Last Friday, I was invited together to attend an anniversary event held at San Francisco’s City Hall which celebrated the 70 years the United Nations Charter was signed. I was selected as one of 70 Bay Area Digital Leaders to participate in the event together with ambassadors from around the globe. Deemed a Charter Commemoration Ceremony, remarks and speeches were given by Governor Edmund Brown, Mayor Ed Lee, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon shortly after the Boys Choir entertained the audience.
Even without the UN Anniversary celebration in play, it was already a day San Franciscans would never forget — earlier that morning, the SCOTUS ruling was announced and same sex marriage was legally voted in, which had a profound impact on the city where it all began. As I made my way up the City Hall entrance, hundreds were gathered on the front steps, joyful screams of the positive outcome echoing into the morning air.
The Governor talked about the significance of the Charter and San Francisco’s role back then and of course how San Franciscans can be involved in the UN’s work in the years to come. Conveniently seated in a second row aisle seat, I managed to get some fairly close shots of the morning’s on-stage activities.
Most impactful for me was Nancy Pelosi who also referenced the SCOTUS ruling and the powerful impact San Francisco has had on the nation. Connected events in the Bay Area included meetings of the Secretary-General with business leaders and entrepreneurs; the unveiling of a Zio Ziegler mural in Oakland that celebrates the UN’s 70th anniversary and which was inspired by the new global goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals; and the presentation of the Harvey Milk Medal — seen as one of the most significant recognitions from the LGBT global human rights community — to the UN Secretary-General by members of the Harvey Milk Foundation Board, Stuart Milk and Anette Trettenbergstuen, who is the only openly lesbian politician in the Norwegian Parliament.
As the speeches ended, there was a flurry of activity in the main room, from ambassadors shaking hands with other ambassadors they knew or hadn’t seen in awhile to many wanting to take photos on the UN steps.
Below, Omar Hilale, Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. Also nearby was Sékou Kassé, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mali to the UN.
From Ghana and Panama to Bahrain and Southeast Asia, permanent representatives to the UN showed up for this prestigious event.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but a group of Cambodian monks also showed up for the event — my only wish was that I would have had an opportunity and time for a separate briefing with them to learn more about their world and how to more effectively take their calming energy and wisdom forth into mine.
The architecture was as to be expected, stunning and only added to the historical element of the day. Also worth noting for those wanting to help is the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund, which is a new way to donate to advance the future of the UN’s vital work on human rights, children’s health, gender equality, the environment and sustainable development.
From the ceiling to exquisite panoramic views….albeit a little distorted, my iPhone shots will give you an idea of my view on June 26.
Additional opportunities to celebrate and support the UN at the time of their “Big 70” include something our group (the 70 Digital Leaders) were privvy to advance: two hashtags highlighting the event, #UN70 and #UNdiscovered, which is a social media initiative inviting people to post photos to social media networks showing their connections to the UN and UN causes.
Photos included could include everything from sites in San Francisco related to the origins of the UN, to a symbol of human rights, to activities working to alleviate poverty. The #UN70 hashtag was used more than 10,357 times with a reach of 37,618,280 and more than 292,321,987 impressions and the #UNdiscovered hashtag was used 376 times with a reach of 717,996 and 7,204,794 impressions and that was on Friday alone.
It was equally memorable and emotional when the room was close to empty at the start and end of the briefing as it was when it was packed with thought leaders and politicians, camera crew lining the back walls.
Another surprise I hadn’t expected was a standalone interactive discussion solely for the Bay Area’s 70 Digital Leaders after the event. The inspiring dialogue was led by Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division, Department of Information at the UN, who has been leading the outreach effort since 2011. Another nice surprise was the very brave 17 year old Malala YoUsafZai aka @MalalasMs who came to address our group.
For those not familiar with her work, she’s the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, most known for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Yousafzai’s advocacy has since grown into an international movement, getting her nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.
After several touching moments with her at San Francisco’s City Hall, we discussed how, as a group with independent voices and platforms, we could help the UN attain their global goals. The truth is that many of you reading also have a digital presence and spearhead or help elevate a cause or two that you care most passionately about.
“2015 presents a historic and unprecedented opportunity to bring the countries and citizens of the world together to decide and embark on new paths to improve the lives of people everywhere.
These decisions will determine the global course of action to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment and address climate change.”
More information on their initiatives and global goals can be found @theglobalgoals on Twitter and Instagram and www.globalgoals.org on the web! I was honored to be invited and grateful that I was not on an airplane elsewhere last week so I was able to participate on such a lovely and memorable historical day.