REFLECTIONS ON FAITH TO REBOOT NEW YEAR FOCUS

The last days, the last hours, and soon the year is done. Another year is gone. A new canvas is being unfolded as one, covered in colours, is ready to be rolled up.

In the midst of year-end busyness it is so, so easy for these last days, last hours, to fly past – a busy blur of festive season meetings and greetings…and eatings. Friends, families, feasts, fun and celebration of good fortune overwhelm calm and quiet.

Balance is easily & happily thrown out.

To enter into a new year all abuzz has its benefits: a bounce in one’s step a positive, joyful way to enter the year anew. Through the temptation to do so, this is also the perfect, absolutely perfect, time to pause, be quiet, be inward, be still.

But still, finding the right place to be still, not physically but in one’s head and heart, can be so challenging. Which is why, as happens when the universe wishes to have it, the gift of timeous messengers of precious messages, is inspiring a whispered prayer of thanks for one of 2019’s finest films – one of the most touching prompts for this invaluable pause: Netflix’s “THE TWO POPES

A masterful, intimate look into time shared between two of the world’s most powerful messengers of faith, in a brief period of transition at a time when our shared world is in a period of prolonged challenge of faith, focus and fortitude, this film cannot but provoke one’s own thoughts regarding personal beliefs. And the actions they take as a result.

Importantly, it speaks to the potential presence and influence of a greater force blowing from behind, pushing one forward, even when one is uncertain of what lies ahead and why they should head in the direction of such powerful winds.

While focused on two popes, in so many ways THE TWO POPES is not about the church. Instead, it is about what one pursues, and why. Hence its perfect timing. Hence the feeling of exhale when its central characters, its text, releases tears that feel so right in falling, right now, as in no time at all today, 2019, will turn to tomorrow, 2020+.

“You know the hardest thing is to listen. To hear his voice. God’s voice”

Whatever one’s religion, however one looks for answers, at this time of year it is invaluable to stop and simply ask the questions:

  • What is one’s predisposition: Idealism? Realism? Optimism? Pessimism? And how does this impact one’s sense of place in the world, here and now?
  • What does one feel to be one’s purpose? And how is this served?
  • What hope does one hold for the future right ahead of us? And how will this lens through which one views the world impact how one chooses to live in the world?

Overly-analytical? Perhaps. But when is pausing to question purpose ever a bad thing?

So valuable are these questions, always. And yet so often there is so little time to honour them. Especially now, when it feels as though in so many places, policies, positions and principles, we as a global community are failing one another.

Deeply stirring in this regard, in the closing chapter of the film, a montage is shown of genuine 2019 crises currently impacting our world – the impact of a crisis of confidence, compassion and courage spreading across the global community – ranging from human displacement that continues to unnaturally devastate lives and livelihoods across the globe, to Mother Nature’s fury unleashed across and destroying our natural world. In hushed words yet with rasor sharpness, words of truth are then spoken by His Holiness Pope Francis as he made clear that care, concern and a call to action are not for the few in public office – it is all of us who must decide if one is to stand up and step forward, or walk away: “When no one is to blame, everyone is to blame

As the final hours of 2019 unfold, may your mind and heart find a quiet moment to whisper a quiet prayer of clarity, hope and faith in all that is ahead in 2020, infusing your heart with a feeling of centeredness and confidence. And may you feel loved.

HNY2020. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

 

GIFTING THE GOALS: 10 IDEAS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE SDGS

GIFTING THE GOALS: 10 IDEAS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE SDGS

Like millions and millions across the world counting down to year-end, we at AM&M are beginning to wind down our pre-holiday business operations. Finishing up projects, trying to get those last to-dos ticked off the list, and planning our schedules for the year ahead. In the spirit of gift giving, my joining the firm this year was possibly the best gift I was given in 2019. (Thank you universe.) It’s been a gift of knowledge, empowerment, mentorship, and direction. There have been days of failure, mistakes, and lessons learned the hard way, but they’ve all contributed to the journey in positive ways. The Living the SDGs project, in particular, has inspired a forgotten passion within me. I can’t wait to see where it goes, and in what ways we as a firm can contribute, in 2020. I think I can speak for Anita, and all of us at AM&A, in saying that we hope you end the year in happiness, surrounded by love, and with the knowledge that you have the power to change the world.
It’s that time of year again. Twinkling lights strung across streets and shops and doorways. Store shelves lined with sweets and other goodies, heftily consumed in the spirit of the season. Joyful tunes waft through the air, bringing smiles to all who come in contact with the merry melodies.

