By SEVGIN OKTAY, The Light Millennium
NGO Representative to the United Nations Department of Public Information

I am pleased to report that during my first year as a Light Millennium NGO Representative to the UN/DPI, not only did I learn quite a few things from my attendance of several conferences, but I hope I was also able to contribute some ideas for the benefit of the United Nations as well as public at large.

It was a pleasure for me to attend on 25 January 2018 a Briefing about learning from the past through Holocaust remembrance and embracing certain values to help prevent such acts of terror from recurring in the future with an exact title of “Holocaust RemembranceDiversity and Lessons to be Learned for Human Understanding.“  I expressed my “lessons learned”  from attending this particular conference in my article entitled: #REMEMBER: NEED TO PROTECT THE HUMAN DIGNITY AND HUMAN RİGHTS OF ALL PEOPLE. 

At the same time the key take-home message for me was to spread far and wide the concept of, yes, freedom of expression, but not without its own limitations as prescribed by, for example, the first Amendment of the United States constitution which expressly does not protect freedom of speech that promotes hatred and for that matter incitement to kill.  And yet, there are summer youth camps in this country where they incite young minds to harbor hatred and killing towards certain ethnic groups as can be found in some published books. The point was made that perhaps courts are not applying what the constitution provides.”

Another significant conference was, what might be called a teach-in on “TOWARDS PEOPLE-CENTERED MULTILATERAL COOPERATION IN A SPIRIT OF GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP” that I attended on 22-23 August 2018 and I discussed briefly in my article of the same title.  I was amazed in learning that there were lots of specific projects SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) slated to be accomplished by year 2030.  I wrote, “Simply can’t wait 2030!” 

Because, there were 17 SDG’s that were listed in this teach-in raging from “No Poverty” to “Gender Equality,” to “Quality Education,” and finally “Partnership (with Civil Societies) to achieve the goals, among other laudable goals.  While these are indeed Laudable goals,  I do remember a session on “Unreasonable Goals” and how to make them reasonable if so.

I believe the short of it was to work toward that goal that seems unreasonable until it becomes a reality.  And when it becomes a reality, have “empathy” in the implementation of that goal.  The word “empathy” resonated with me in the following sense.  I broached that subject matter in a roundabout way thusly:  

If a president of a country can say a racist or an unusually harsh cuss word or claim on a national television that he can shoot somebody without any consequence, all under the protection of the so-called “freedom of speech“, “without any accountability for his utterances”, then there must be something wrong with that picture. Actually, in the US, it is supposed to be that “hate speech” or “call to violence” as such is not protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.  And yet they go unnoticed in the market place.  With all due respect to the court system in this country, I submit that the courts are derelict in carrying out the laws of the land.  If I may put it in a larger sense, if such unfettered “freedom of speech” is allowed under the tutelage of democracy, then there surely is something wrong with that picture and that there is a need for a more “perfect democracy”- borrowing from Obama when he used to say that we should strive for a “more perfect Union” in this country.

Hence, I would add another category to the 17 SDGs which might say, “Empathetic Speech,” that is, speech devoid of incendiary or racist lies and hate speech. Hence my placard for the 18th SDG in the last place below which can be discussed at an internal NGO conference later.

Empathetic Speechproposal as the 18th Goal in the 2030 Agenda, it may be incorporated as it has reflected in the below SDGS Poster.

Aside from these conferences, I attended some other briefings such as the one on Science and Technology where the transfer of technology from the laboratories can be successfully entered into the daily lives of public at large for enhancement of human condition through encouragement of especially the youth involvement irrespective of gender.

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Sevgin Oktay with Bircan Ünver in front of the “Tied Gun” sculpture at the UN HQ follow by receiving the 2018 Annual Ground Pass on February 12.


Photo credits #Lightmillennium

Posted on November 18, 2018.

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