This past summer, School of Diplomacy and International Relations Assistant Professor and Secretary of the United Nations Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations (UN DPI/NGO) Executive Committee, Rev. Brian K. Muzas, served on the Committee of Experts in the 66th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference, held in Gyeonju, Republic of Korea. As a member of the Committee, he joined other esteemed academics, including: Dr. Mary E. Norton of Felician University, the Franciscan University of New Jersey, Daniel Perell of Baha'i International Community, Dr. Paul Lim of Vanderbilt University's School of Divinity, and Dr. Jae-Chun Won from the Republic of Korea. In close collaboration with all conference participants, the Committee produced a document entitled the "Gyeonju Action Plan," outlining an array of initiatives that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world can implement to address Sustainable Development Goal #4 - Quality Education, with a focus on "education for Global Citizenship." Subsequently, under the sponsorship of Republic of Korea, the Committee's Plan was presented to the UN General Assembly during its 70th Session in July. The body, consisting of representatives from 193 member states, adopted the Action Plan, and a cover letter of Permanent Representative Oh Joon, as an official UN document, A/70/980 under agenda item 20, sustainable development.
The Action Plan comes as a result of an arduous and complex creation process. The Committee of Experts started work prior to the conference, developing an original draft that was first circulated among the New York-based echelons of the NGO and UNDPI community. After receiving initial feedback, another draft was then posted online for all of civil society to access and comment on. The final, and most extensive step, took place on site in Korea during the conference. The Committee had the draft of the Action Plan literally posted on the walls and provided sticky notes and pens so conference attendees could write and share their comments in a concrete manner. Further, the Committee held Town Halls that provided the opportunity for attendees to voice their opinions about the Action Plan's content directly to its writers. Dr. Paul Lim acted as a combination of moderator and translator in these events. After navigating the contrasting views brought to light through the feedback processes, and with the support of Korean government representatives and UN figures including Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division in UNDPI, the Committee finalized a draft of the Plan at 3:33am. Later that morning, the Committee stood before the entire Conference and read the Action Plan, word for word. Their work was received with resounding enthusiasm. Finally, after the multiple iterations, extensive feedback, and intense discussions, the Conference adopted the Action Plan by acclamation.
In a letter to the President of the UN General Assembly, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea introduced the Plan, and offered it for adoption as an official UN document. As an active participant in the creation of the document, Father Brian Muzas expressed positive outlook on the final results, stating, "I'm proud of this accomplishment, and hopeful that it is the beginning of more good things to come." The General Assembly's circulation of the Plan as an official document illustrates the collaborative relationship between the United Nations and a multitude of non-governmental organizations, and highlights the efficacy of NGO participation in the shaping of UN discourse. Such a move is pertinent considering the number of important roles NGOs will play in the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Categories: Nation and World