This time of year touches all of us, regardless of religion or background or age. It brings magic and wonderment to small children and warm cosiness to those of us lucky enough to spend the days with family and friends.

It’s also the time of year that many of us shop the sales, peruse the malls, and meander down the high street in hopes of finding that perfect gift (or gifts) for those we love and hold dear. It becomes almost a game, an obstacle course, trolling crowds and Amazon for that last-minute special something.

It gets out of hand quickly. I’m guilty. Two kids and not seeing my family near enough, those wrapped boxes, tied with ribbons of love and good intentions,  quickly add up to mountainous piles, that at a point, seem to lose their meaning.

We’ve spent the last six months talking about the Sustainable Development Goals. What they are, where they came from, and ways that we can contribute as individuals to specific goals such as 1. No Poverty and 2. No Hunger. While we haven’t yet touched on it in-depth, Goal 12 is Responsible Consumption and Production. I wonder, are we consuming responsibly in our moments of giving?

In the UK alone, 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away. Two million turkeys will be eaten. And 100 sq km of wrapping paper will be torn and crumbled into piles across the country.

The thing is, I love giving presents. That smile on someone’s face when you’ve chosen that ‘perfect’ gift for them. That warm embrace and shared moment of giving. I don’t think that we need to stop buying presents, and wrapping them in pretty paper, but I do think we can be more mindful of what we buy and the purpose behind it. 

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of ten gift ideas that contribute to the SDGs. Some are material, some are more donation focused, but all of them have purpose. We encourage you to use this list of gifts that contribute to the SDGs as a starting point in your gift giving. We’ve said it all along: small steps, small actions, can add up to making a global difference. As 2019 winds to a close, let us end the year thinking about how we can make those moments of giving – moments of action and purpose that change the world for the better. 

10 Christmas Gift Ideas that COntribute to the SDGs

1. Basic Washbag for Refugees (Choose Love)

 

Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality
Choose Love is the world’s first store where you can purchase real gifts for refugees. They sell practical items such as toothpaste and diapers as well as services such as language courses and legal support. Instead of taking the items you purchase home – a similar item is given to a person who needs it. 

We’ve chosen the basic washbag as our top pick. It includes toothpaste, soap, shampoo and sanitary products – items nobody should go without. In the words of Choose Love, “This gift isn’t just about hygiene, it’s about helping people to maintain a sense of dignity in harsh environments.” 

You can visit a Choose Love shop at one of their locations in London, New York City, and Los Angeles. Gifts can also be purchased from their online store.  Price: £10

 

2. a year of school (IRC)

In 2017 alone, the International Rescue Committee helped to educate 1.14 million children around the world. Giving a ‘Year of School’ gift ensures that a child receives school fees, books, and other supplies to attend school for one year. 

According to the IRC, “A safe learning environment in places like Nigeria and Syria can provide children with a sense of predictability, protection from violence, and a safe place to heal from trauma. Being in a classroom gives children hope as they continue to learn and plan for a brighter future.”

A Year of School can be purchased from the IRC’s Rescue Gifts online store. You have the option of getting a printed card for your recipient that explains what a difference was made for children around the world on their behalf. Price: $58

 

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

3. handmade yi ring from china (UNDP/Homemade Collection)

There are 40 million people in China from ethnic minority groups living in extreme poverty. Yunnan province is home to several of these, including the Yi people. Mass production in the province has replaced many traditional products and handicrafts with cheap reproductions, leaving the Yi community struggling to maintain their traditions and way of life. 

The UNDP, United Nations Development Programme has partnered with Yi artisans, as well as communities around the world, to keep them out of poverty. The handmade Yi ring not only features beautiful traditional embroidery of the skilled Yi artisans, but the purchase also helps support the local women with new crafting, budgeting and marketing skills. 

The handmade Yi ring can be purchased from the UNDP Homemade Collection online shop. Price: $19.99

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

4. the elephant bike (Cycle of Good)

Having reliable transportation can make all the difference for communities living in poverty. A simple bicycle can change someone’s life, giving them access to employment opportunities or education that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. 

Cycle of Good is part of a social enterprise that works with a community in Malawi with a simple goal: to end poverty. They employ ten Malawian tailors full-time, with plans to expand to a team of 100. The enterprise uses unwanted or waste products from the UK and turns them to profit. The larger charity employs over 500 people, providing them with training, benefits, and salaries three times higher than the national minimum wage. 

