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Hundreds of NGOs tackle global issues at LIU conference

Topics covered at the conference at LIU's Brooklyn campus and a related event in Manhattan included climate change, disarmament, discrimination and human rights.

Bruce Knotts, director of the Unitarian Universalist United

Bruce Knotts, director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, lectures on the role of nongovernmental organizations in the work of the United Nations during a conference at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus on Friday. Photo Credit: Newsday/Zachary Dowdy

Long Island University hosted hundreds of global nongovernmental organizations to discuss how these groups can help the United Nations in its fight against poverty and tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

The one-day conference at LIU’s Brooklyn campus dovetailed with a two-day UN confab in Manhattan on “people-centered multilateralism” held by the UN’s Department of Public Information, organizers said.

“Anybody who is part of the DPI/NGO world can weigh in on things they think are important,” said Scott Carlin, professor of geography at LIU’s C.W. Post campus in Brookville and a member of the UN conference’s planning committee.

Topics at the Brooklyn and Manhattan gatherings included climate change, disarmament, discrimination and human rights as the UN marked the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The gatherings were designed to further the UN’s antipoverty Sustainable Development Goals by including the voices and perspectives of nongovernmental organizations.

“This conference is an opportunity to discuss concrete ways to take the UN’s people-centered mandate forward, in closer partnership with civil society,” according to the concept note framing the conference.

Speakers included Bruce Knotts, chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, LIU’s Carlin and Holly Shaw, an Adelphi University professor and representative to the UN International Council of Nurses and Nightingale Initiative for Global Health.

Knotts zeroed in on climate change as one of the world’s biggest challenges that fuels man-made and natural humanitarian crises including war, drought, famine, poverty and disease.

“We have known about climate change for 50 years, we knew how to stop it, and we didn’t,” he said. “And there was a lack of political will, a lack of international unity, there were plenty of climate change conferences for at least the past 20 years or more and yet we did nothing and now we are faced with real climate change. . . . We can mitigate it and we can help reduce the worst effects of climate change, but to do that we need to act together.”

The conference also included an interactive workshop by professional communicators Sarah Chase and Terry Greiss of the Alda Communication Training Company, part of the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

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