Marina Ponti talks about the UN SDG Action Campaign

July 21, 2020

On June 11 took place the second symposium of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano, entitled The Earth seen from the Moon. The symposium was part of a three-appointment series that address some key issues of our present. Here the speech by the Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign, Marina Ponti.

The Earth seen from the Moon, the second symposium of Towards the XXIII International Exhibition of Triennale Milano

The context

The pandemic is a stark reminder of how interconnected individuals and communities are; but the pandemic has also shown how the issues concerning those individuals and communities are intertwined. For instance, how health impacts jobs, social protection, inequalities, education, the environment, violence and the overall economy. Therefore, any effective response to the current health crises will need to address all the other aspects of our lives and societies: from the economy, to the environment, to social protection mechanisms, to production and consumption patterns, to human rights and well-functioning institutions. Ultimately, the pandemic has also demonstrated the failure of our current systems and models, as the Black Lives Movements are reminding us. This movement is putting the spot on such failure, showing that addressing one question, racism, without addressing other interconnected ones, fair and equal access to education, jobs, opportunities – including fair institutions, can only but further undermining the social contract between people and society. Although the virus itself affect everyone at the same time, the pandemic and its socioeconomic impact affect people in very different ways, leaving behind the least privileged communities, including migrants, people of color, indigenous population and all minorities who enjoy very little access to social protection, healthcare and any other safety net mechanisms.

© UN SDG Action Campaign

The turning point

Precisely because of this, the world is at a crossroad that can be the turning point for building fairer, greener and more inclusive societies. We are a at turning point to start building more peaceful and just institutions, raise the ambition in facing the climate emergency, and to end all inequalities. In other words, Healthy People, Healthy Communities and Healthy Planet. Such vision was captured in 2015 by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Developments Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate.

Solidarity collage © UN SDG Action Campaign

Arts, culture and creativity at the centre

Arts and cultural institutions have been the driving force for societal change and for helping people to understand and experience the zeitgeist. This moment is no different. Art and culture can ask the right questions, while inspiring people through its universal languages. The beautiful butterfly wings that you see in my zoom background are testament of the butterfly effect that art and creativity can help kick starting to achieve the transformative change we need to make to make the world a better, fairer and greener place. As Bertolt Brecht wrote, "Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it". Art has always explored and assimilated the experience of upheaval and has served societal change throughout history. From Goya’s dark interpretations of the horrors of Europe, to the Bauhaus movement, to the more recent environmental art that explores an intimate relationship with the landscape and is engaging people in the climate action discourse. Furthermore, arts and culture represent one of the few areas in our society where people come together to share an experience even if they see the world in radically different ways. Such experience is a great source of inspiration for decision makers and activists who work to reverse the polarising populism and stigmatisation of other people that is sadly so endemic in public discourse today. Whether art can help us seeing something, engaging with it or changing it, we, at the UN SDG Action Campaign, are firm believers that art can help changing opinions and behaviours. Art, culture and creativity are the ideal kaleidoscope to shed new light from a different perspective, assign new meanings to old signifiers. For instance, cities as the physical representation of the communities they host - will now have the need and the opportunity to re-invent themselves, along with their public spaces, shapes and functions.

Solidarity collage © UN SDG Action Campaign

Call to Action

Art and creativity can trigger bold individual and collective actions that can turn around the pre COVID-19 world, a world we don’t and cannot go back to, and create a just, sustainable and inclusive world. 

Our invitation to you, creative masterminds, is for joining us in dreaming up, designing and shaping the vision of this new world. It would be amazing to work if you would like to curate bold, game changing art activations across the world to shape global narratives whilst putting art at the center of the discussion - from Land Art and Street Murals to music halls and multimedia and immersive creative initiatives - with the ultimate goal of moving our communities forward to a more sustainable future. Let me end by quoting C.W. Lewis "You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending".

Marina Ponti

Marina Ponti is the Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign, a special initiative of the Secretary-General to inspire, mobilize and connect people from every part of the world to take action for the SDGs. Ponti was also one of the main architects of the UN Millennium Campaign - the predecessor of the UN SDG Action Campaign - where she served as Global Deputy Director and Regional Director for Europe for over a decade. Prior, Ponti was an advocacy and resource mobilization specialist with UNICEF working for the eradication of polio. She also served as Chief Operating Officer at Catapult, a girls and women’s right crowdfunding platform, and as Special Advisor on post-2015 during the final negotiations of the 2030 Agenda for the global network Social Watch.

We remind that at the entrance of Triennale Milano you will be required to show the Green Pass.

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