For every bike purchased through Cycle of Good, one bike is given to a local in the community. The Mammoth Elephant bike comes complete with accessories, all sustainably made from recycled materials. It can be purchased online from their website. Price: £365

 

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

5. Feed a child for an entire school year (Mary’s Meals)

64 million of the world’s hungriest children do not attend school. For those who do attend, hunger severely affects their ability to learn. Mary’s Meals aims to fill the gap with their one goal – that every child receives a nutritious daily meal in a place of education. 

Mary’s Meals runs school feeding programmes in 18 countries, all owned and run by local volunteers in the community. Wherever possible, ingredients for the meals are  locally sourced, supporting the local community and wider economy. 

Giving the gift of a daily meal can change a child’s future. Your gift can be purchased through the official Mary’s Meals website. Price: £13.90

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: No Hunger Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

6. advent calendar of change (Advent of Change)

Advent calendars have become extremely popular. No longer reserved for small chocolates or tokens, now you can get a gin a day or luxury bath products behind every door. Advent of Change is an advent calendar, just not as you know it. 

For every purchase, the money is divided between 24 charities. Every day, instead of a sweet treat, your recipient finds out which charity they helped that day and how the money might be used for change. In 2018, Advent of Change raised over £100,000 for their chosen charities through advent calendar sales. The impact included rebuilding a primary school destroyed during a storm in Burundi, providing training to 275 women living in poverty in West Bengal, India and providing more families in the UK with accommodation to be near dying loved ones in hospice care. 

An advent calendar that gives everyday, that’s 24 gifts in one. Proof that small actions can  make a big impact. Price: £29.95

the SDGs as a whole, specific goals are dependent on the chosen charities.

7. life vest laptop sleeve (Makers Unite)

In 2016, 5000 discarded life-vests were used to create a display in Amsterdam, sparking nationwide conversation about the refugee crisis. Makers Unite, a social enterprise in the Dutch city, has grown from that movement. 

Through a six week program, Makers Unite provides refugees and newcomers with training, support and guidance within the Dutch creative industry – eventually connecting them with traineeships or employment opportunities.

The life vest collection helps fund these initiatives, travel accessories created from discarded life vests, all handmade by the refugees themselves. An object that once was a reminder of the trials they had to endure is now “granting the fabric a new identity as an ongoing symbol of hope. “

The Life Vest Laptop Sleeve can be purchased from Makers Unite online shop. Price: €39

 

Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

8.  A waterpump (Wateraid)

Perhaps a waterpump isn’t the first thing you’d think of giving someone, but for the 790 million people who don’t have access to an adequate water supply, a simple waterpump can be life-changing. 

WaterAid helps provide access to clean water, toilets, and hygiene to families and communities around the globe lacking these basic human necessities. It isn’t just about the water.  Having access to clean water gives children in poor villages freedom to go to school (instead of walking miles a day to fetch water), it improves infant mortality, decrease deaths caused by water-related illnesses and diarrhea, and increases productivity. 

Watch this video to see what an impact a waterpump can have on a community: 

 

Giving a pump will provide cleaner and easier access to water for a whole community. The waterpump can be purchased in the Wateraid Shop for Life and includes a personalised card for your recepient. Price: £37

 

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

9. organic cotton hoodie (Ninety Percent)

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Fashion isn’t always thought of as the most sustainable gift to give, but Ninety Percent is working to change that. Based in London, the company donates 90% of their profits to charitable causes such as War Child and Wild Aid. 

All clothing is ‘pared back, luxury basics’, that won’t go out of style. Ninety Percent has championed the #DressBetter movement, an initiative that hopes to get consumers to challenge poor working conditions in the fashion industry. We especially love the interviews they do with the workers who make their clothes, such as Nurjahan, a sample operator in Bangladesh. 

The organic cotton oversized hoodie is available in five colours and is a staple piece anyone would love. Purchase in Ninety Percent’s online shop. Price: £105

10. mudlug backpack (Mudlug)

 

After learning that many children in foster care are moved with only a bin bag to hold their belongings, Dave Linton, founder of Madlug,  decided he needed to help. While he couldn’t save them from violence, neglect or abuse – he could make sure these vulnerable children made their way into a new chapter with dignity. 

‘No child should carry their life in a bin bag.’ 

