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By Antonella Di Ciano

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Woman, brown hair and glasses smiling in front of World Economic Forum banner
Antonella Di Ciano, MIDP student

In the bustling heart of New York City, amidst the towering skyscrapers and the pulse of global diplomacy, I found myself at the epicenter of change. Invited by the World Economic Forum to the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings, I joined a cohort of passionate individuals from diverse corners of the globe. 

From September 18 to 22, we delved into intense discussions and visionary dialogues, all set against the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) backdrop, a pivotal moment in the journey towards a sustainable future.

This year, the world stands at the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda, a transformative plan set in 2015 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, our progress has been hampered by the complexities of a post-pandemic world, economic uncertainties, geopolitical tensions, and the growing specter of climate change. The urgency of the situation reverberated across the UNGA halls, urging us to forge ahead despite the challenges.
Bringing together over 1,000 leaders from various sectors and corners of the globe, the meetings were a melting pot of ideas, initiatives, and, most importantly, determination. Among us were 600 business leaders, 80 CEOs, and chairs of companies, alongside 100 public figures, including heads of state, ministers, and leaders of international organizations. This diverse gathering symbolized the collaborative spirit necessary to propel the SDGs forward.

During the intensive sessions, we engaged in more than ten high-level dialogues, exploring topics ranging from climate philanthropy and gender parity to technology for SDGs and racial equity. I had the privilege of serving as the LATAM (Latin American) youth representative at the Intersection of Climate, Health, and Equity forum, where our focus was on understanding climate change as a health crisis and a threat to both human well-being and planetary health.

In this intersection, we delved deep into the stark realities faced by vulnerable communities. For instance, in Venezuela, limited economic resources coupled with deteriorating infrastructure render inhabitants more susceptible to climate-related health issues. The dialogue resonated with a poignant truth: climate change exacerbates existing inequalities, posing a significant threat to public health advancements.

One of the most inspiring outcomes of these discussions was the launch of a groundbreaking initiative by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Norwegian government. This fund aims to bolster climate solutions through innovative financing while supporting small and medium agricultural enterprises in developing nations. It is a testament to the power of dialogue and collaboration, translating words into tangible actions that can transform lives.

Throughout the event, profound words echoed in the air, reminding us of our shared responsibility:

"Multistakeholder coordination is essential to creating bridges across geographies and industries to overcome the current global challenges and accelerate the achievements of the SDG targets by 2030," emphasized Klaus Schwab, Founder, and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. His words encapsulated the essence of our collective endeavor, highlighting the need for unity in the face of adversity.

President William Ruto of the Republic of Kenya added a touch of wisdom, reminding us that "Adversity is the mother of all invention." His insight served as a beacon of hope, illuminating our path forward. Indeed, it is through overcoming challenges that innovation flourishes, leading us toward a brighter, more sustainable future.

As I left the UNGA 2023, I carried with me not only the knowledge and experiences of these transformative days but also a renewed sense of purpose. The road to achieving the SDGs is undoubtedly challenging, but within the walls of the UNGA and the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings, I witnessed the indomitable spirit of humanity.

Together, as a global community, we are not just dreaming of a sustainable future – we are actively shaping it, one dialogue, one initiative, and one innovative solution at a time.

Antonella Di Ciano MIDP’25 is a Master of International Development Policy student who attended UNGA due to her work with the World Economic Forum. She is a Fulbright Scholar from Venezuela. Antonella received a BA in International Studies from Central University of Venezuela and a M.A on Anti Corruption policies from Salamanca University in Spain.  She is an Outgoing Curator of the Global Shapers Caracas (Initiative of the World Economic Forum). Prior to coming to Sanford she worked project management, gender equality and conflict resolution in Venezuela, including including time as Regional Programmes Officer for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office at the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). 

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