Inspired At The UN Civil Society Conference In Nairobi, May 2024

By |Published On: May 27th, 2024|

“Thank you to everyone who made this inspiring trip possible – Fields of Green for ALL members, affiliates, our Dagga Private Club supporters, my Superheroes (you know who you are), my fellow Ambassadors at the Cannabis Embassy & our international donors.”

What an inspiration to be in a room with 2,158 civil society participants from 115 nationalities at the UN Office in Nairobi for two days of “discussions, activities, inspiration, dialogue and achievement.”

In our South African Cannabis space, we are often the lone civil society voice amongst business or political interests so it was a breath of fresh air to know I was surrounded by people who face similar challenges & who also work tirelessly in the interests of a better world. The conference programme was structured across the 5 Themes of the Summit of the Future.

  1. Sustainable development and financing for development 
  2. International Peace and Security 
  3. Science, technology and innovation and digital cooperation / The Global Digital Compact 
  4. Youth and Future Generations / The Declaration on Future Generations 
  5. Transforming global governance

The Summit of the Future is a monumental effort to reset global cooperation and the United Nations will host hundreds of world leaders, policymakers, experts, and advocates in New York in September 2024. The ultimate goal: To rethink what multilateralism means in a rapidly changing world.

The UN compound in Nairobi is set in 40ha of beautiful parkland and easily accommodated the large crowd. This was the first time that such a conference was held in Africa. The organisers, in their thank you note, were proud to note that “A particular highlight of the Nairobi Conference was the very high participation of civil society representatives from Africa (over 70% of participants) and young people (over 40% of participants were under 35 years old).  There were 4 plenary and interactive sessions, 62 off-site and online events before and during the Conference, 38 onsite workshops, 64 exhibits and 20 ImPACT coalitions formed.”

On the first day I attended 2 workshops:

A New Global Deal To Implement The Sustainable Development Goals 

 – Hosted by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS)

“ The current global order is undergoing a large-scale transformation: emerging existential challenges for all humankind, increasing inequalities within and between countries and generations, competing global strategies between great powers, fragilities of the multilateral system and major military conflicts” – Maria Joao Rodrigues, editor of the publication that was unpacked during this session.
In each of the sessions I got to thinking about my major area of focus – drug policy – and the fact that this, although not specifically mentioned, is a major cross-cutting issue that is relevant for each point being made by the experts. From climate to migration, gender issues, violence against women & children, both national and international conflicts, and enormous economic inequality. Even within the microcosm that is Cannabis in South Africa, we see these huge issues showing up. I am grateful to be exposed to this global big picture.

Summit Of The Future 101 – Unpacking the Pact for the Future

Hosted by Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN)

At a time when nationalism is on the rise and multilateralism is being called into question by powerful governments, we are faced with an increasing number of global threats that require greater international cooperation across borders, sectors and generations.  

What will the future look like if the major trends of climate change, military conflict, and inequality are left unchecked in the absence of global cooperation?
Renewing multilateralism: we need bold collective action more than ever.”

The Summit for the Future is the actual event and the Pact for the Future is the document that is being developed as an agreement between all member states who endorse it. This workshop explained the intricacies of the development of the document. I was particularly impressed by the calibre of the speakers as the emphasis was on people-centred multilateralism aimed at improving global structures and problem solving through the inclusion of civil society.

On the 2nd day I attended 2 Impact Coalitions. These are where attendees honed their focus and gathered in smaller groups with the task to draft a short statement around their particular issue and these are considered part of the final pact.

Funding for Community Action on Sustainable Development

This session explored collective needs for access to funding and lessons learned from existing good practices across key civil society constituencies on approaches to enhance the flexibility of funding support for grassroots CSO groups working on sustainable development. The aim of the session was to shift the balance of funding towards more participatory, community-led approaches, thereby redressing the imbalances around power and agency in international development.

 Drug Policy for the Future

Gathering with our Drug Policy colleagues and expanding our African network within this setting was reassuring and it was interesting to focus on including our collective expertise within the very broad context of the conference.

The Coalition built on extensive consultations, both regionally and globally in 2023 and early 2024, leading up to the 2024 mid-term review of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs resulting in a Global Civil Society Report published by the Vienna and New York NGO Committees on Drugs. The session description and concept note can be downloaded here

All Impact Coalitions were presented during the final afternoon. The closing plenary featured moving and optimistic speeches by the President of Kenya and the Secretary General of the UN. I returned home rejuvenated and inspired to continue to strive for Fields of Green for ALL!
Myrtle, May 2024

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About the Author: Myrtle Clarke

Everyone here on TGN should know who I am!

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