For every backpack you buy, one is given to a child in foster care.  The backpacks are manufactured with a supplier who upholds high ethical standards, use sustainable materials, and focus on their environmental impact. 

Backpacks can be purchased from Madlug’s online shop. Price: £65

 

Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
We hope these ideas inspire your holiday giving year-round. If you prefer shopping in a brick and mortar store, or if that small person in your life has a very specific request, consider shopping at locally owned stores that support your community. Recycle or reuse wrapping paper, or get creative by using old fabric or other materials that otherwise would’ve gone to waste. Finally, while contributing to the SDGs through your giving is a wonderful way that individuals can take action, don’t forget that the best gift we can give each other is love.

ACHIEVING EQUALITY – ENSURING ALL ADDS UP

 

 

 

 

The quest is not new. Gender Equality has been a part of business agendas, and government mandates, for years – a desire to step-change the numbers of women in leadership positions, women in the workplace, women as active members of society, on equal terms. The desire has endured decades of good intentions.

Desire, however, has now turned into demands to make good on promises made. A significant push can be felt across borders, across boardrooms, pushing harder and harder to ensure that gender equality is no longer an initiative within business strategies and government mandates. It must now be an imperative – an essential part of the DNA that is going to reshape a more balanced, equitable, accountable and responsible society. Rhetoric is no longer enough.

Results. Now.

How did this sharpening of focus occur? Who, or what, changed the lens through which we looked at this issue?

Interestingly, this is not a result of simply increased interest. Quite the contrary. It has happened because of increased interventions. The call to action has become louder, the volume of the conversation turned up, especially the base.

Markers on this evolving movement are clear, two in particular being defining lines, and dividing lines:

  • In 2015, the United Nations embedded Gender Equality as a vital part of our global community’s ability to establish a shared ecosystem for sustained global development. SDG#5 seeks to ensure that we work to shape a more fair, equitable, inclusive and participative world towards 2030. Policies to put new programmes and practices in place, pushing the percentages higher, are part of the plan of action. Yet many leaders are arguing the policies are already in place. Policies activated as a part of strategic decision-making is what is now needed.
  • And then in 2017, a hashtag pulled back the curtain on institutionalised inequality, revealing painfully both active and passive ways in which gender imbalances were allowing for abuse of women in the workplace, across all sectors, across the globe. #METOO became a cry for help, a rallying cry heard around the world.

The former made the case – the latter took the case to court. The message was clear, the volume was getting higher and higher, the notes were getting sharper and sharper, the softer treble notes drowned out by the deeper and more dramatic base notes. Time was up, the waiting for action was done.

Professionally and personally, in both private and public places, with colleagues and with friends, the shift could be felt. Caution in action and words have created new normals. Opportunities for access and appreciation are being created and activated. Efforts are being made. Percentages are increasing in the right direction.

Yet still something just isn’t adding up.

Recent on-stage engagement with top-level political leaders, leaders who happened to be women, put a spotlight on a critical component of achieving equality: accurate math.

To establish a quota of 20% women in leadership, 30% women in the workforce, 40%, whatever the number may be, is not equality if it is below 50%. For there to be equality it must be 50%. Anything below is creating an inequality baseline drawn too low.

As importantly, if we look at the issue of equality, efforts must ensure they are executed in a way that recognises all involved, 100%. This is where the equation becomes very interesting. And this is where being focused on the problem must shift to begin part of the solution, everyone.

Achieving genuine balance is not simply about plugging people into org charts. It is not simply about making policies that indicate a number without the ability to make it happen, for the long-term. There are many elements that are required for true gender equality – equal opportunity, equal access, equal recognition and reward. Absolutely.

And yet, there is one critical enabler to sustainable equality that is so often forgotten: equal respect.

The only way the equality equation will be accurate is if all involved are recognised and respected, 100%. Women, and men.

There needs to be 100% respect for the women working to be a fully active participants in the country, in the society, in the community that they call home. Opportunity without dignity, accountability and stability pulls away essential scaffolding in the psychological development critical to professional development.

But the calculus does not stop there. We need to remember one vital roleplayer and stakeholder in the quest for equality, an essential part of the equation: men. 100% respect for the men, and the efforts they are making to be facilitate changes to get the balance right in gender equality. Champions, change-makers, mentors, mediators.

