Author: Nobel Aka
UNACTO hosted its very first Blueprint for Change: Sustainable Development Conference on 23 March 2019 at the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. Through intensive group discussions and activities, attendees were able to think about solutions to critical issues using the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a foundation. The conference’s objective was to empower the local community through an intersectional program and provide a place for individuals to participate in the UN's mission as global citizens. There were more than 200 attendees at the conference from the private sector, academia and civil society.
The conference focused around workshops that covered the following topics: Human Rights, Environment, Youth & Education, the UN Decade for People of African Descent and Indigenous Affairs.
The UNACTO Human Rights Committee used its workshop to discuss poverty reduction strategies, demography and affordable housing, and environmental issues. Ginelle Skerritt, Executive Director at Warden Woods Community Centre and Dr. Erica DiRuggiero, Professor and Director of Global Public Health at the University of Toronto, were able to engage participants in thinking about solutions to these problems right here in Toronto.
UNACTO's Youth & Education Committee's workshop brought guests together to discuss gender parity and women's rights. Stacy-Lee Ashmeade, a registered social worker, started the workshop with a video on human trafficking. She encouraged the audience to find solutions as a community. This was followed by a fireside chat with Aisha Addo, CEO of DriveHer Transportation and Founder of Power to Girls Foundation, who shared her experience as a young Canadian activist with the group. Later, participants were also able to hear from a panel of women leaders featuring financial specialist Isabella Bertrani, author Dr. Shahnaz Shoro and former Ontario Senior Policy Advisor on US Trade, Paolo Beci.
UNACTO's Environment Committee hosted an interactive workshop with special guests—the Consul Generals of both France and Peru. Participants and facilitators working in the field were encouraged to brainstorm ideas about how they imagine a sustainable Toronto.
To honour the UN Decade for People of African Descent and the International Year of Indigenous Languages, UNACTO also developed programs to specifically address anti-black racism and Indigenous issues in Canada featuring speakers. Libin Mohamed, Fattmata Kanu, Chris McClean and Norma Nicholson's panel sought to educate attendees about the historical context of anti-black racism, while George Lepine held a talk about prioritizing building sustainable communities for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Painting COLOURISM, a workshop with artist Christiana Ogunye-Oladehinde, allowed participants to use art to start discussions on "colour" and how people see themselves.
Additionally, Indigenous vendors and educational exhibitors were present to engage attendees with their local businesses and causes.
To wrap up the day, Thanh Campbell, author of Orphan32 shared his story about being a Vietnam war orphan with a speech on hope, followed by closing remarks by Sven Spengemann, MP for Mississauga-Lakeshore.