The inaugural SDGs Impact Summit was held in New Delhi convening international delegates, panellists, change makers, activists and influencers rallying to propel the momentum of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. With only 10 years left to achieve the SDGs, the high-level international forum, conceptualised with a special focus on unlocking the innumerable potential of a collaboration between the Global North and South, was hosted to bring the focus to India, the world’s youngest and second most populous country.
The Summit featured Plenary and Speed Talk Sessions as well as a Hackathon in search of the next generation of disruptors. Audiences within and beyond the Global South were encouraged to mobilise urgent action to address some of the pressing issues of the decade including climate change, inequality, poverty, gender equality, education and health, broadly segmented into four thematic areas – People, Prosperity, Planet and Partnerships.
The issues covered spanned environmental, the housing crisis in Hong Kong and the need for sustainable cities, water and sanitation, women’s health and sustainability practices.
The Chief Guest of the summit was Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the Minister of Jal Shakti, who is aligned to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Har Nal Mein Jal, a scheme to offer piped water to every rural house by 2024. His participation at the Summit was also timely, with World Toilet Day taking place on the 19th of November. The Minister said: “India is now successfully moving towards maximum sustainability and is one of the leading countries focusing on SDGs.”
A special SDG 6 Clean Water & Sanitation session also took place with the participation of leading organisations and individuals powering efforts in the sector. The co-founder of Water.org, a global non-profit organisation working to bring water and sanitation to the world, Gary White delivered a video address. He touched upon the importance of sustainable management of water resources and sanitation systems and the important role of India as a thought leader and catalyst for global action.
During the inaugural session on the possibilities for re-modelling our world economy to focus on wealth creation backed by Environmental Social and Governance factors to encourage purposeful investments, a special video address was also delivered by Paul Polman, Chair and Co-Founder of IMAGINE and ex-chair of UNILEVER, who spoke about the need for a global North-South partnership.
A special panel titled Let’s Talk, conceptualised by supermodel, philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, featured at the event. The panel was powered by Niine Sanitary Napkins.
She said: “I want to address this from a male point of view. Imagine you are going to the toilet, as we do every day, and there is no toilet paper and no soap available. What would you do? You would be outraged! Now think about a woman, who has no access to sanitary products! We have been numbed by the stigma and shame that even us women will not even make a noise about this. I want businesses to think about a step as simple as placing products in their bathrooms. It has the power to create such a change for your female employees.”
The summit concluded with a special video message delivered by Richard Curtis, filmmaker and UN SDGs Advocate: “I am an advocate for the SDGs, because they are the best plan that the world has got. The whole plan of the SDGs is to make us the first generation to end extreme poverty, the most determined generation to defeat inequality and injustice and the last generation to be threatened by climate change.”
Natasha Mudhar, Founder of The World We Want said: “The inaugural Summit certainly created an initiation in the discussion, but we don’t want the curtain to fall here. It’s now time for the advocacy to become action and this requires sustained ongoing discussion across the proceeding decade.”