Everyone needs to shift to the side of the solution, recognising that the most sustainable changes happen when the solution is designed, mobilised, managed and measured from the inside. External anger and aggression do not inspire sincere, sustainable action. They inspire avoiding eye contact. A critical part of the equation to gender equality is the equal opportunity for men to be supported and appreciated in supporting women to create the change. Our shared world is shifting towards the opening of attitudes, the opening up of aspirations, the opening up of the desire to make a difference openly.

The journey to 2030 and beyond is a long one, with solution required that enable success for the long-term. Each step of the way, walking side by side is the only way.

Because to achieve 50%, genuine equality, only 100% will do.

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

 

 

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

What a world we’d live in if hunger was a problem of the past. 

It is hard to believe sometimes that, despite all of the abundance we see around us every day, the choices we face regarding what our taste buds crave, the amounts of food we see wasted as a result of excesses, millions go to bed hungry. 

And yet, in 2019, the elimination of hunger remains a goal – a global goal.

Every goal in the 17 SDGs seems almost utopian on the surface. Luckily every goal also comes with the key metrics and specifics targets that help lead governments and individuals alike to align their strategies, measure their progress, and lay out specific areas that must be worked on to achieve them. 

The Sustainable Development Goals continue to have a massive impact on the work we do at AM&A. Why? Because every day through our work we try to make the connection between Tourism and why the SDGs matter. From Anita’s presentations to tourism leaders around the globe, to shaping the strategies we suggest to clients, the Global Goals must be at the center of what we do – particularly in Tourism. With every goal we interpret, with every goal we implement into our daily lives, it becomes more and more clear how needed, how urgent, how impactful the Sustainable Development Goals can be for our future. 

SDG #2 is one of the first that forces you, me, all of us, to deeply consider its practical meaning. I don’t know what it is to be hungry. To be honest, I’ve always struggled with the other side of the spectrum – eating too much. Growing up in a low-income family, the food wasn’t always nutritious, but it was always readily available. I can’t think of any society or culture that doesn’t revolve around food: dinner on the table brings families together after a long day, it breaks through cultural, political and linguistic barriers, and connects us when celebrating life’s momentous moments. Whether in Thanksgiving, matrimony, celebrations of faith, or even death – food is often at the heart.

And its presence can be taken for granted – healthy or not, abundant or not.

Yet, so many people on the planet struggle to get enough food to even survive. This basic human need is not being met for 821 million around the world who are chronically malnourished. 90 million of those are children under 5. 

Today we are going to talk about Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger. Meeting this goal will end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and ensure that all people, especially children, have sufficient and nutritious food all year long. 

This involves promoting sustainable agricultural, supporting small-scale farmers and equal access to land, technology and markets. It also requires international cooperation to ensure investment in infrastructure and technology to improve agricultural productivity.

Nobody should miss out on a childhood, going to school, or a future because of hunger. Particularly when there is just so much to go around. 

Why does hunger exist?

Just as we learned when discussing Goal 1: No Poverty, global inequality is shocking.  

1 in 8 adults around the world are obese. In the US and Europe, the number is hardly surprising, in Western developed nations the numbers jump to 1 in 3.  While food security is an issue for families globally, 2/3rds of undernourished people worldwide live in only two regions: Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. 

But why is there such a disconnect between the over-fed and under-fed?

Famines, food shortages/crises typically caused by drought or war, are responsible for the most severe cases of global starvation. According to the United Nations, there is a famine if: 

  • 20% of households suffer from extreme food shortages,
  • 30% of the population is acutely malnourished; and
  • Two out of every 10,000 people, or four children, die daily from food shortages.

Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are in hunger crisis with 20 million at risk of starvation and death. Armed conflict and climate change are the main culprits. Droughts have caused fields to go dry, cattle to die, and starvation to become the norm. Additionally, as of 2017, 37 countries depended on food aid – 28 of which are located in Africa. 

Population growth, debt, corruption, and disease also contribute to the inability of some countries to produce enough food for their citizens.

what is the effect of hunger?

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations says that chronic hunger happens if a person’s daily energy intake for an extended period of time is below what they need for a healthy and active life’. This typically equates to less than 1,800 calories a day. Using this measure, 226.7 million people are starving in Africa alone. 

Hunger isn’t just about malnutrition, it has a far reaching effect on every part of life. Hunger stunts brain development and can be a major obstacle for children who don’t have the energy to reach school or the concentration to digest material. Many children are also forced to leave education to help support their families. Without an education, there are less people to enter the workforce and contribute to their country’s development. 

