Social Good Summit 2015: The World's To-Do List

Last week the fifth annual Social Good Summit convened in New York City. As a UN Social Good Fellow, I had the great honor of attending the inspirational event, held during what’s come to be known as United Nations Week, the time each September when the UN General Assembly meets. The conference gathers together global leaders, entrepreneurs, grass-roots activists, advocates and not a small number of people in social media to share (and brainstorm) how technology can make the world a better place.

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at Summit Good Summit 2015 image: casey kelbaugh/mashable

My, oh my, how Social Good has grown in such a short time! Amazing to witness such a movement. 

Inspired in part by the United Nation’s Millennial Development Goals, essentially the world’s biggest to-do list, the two-day conference packs an enormous amount of knowledge and activism into one venue. The remarkable line-up of panelists this time around included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moom, Queen Rania of Jordan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, several former prime ministers, Wikimedia Founder Jimmy Wales and the International Rescue Committee’s David Miliband to name just a few. The Elders, a superstar team of former world leaders, put in their two cents too via video message – including Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu. To add a touch of glamour a host of celebrity activists showed up too, such as Victoria Beckham, Patti Smith, Adrian Grenier, Charlize Theron, Sienna Miller, Ashley Judd, Connie Britton, director Richard Curtis and the irrepressible Laverne Cox. Every single celeb spoke articulately and passionately about their efforts in some of the most underdeveloped parts of the globe.

So what happens when a bunch of leaders, entrepreneurs and activists get together?

A huge, global, inspiring, awesome and naturally on-going conversation!

Much talk centered on the United Nations new more inclusive set of global goals, officially knows as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Former UN Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan and his team of advisors wrote the first set of goals in 2000. The Millennial Development Goals as they are called, targeted 2015. Well, guess what, we’re there already.

For the next set of goals, the SDGs, the UN asked the world for input in a massive, global survey. You can still complete it -  The My World Survey. Anyhow, the people responded. So the UN created an even bigger set of goals for 2030.  Newcomers on the list include clean water, sanitation, gender equality, and responsible consumption. Previous goals have not been forgotten. Topping the list are #1 ending poverty, #2 ending hunger, and #3 improving health and well-being. 

As a psychologist, I’m glad the third goal now includes “promoting well-
being,” a nod to mental health.

 You can imagine that events in Syria coupled with the growing international refugee crisis lent a gravity and urgency to the proceedings. Despite these great challenges, there were accomplishments to celebrate last week. There is some good news, some reason to stand up and cheer (and then get back to work!). 

Probably the biggest and best feat - the great reduction in child mortality around the world. The news has been reported before but let me remind you.

Look at the numbers provided by the World Health Organization.

Number of children who died before reaching their fifth birthday

In 1990: 12.7 million children
In 2014:   5.9 million children

Child deaths have been halved, with most of those advances coming in the past ten years.  The single largest factor in preventing these deaths? Vaccines. Childhood vaccinations. It’s reason enough why I’ve been and will continue to advocate for global childhood immunization programs. That’s why I will continue to ask you to join the UN Foundation’s Shot At Life campaign. You have literally a million reasons to get involved. Most child deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. In many ways, families there are the hardest to reach.

Now back in 2000, the act of creating the UN Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) didn’t just serve as a feel-good exercise. The MDGs rallied a concerted, coordinated contingent of partner organizations such as ONE, WHO, GAVI, UNICEF, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they have risen to the challenge. Thus a global movement was born to address poverty, maternal and child deaths, to name just a few challenges. But they’re not finished yet. The UN just set a new goal for child mortality.

Ending preventable childhood deaths by 2030

Childhood immunizations play a critical role in this endeavor. It’s ambitious but not impossible. Last week I sat in a meeting with Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI, a public-private partnership that works to get vaccines to families in the developing world. Established in 2000, the GAVI Alliance has helped vaccinate ½ billion children in just 15 years and prevented an estimated 7 million deaths. Berkley, an epidemiologist, reported about 81% of the world’s children have received some sort of vaccination, but most are not fully covered. He hopes to get 50% of the world population fully immunized. He pointed out, as others have on related issues, that their greatest difficulty is in reaching the hardest to reach. The families with kids most at risk live far from a clinic, from any health providers, in some of the most remote regions.

So we have some work to do. Check out the new UN goals. Have a favorite?

In the meantime, here’s your up close visit to Social Good in case you missed it:

Watch the Social Good formal panels/speakers on Livestream.
Watch more behind-the-scene, impromptu interviews on YouTube.
Read more on Mashable, a Social Good partner. 
Read, watch, experience it on Storify. Day One. Day Two.
Follow Social Good on Facebook. 

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