__Change begins with us, whoever and wherever we are. Let’s not wait around for #SomeoneElse.
As many of you know, each year in September, leaders of governments gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Whilst big headlines are often reserved for the political gatherings at the UN headquarters, did you know that hundreds of other meetings also take place in the city that same week, amongst business leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, civil society, and media? They are also critically important!
My own focus at UNGA 2017 was on four things:
# Education for children who are not in school.
# Securing support for Africa’s smallholder farmers.
# Entrepreneurship and employment for Africa’s youth.
# Investment in Africa.
I arrived Saturday night to allow for some quality time with my family who live in the US. My wife arrived with her own delegation for meetings on issues she’s involved with. I do manage to have some business meetings or drop in to see business partners, but it’s not my main focus.
# Each day started with my daily “quiet time” around 4 am. (I’m never too busy to spend time on what matters most). This is followed by my daily 30 minutes in the gym. Exercise is important to ensuring high performance and concentration. Emails and phone calls with company executives are ongoing. I never allow my work to fall behind.
Here are some key highlights from my week at UNGA this year:
# Meetings with other UN Education Commissioners to review progress on our work. We all take this very seriously. Learn more at Educationcommission.org.
# A working session with Richard Branson and a group of young global leaders doing amazing things around the world. Over the last 11 years, Richard Branson and I have collaborated on a number of global initiatives. Can you name at least three?
# Melinda Gates asked me to serve with her and another global leader, as co-chair of a new initiative called Pathways to Prosperity Partnership. The other co-Chair is the highly dynamic minister of Finance from Indonesia, Sri Mulyani Indrawati. I’ll tell you more about this soon.
# Issues around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation are very important to me. My main involvement this year was with a Gates Foundation initiative called #Goalkeepers. Check out one of their reports here, “The stories behind the data” … http://www.globalgoals.org/goalkeepers/datareport/
As the main driver of this initiative, Melinda Gates brought together some really impressive young leaders, and young at heart, to attend. Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Barack Obama and Bill Gates all made some great presentations.
# As Chair of AGRA, I attended many key meetings with African and global leaders. The highlight was a breakfast I helped organize along with Bill Gates and his team. It was hosted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, and attended by several African leaders including President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Edgar Lungu of Zambia and others whose countries are recognized as champions of the African Green Revolution. This really well-attended event was hugely important, as we discussed ways of tracking progress in Africa’s agricultural transformation.
# Michael Bloomberg and Aliko Dangote invited me to participate in the newly-established Bloomberg Global Business Council. (Unfortunately, I had to juggle attendance at Goalkeepers meeting, both so important). I was a speaker at the inaugural summit, probably the biggest business event at UNGA’17. It was for the big guys in business, and also attended by some of the top political leaders in New York. https://gbf.bloomberg.org/council/
# Each day were numerous breakfast meetings (often intense intimate discussions). This is the business end of what goes on. Key leaders and their staff sometimes spend months arranging these meetings.
# There were also several dinners with key leaders and their delegations. A few times, I attended two dinners in the same evening. My highlight this year was a small dinner with President Barack Obama. I also spent time with old friends like Ambassador Andrew Young who has mentored me for 25 years.
It was quite a busy and intense four days. I hope my sharing it with you here gives you some ideas how not just governments, but also business, NGOs, and others in civil society can (and must) all come together to work for the good… Ready to join me? Let’s talk.