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Making Sense of It All

Erik Lampmann is a SustainUS delegate at the 52nd Commission on Social Development at the United Nations in New York. The theme of this year's commission is "Promoting Empowerment of People in Achieving Poverty Eradication, Social Integration, and Full Employment and Decent Work for All." Meet the CSocD-52 Delegation, or follow @SustainUS on Twitter and check out the SustainUS Facebook Page to track the delegation's work!

I’ve spent the better part of the past week at the United Nations in New York trying to make sense of my experience serving as a Youth Delegate with SustainUS at the 52nd Commission on Social Development. I’ve been privileged to join SustainUS in the past several months and to be a part of their efforts to change the paradigm around youth engagement within the UN system.

My experience contributing to delegation statements and policy interventions has been nothing short of trailblazing.

Frankly, it’s overwhelming. I’m a second-semester senior taking time away from my last semester at the University of Richmond to fundraise, travel to New York, and speak to the concerns of my generation within these storied halls. No one from my Irish Catholic, working-class family has ever had access to these sorts of spaces – no one that I’ve ever known has had their voice legitimized and accredited by the United Nations, the world’s premier organization working to ensure vibrant and resilient democratic societies.

Read more: Making Sense of It All

Eyes on Environmental Justice: Thoughts going into CSocD-52

Tuesday marked the opening of the 52nd session of the Commission for Social Development, taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This year’s priority theme is “promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all.” I have cautious hope that progressive decisions will be made over the next two weeks, but I want to highlight one issue in particular. I urge the negotiators and civil society members present at the conference to make the environment, and environmental justice specifically, central to their policy considerations this year.

Environmental justice refers to the equal distribution of environmental benefits and burdens across all people regardless of race, nationality, or income. Environmental justice is becoming increasingly important as nations of the world work to fairly distribute the negative impacts of far-reaching environmental problems such as climate change. However, in arenas like the UN we have seen how easy it is for powerful nations (generally the most wealthy and developed ones) to push for the policies that most benefit them at the expense of less-developed nations. It’s past time for developed nations to take responsibility for the environmental impacts they have, rather than pushing them onto the countries least prepared to handle them.

However, I hope that this year’s CSocD will work to reverse that trend. An emerging issue this year (Item 3 (c) of the agenda) is the “social drivers of sustainable development,” (more info here). In the presentation of this topic, the Secretary-General defines sustainable development as the idea that economic growth, social justice, and environmental stewardship are all necessary factors in policy decisions that will promote development around the world. This type of multilateral approach to policy could have far-reaching benefits. It is important to protect our environment for future generations, but at the same time we need to encourage social development and social justice. The document mentions several strategies for achieving this balance, such as transitions to socially fair green economies and increasing employment “by expanding in low-carbon social service sectors such as education, health, public transport and leisure.”

This type of development, taking environmental justice into account along with developmental strategies, is our best path to a sustainable future. I sincerely hope the conference will follow through with the ideals that have been presented here. The emerging issue was presented and discussed starting Friday morning and I am watching. I encourage civil society members both present and at a distance to do the same.


2013 SustainUS Media Recap

Here’s a quick summary of all the media coverage SustainUS received in 2013. On the media page there are individual links posted to articles related to the COP19 delegation.
Overall this year we got about 63 individual media hits. Based on subject, we received:
  • 54 Media Hits Related to our COP19 delegation.
  • 3 Articles about Lead Now Fellows.
  • An Article written by Board Member Kyle Gracey describing his experiences on the Board of Directors.
  • An Article about two delegates attending the 57th Commission on the Status of Women.
  • A TEDx talk by Citizen Science winner Alix Generous’s, about her experience winning Citizen Science.
Of all of SustainUS programs, the Agents of Change delegation to the COP climate negotiations had the most opportunities to get media coverage. One goal for 2014 is to apply a similar approach as the one we have used for COP with the other AoC delegations, Lead Now, and Citizen Science to hopefully generate more media coverage of our work.
Of the roughly 54 media hits that the COP19 delegation received, there were several mentions in major U.S. media outlets, including:
  • Three mentions and pictures in Reuters
  • An interview with NPR by COP19 delegate Adam Greenberg
  • Two pictures in a Yahoo News Slideshow
The majority of the coverage from Warsaw was centered on SustainUS’s participation in the Stand with the Philippines hunger strike.  This coverage illustrates how involving ourselves in big solidarity actions provides a great opportunity to get the word out about our work and the work of others.
Overall it was a great year for SustainUS's media coverage and we look forward to finding outlet to highlight our work as an organization in 2014.

Devan and Mike 

SustainUS Media Coordinators