It’s a vicious circle, but one that we can break.

is zero hunger achievable?

Up until 2017, the number of people suffering from hunger was on a major decline. Between 1990 to 2015, global hunger dropped by almost half – in large part to the UN’s Millenium Goals. Unfortunately over the past couple years the numbers are steadily increasing again – particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

But hope is not lost. With world leaders committed to ending world hunger by 2030, and individuals like us doing what we can in our own communities, the future looks positive. It’s been estimated that we could end world hunger permanently at a cost of $30 billion a year. That may seem like a lot, but to put it in perspective the US spends $737 billion a year on defense alone. According to the UN if we put $160 per person a year living in extreme poverty, world hunger would be completely eradicated by 2030. 

Most of us don’t have that kind of pocket change lying around, and per person sponsorships aren’t feasible, but we can make small, conscious actions that can add up to make a big difference.  Here are some ways that we as individuals can end world hunger.

actionable ways for individuals to end world hunger

1. Shop Purposefully
When we spoke about Goal 1: Eliminating Poverty, we learned that the UK’s largest food bank gave away 1.6 million packs of food supplies – a 19% annual increase from 2017. More and more people in communities around the world are having to rely on additional provisions to make ends meet. 

When you do your weekly shop, add one or two extra items for food bank donation. Many grocery stores in the UK have a food donation box at the end of the check-outs area. Check to see if your local store offers a collection point, and if they don’t – consider setting one up with a local charity. It’s such a low-effort way to make a big difference to locals in your area. 

Reach out to your local food bank or organisations working to feed the community and ask how you can donate. If we all added two items of food to our weekly shop, this would amount to 104 food items that could entirely eliminate food insecurity for a local family.

Shop online? Online grocery shopping is the fastest growing purchase channel, in both value and growth. (I probably do 1/4th of my shopping online in any given month.) While you can still add-on items for food donation, if you’re more of an online type person, you can also donate to charities through their websites who have fighting world hunger in their core mission.

A wonderful example is Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides life-changing meals to some of the world’s poorest children every day that they attend school. Only £13.90 (approx. $17.85) provides one child with a meal a day for a year. For every US$ 1 you give, 93c is spent directly on their charitable activities. Today they feed over 1 million children a day. Think about it – for less than US 10c a day a child is fed, unlocking their ability to learn, to grow, to be hopeful. If you happen to live in Scotland, Mary’s Meals has seven charity shops where you can donate your unwanted goods that will be sold and converted into food for hungry children worldwide. 

2. Encourage Food Share

Food waste is a root cause of world hunger worldwide, global food waste could feed the world’s hungry four times over. Globally we waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year, that’s about 1/3rd of the total amount of food produced for human consumption. In short, there’s enough food for everyone. 

More businesses than ever are now actively working towards cutting down or eliminating their food waste. Put your money into businesses that you know are doing their part to fight waste and hunger in your community. In the US alone, 43 billion pounds of food is thrown away by grocery stores. In the UK, it’s estimated that restaurants and cafes throw away approximately 320 million fresh meals a year. 

Friends of Champions 12.3 is a group of CEOs who are leading progress to achieve the UN’s SDGs target 12.3: Global Food Loss and Waste as part of Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. While there are not near enough big companies who’ve made the pledge, there are some that may be local to you who are doing their part.

Aldi for example has committed to halving their operational food waste by 2030. Last year in the UK they donated over 2 million meals through local organisations. They’ve also looked at their supply chain and have been actively reducing waste by not purchasing it in the first place. 

You can see the full list of members in the Friends of Champions 12.3 here.

If you do a quick Google search of your local grocery store name + food waste, you should get a result for their policies and efforts. If not, reach out. Consumers drive what businesses ultimately value: let them know it matters to you. 

Of course, limiting your own food waste is important as well. Meal planning is a great way to ensure that you only buy what you need. Bring a list, and stick to it.  Utilise your leftovers by putting them toward additional meals or incorporating them into a recipe in a new way – be inventive! 

3. Eat Local and Seasonally

There are some fresh food items we love to buy year-round. I, for example, love avocados – which unsurprisingly is not a fruit that grows well in the UK climate. The simple avocado that I grew up eating like apples doesn’t just appear in the UK – most of mine are plastered with a sticker showing their origin as Mexico. Firstly it needs to be grown – due to supply and demand this now trending fruit has contributed to massive deforestation, greenhouse and carbon emissions (from both growing on a massive scale and transporting) and has affected local water supplies. An avocado toast on a Saturday morning always feels like a great choice, and I’m not saying let’s put a ban on guacamole, but we need to consider the socio-economic impact of our food choices. 

