When you think of the United Nations, what image comes to mind?
A powerful institution that makes decisions directly affecting the lives of people, or governments sitting together discussing issues of pressing concern for the world?
A distant and remote place full of besuited bureaucrats pushing paper?
An organization that responds to the needs of ordinary people, in war, in disasters and in everyday life?
Do you think the UN cares about what is important to you and other ordinary people like you?
I have worked in the UN for the last 15 years. From personal experience, I can tell you that the first three are all true. Like any organization, there is both the good and the bad.
when it comes to the idea that the UN wants to know what matters to you, there is something quite extraordinary happening right now. And we want you to be a
part of it.
UN is charged with defining a new global agreement on goals for
a better world to be achieved in the next 20 years. This could be agreeing that
efforts will be made to ensure every child gets a good education, that
every family has access to clean water, or
that forests and rivers are better protected. We have two years to agree to these new
then set the clock running at the start of 2016 to achieve them.
At the UN, we want these new goals to bring about transformational change for both the people and the planet. We want these new goals to reaffirm the principles of the Millennium Declaration, which was signed by every country at the start of this century, expressing a commitment to a world of prosperity, dignity, freedom and peace.
However, what we all know is that the new set of goals cannot be so large that we look at them and feel defeated; that we do not know where to start. We cannot have a Christmas tree with every goal twinkling, each one capturing our attention and distracting us. We need a select few priorities, the ones that matter the most, so that we can focus hard on achieving them.
But who makes the decision about what matters most?
The answer is both! The UN has thrown open the doors and invited you to have your say in this new development agenda.
The UN is breaking new ground by using digital media, mobile phone technology and extensive door-to-door outreach to citizens in order to include as many individuals as possible in the debate on future global targets. The MY World survey is asking you to tell us what matters most to you and your family -- from education and healthcare, to equality between men and women and jobs.
The “you” so far has been over 800,000 people from 194 countries. The “you” has been young and old, people living in poverty, people in refugee camps, people living in cities, parents and children. The “you” have been reached through the collective efforts of thousands of volunteers, scouts, guides and faith groups who have organized together in order to reach those whose voices are not heard. The “you” have been reached using the latest technology, SMS, Smart phones and a host of other ways we could only have dreamed of at the turn of the century.
At the UN, we are drawing together these voices and views in order to tell the story of what the world wants. With the power of technology, we can see today that be it in a favela in Brazil, a rural community in Rwanda or in a U.S. city, people are saying that education matters most. Better healthcare and access to water and sanitation are also prioritized across the board. But we are also seeing other issues people care about and want prioritized; they want an honest and responsive government, protection from crime and violence and the preservation of the natural environment. Interestingly, for the younger generations, we can see that better job opportunities are a major priority.
Every two minutes the MY World survey is updated, every two minutes we can see who is voting, where they are voting from and what they are voting for. All of us can watch the pulse of the world while we sit at our desks.
world leaders, those in whom we have entrusted our faith to make the right
choices and the right decisions, for whom the “pulse of the world” is so
important. So, my promise to all of those millions who have had their say and
the thousands who have mobilized is to take their vision directly to leaders so
that their voices are heard.
Therefore, when the hard decisions are being made, it is the voice of the people through MY World that will ring in their ears. MY World data has already informed the Liberia, Bali and New York meetings of the Secretary General’s High Level Panel on post-2015 chaired by the Heads of State from the UK, Liberia and Indonesia. In addition, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development has taken MY World inputs as a key data point and the results will also inform the Secretary General’s own report to UN member states at the General Assembly in September 2013.
challenge to each and every one of you is to become one of the millions of
voters and one of the thousands of MY World advocates – encouraging your
friends, family and colleagues to take the survey. Details on how to engage can
be found at getinvolved.myworld2015.org.
Your voice matters. Your actions matter. In your personal or professional lives each and every one of you can, and will, reach out to hundreds of people. You have the power in your hands, use it. Vote today and help define a better future for us all.
Corinne Woods is director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign.