was “Stewardship for a Sustainable World: Education in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Approximately 500 participants, including educators, students, and NGOs with UN representatives and experts, attended to learn more about the SDGs. Presenters shared important information about how people everywhere can be involved in the achievement of the SDGs. The experience was very inspirational and we learned how organizations are responding in multifaceted ways to the multitudes of challenges around the world.

The conference started with a warm, welcoming greeting by Anne-Marie Carlson, the Chair of CTAUN. Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, opened the session by explaining the origins of the SDGs. Also, Ambassador David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, addressed the process of diplomacy for the SDGs. The morning session emphasized the urgent need to eradicate hunger. Presenters focused on the second SDG, which is “zero hunger.” The discussion included experts from a local cooperative, a UN Secretary-General, and representatives from global programs. They shared strategic plans to ensure that all people have a right to an adequate supply of nourishing food. In addition, Martin Gallagher, the Senior Liaison Officer, Zero Hunger Challenge, in the Office of the Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition at the U., expressed great concern and spoke passionately about individuals’ rights.

For the highlight session, author Christine Ieronimo presented her children’s picture book, A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water Across The World. The book was based on the story of Eva, her adopted daughter from Ethiopia. The author experienced a transformation when she was in the United States with her adopted daughter and saw her child drinking from a puddle. That experience led her to promote awareness of the need for clean water as a global concern by creating a children’s picture book. Her real story inspired the entire audience. 

The CTAUN Best Practices Awards were presented; the awards were given to the students and teachers who created projects motivated by what they learned at past CTAUN conferences. An information fair provided knowledge and expertise about UN agencies, educational organizations, and associated groups. 

The afternoon session focused on issues related to individual rights and environmental challenges, such as taking care of the Earth. Eugene Stakhiv, a Water Resources Engineer and Research Scientist, pointed out that there is a critical shortage of safe drinking water for 1.4 billion people. On a positive note, he made statements about raising the GDP in some countries and efforts to implement the SDGs among intergovernmental organizations. The Lead Advisor of the UN Environment Program, Juan Chebly, said that we should not only be concerned with the needs of the current generation, but also make sure not to harm future generations. Other panelists provided a broad range of suggestions regarding water and environmental projects and climate policy based on their extensive experiences and expertise. The final message was to inform and educate everyone and strive to be sure that everyone’s voices is heard. Village by village, inch by inch, we all have the power to make a difference.

The CTAUN conference was enriching, and we learned a great deal about the UN’s work, as the conference provided the big picture of the UN’s goals and how it promotes stewardship for sustainable development for both teachers and students. We felt privileged to gain knowledge of the global agenda and to broaden our perspectives concerning a wide range of issues, from local to worldwide. The conference challenged us as teachers to integrate the SDGs into our teaching and curriculum with children in our daily lives. The conference provided an experience where educators, experts, and advocates could network together at all different levels in order to promote a sustainable world.

We encourage ACEI members to participate and be involved in this innovative global awareness conference, which occurs annually at the UN. We believe that many of our members, who already dedicate their lives to making a better world, should get involved by attending the conference next year. ACEI members will discover a variety of meaningful ways to promote the global agenda by sharing their perspectives from all around the world. Because we are global advocates for all children, we support the conference’s mission. We are looking forward to raising a voice together at upcoming CTAUN conferences.     

Anne Bauer