Farmers in developing nations actually make up a majority of the world’s hungriest and poorest people. The World Economic Forum estimates that 500 million small farms produce 80% of food for the developing world. Due to unfair trade policies as well as industrialised nations moving production to these affected regions and taking away supply chains, rural farmers are left in hunger. War, famine, and other outside influences also affect these stats, but how is it that those who grow our food are going without? 

Instinctively I thought that by choosing to buy seasonally I’d be taking away what business these farmers have, creating a negative impact on their livelihoods. It turns out though, in most cases, that if there is money to be made, someone bigger is going in and producing at such large volumes that smaller farmers can’t compete with price competition, market access or profit. (Food and Agricultural Organization) If their own communities are buying locally, and we are following suit, there is more than enough food to be produced for the hungry without shipping it out in bulk to those of us already living in excess. The exception to this, are the nations we discussed earlier, such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa, where outside influences such as climate have made agricultural  production impossible. 

Food tastes better in season, and supporting your local farmers is important for the agricultural development and success in your own community. Challenge your food choices, explore new varieties, and find ways to increase the positive impact of foods you consume. 
You can find out what produce grows when in your area by using this map from Epicurious.

As I was reading about world hunger, there was an obvious cross-over with Goal 1: No Poverty. It’s logical: if you are living in extreme poverty, you aren’t getting enough food to eat either. Especially the right, healthy food. 

We highly encourage you to go back and read about ways we can eliminate poverty if you haven’t yet had the chance. The SDGs don’t work alone – the 17 Goals are interrelated, interdependent. If we eliminate poverty, hunger would likely topple as a result. And when one SDG is addressed, the rest are given the nudge they need to step forward towards solutions that make today’s fundamental challenges history.

We as a global community have so much work to do. Our shared world hungers for action. 

Let’s continue to work together, continue to make small changes in our everyday lives. It doesn’t need to be an overnight transformation – if we cannot sustain the positive impact we risk doing even greater damage. 

Goal #2 matters, to millions. We need to be purposeful as we continue to consider ways that we, as individuals, together, can contribute to the SDGs towards 2030. 

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world. 

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

 

THE LOOK, THE BOW, THE BOND – THE POWER OF (RWC2019) SPORT

It is incredible how smile-inducing it can be. And connecting.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, excitedly, conversations spark: a stranger in an elevator wearing a national team jacket, a fellow passenger with the accent of the opposition, those all around with a desperate look of knowing as clearly distracted in their here & now because of something so exciting happening right then yet elsewhere, on the field…followed by complete looks at one another tinged with “Can you believe what just happened?”

Sport. It creates the opportunity for complete strangers to talk, to smile, to growl, to cry, to hug. That is the power of sport! And right here, right now, it’s all about the Rugby!

The 2019 Rugby World Cup – global rugby and competitive sport’s celebration of remarkable physical and psychological prowess – is in its last days. In less than a handful of sleeps the 2019 winners will be crowned following a month of matches where heroes were discovered, warriors fell, sure-wins lost, and who-would-have-thoughts rose closer and closer to the top. It is truly, intoxicatingly incredible how a global event like the rugby world cup can energise, unite and focus literally millions across the globe, dissolving boundaries, finding a common language, all because of the agnostic phenomena that is the collective spirit of sport.

That is the magic. What happens on the field is one thing. What happens off the field is another. Ultimately, through sport, people of different backgrounds, with different stories of different geographies, different ideologies, different religions and different races, share common ground. Ultimately, at the end of the day, everyone is focusing on the same field in the same field. And it feels really, really good.

It’s all about the agnostic, unfiltered, unedited, unexpected excitement that anything can happen, no matter what the scores were in the past, no matter what the performance stats have been to present, no matter what the hopes are for the future. It comes down to a moment of truth when two teams need to face off and find out who in the moment is going to be victorious.

This unifying energy pulls people together, and it does it in a way that goes so far beyond nationalities, so far beyond passports, and thankfully, so far beyond politics. Importantly, however, sustaining the energy rush, sense of unity, and pure spirit of blessing in being a part of it all is not just about the play on the field. Interestingly, and so often, it is the host country that eclipses all sportsmen and women to be the hero of the competition.

