From 1 – 3 March 2017, Bonn was the host city of the inaugural conference, ‘the Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development’, which took place at the World Conference Centre. Dubbed the world’s first ‘playable conference’, it brought together more than 500 policy-makers, students, activists, members of civil society groups and researchers among others. The conference was hosted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign (UN SDG Action Campaign) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI). In his introductory remarks, the UN SDG Action global director, Mitchell Toomey, emphasized the importance of working together in order to realize SDGs.
“We are here to connect the private sector, governments and civil society to provide them with the latest innovations and approaches to realize the SDGs. We have to make sure they can bring real solutions to their regions and inspire billions of people everywhere to work together to take action for sustainable development,” said Toomey.
The 3-day conference was a hive of activity where the participants had the choice of attending panel discussions on: tackling inequalities, resource efficiency, climate change and other topics concerning overall development. The participants could also attend the simulations based on the similar topics as the panel discussions. In one of the simulation exercises, the participants were asked to develop a new national strategy for a fictional country. In so doing, they got to experience the difficulties that most countries face when deciding on an energy strategy, especially in the face of climate change where a compromise has to be made between just energy and green energy.
There was an ‘Open mic’ session where different stakeholders shared their ideas and knowledge and where participants were given the opportunity to respond to these shared ideas. The ‘live stage’ in the main lobby of the conference venue served as an interactive space where participants could share their initiatives that address the SDGs and also engage in constructive discussions with other attendees. Other panel discussions were conducted in Germany in order to address local issues. To complement these sessions, the participants were taught how to play a game, 2030 Hive Mind. Each participant had to use a smart phone to play the 2030 Hive Mind and in doing so, was given a task to push forward policies that affect the SDGs. There was even a fictional ‘national news channel’ that reported on the conference’s activities and progress.
In closing, three youth speakers brought the audience to their feet. Emi Mahmoud, World Poetry Slam champion, recited one of her poems to the audience and discussed war in her country of birth, Sudan. Natalie Robi, an activist and accountability advocate from Kenya, called on the world leaders to help stop female genital mutilation in her country. Edda Hamar, UN SDG Young Leader and founder of Undress Runway, raised the importance of sustainable consumption in the fashion industry. To wrap up the conference, the keynote speakers called on the participants to take action in order for the SDGs to be realised.
Author: Nteboheng Phakisi