New York City: In 2000, the late and former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, famously stated that “if we are to capture the promises of globalization while managing its adverse effects, we must learn to govern better, and must learn how better to govern together.” With these words in mind, and in an era of weakening international cooperation and nationalist political shifts, political and religious leaders from around the world gathered in New York City on Monday to participate in the second Kofi Annan United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Faith Briefings. Participants discussed a path forward to combat poverty, climate change, health crises and natural disasters amidst the growing influence of Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and the increasing reductions in governmental spending.
Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, with its Secretariat at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, India and Vice-Chair of the United Nations Interfaith Advisory Council on Religion, was one of high level leaders that gathered to build and strengthen cross-sector partnerships designed to create lasting and positive change. Convened last year, the Advisory Council co-hosted the first Kofi Annan UNGA Faith Briefing on September 21, 2018. This year’s briefing focused on how FBOs can effectively partner with UN entities to address issues related to women’s empowerment, children’s rights, and climate change
During her presentation, Pujya Sadhviji explained that the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) is a multi-faith partnership that is the first of its kind to bring interfaith leaders and their congregations together to serve for improved WASH In just a few years, GIWA has had seen the power of faith to inspire behavior change, build capacity and bring mass awareness for improved WASH.
“Through the power of this partnership, we have triggered change in the hearts, minds, and behaviors of hundreds of millions of people. For example, we had a wonderful success in Bihar where we were able to work with UNICEF and other partners to end open defecation in the Nalanda district, Bihar,” shared Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawatiji.
Pujya Sadhviji had a brief meeting with Ms. Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director with the other co-chairs of the Advisory Council. Ms. Fore expressed her appreciation for the work that GIWA is doing in India, and Pujya Sadhviji conveyed her thanks for the UNICEF partnership since the inception of GIWA.
In speaking to the rights of the child, Pujya Sadhviji summarized the purpose of the gathering when she said, “ We are here today to celebrate and emphasize the power of partnerships that not only make each of our organizations individually stronger, but that collectively interweave and interlink our organizations in such a way that we can extend our impact to our sisters and brothers around the world – and leave not only leave no child behind, but leave no one behind.”
Other key participants at the event included Under Secretary General and High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, H.E. Mr. Miguel Ángel Moratinos, who shared the opening remarks of Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres; Mr. Dereje Wordofa, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNFPA Deputy Executive Director; H.E. Ambassador Agustín Santos Maraver, Permanent Representative of Spain; H.E. Ambassador Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Muallami, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; H.E. Ambassador Jukka Salovaara, Permanent Representative of Finland; Mr. Michael Suhr, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and many others.