Such has been the case with RWC 2019. And the people of the host nation, JAPAN – each and every one a Brave Blossom in their own humble, dignified, deeply touching way.

The stats of RWC 2019 stand tall as the host nation has broken records in national and global participation. Official numbers tell a powerful story:

  • More than 1.8 million tickets sold across all 48 matches
  • More than 864,000 fans attend official Fanzones

not to mention:

  • Brave Blossoms win hearts around the world
  • Broadcast records smashed
  • Close matches, unexpected results have characterised pool stage
  • Monumental effort to get matches on at the weekend

Every mega-event is history-making, the team taking home the crown inscribed in sporting history books for time memorial. And yet what do people remember most with their hearts, not just their heads? It is the backstories – those impacting and impacted by the time and place of one of the greatest sports shows on Earth.

In 2019, of all characters to make a defining impression on the RWC, it was Mother Nature. What host nation in the world has had to build in contingency, emergency, and recovery plans for a Typhoon? Japan.

Midway through the competition, as storms started brewing between teams convinced they were destined for the final rounds, storms brewed off the coast of Japan with a gameplan for clear, concentrated attack on cities across the map, including RWC venue cities.Players and fans were warned to take cover, matches were re-configured to take cognisance of the importance of tournament momentum. And then Typhoon 19 hit.

After millions were implored to evacuate, and finally Typhoon Hagibis had moved on, over 60 lives were lost, and countless left homeless. Millions, millions were left speechless.Everyone, absolutely everyone linked to the RWC, grieved…tears becoming the glue to rebuild a heartbroken nation.

Without a doubt, this shared sense of loss is part of what RWC athletes and followers will take home once the tournament is over, whomever the winners. To state this is not purely romanticised rhetoric. The impact of the shared tragedy, and respect for host nation suffering the most profoundly, is visible in bowed heads, and audible in silence, with every match.

Case in point: the Semi-Finals.

On both occasions, once anthems were played, and as the electricity in the stadiums became overpowering, a pause occurred – the entire stadium hushed for a moment of prayer to make sure that no matter what the excitement in the moment, moments recently passed with Typhoon 19 do not become an overlooked, undervalued part of history. Instead, these moments become a shared prayer, a shared bond, unifying the sporting world with the people of Japan. That is sporting class at its best!

And now, finally, the Finals are upon us.

History is a mere matter of hours from being made, especially if the Springboks, with their first Black Captain, prove to be the world’s finest once more, a nation once again recalibrated through sport, champions once more.

And yet, as nations like South Africa know well, rugby victory is not simply about sporting prowess – it is about national prowess. Whatever the outcome, whatever the colours of the Kings of the competition, for all participating in the 2019 RWC – on and off field – it is the Brave Blossoms, as over-performing athletes on the RWC Field and over 126 million courageous people of Japan, who won our 2019 RWC hearts.

With a simple, childish smile, with hope in heart that the Finals prove to be a final, unifying force for the rainbow of nationals supporting the Springboks, one cannot but feel an instinctive, thoughtful, deeply grateful bow to the people of Japan – the enduring heroes of the 2019 RWC.

Loving, sincere arigatōgozaimashita.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: WHY IT MATTERS TO YOU AND ME

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: WHY IT MATTERS TO YOU AND ME

In my role as lead of Marketing at ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates, I’m exposed to global diplomacy and high-level tourism development on a daily basis. Leaders leading, in different ways in different countries and contexts, with different levels of influence and impact, across the globe. The transition from working on the customer focused side of the tourism industry to now my current, more globally-orientated position, has been a learning curve. I’m slowly learning how to make words matter, and how to speak so that people listen. I can feel my perspective widening, AM&A’s trust in my instincts growing. All necessary components to any worthwhile journey. Thanks to the guidance of Anita, the gaps are being filled. 

Anita asked me to write a piece on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), particularly why it matters. If you’ve been following along with our Living the SDGs project, we’ve been looking at how individuals like you and I can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make a difference. The SDGs were a key talking point in this year’s UNGA, so our understanding of the purpose, function, and outputs of the General Assembly will aid our journey moving forward.

I never paid much attention to the UNGA in previous years beyond the major headlines. My closest encounter with the inner-workings of the UN was my stint as Australia and Côte d’Ivoire, respectively, with Model United Nations during University. 

Coverage of this year’s UNGA seemed heightened. Possibly in part due to a spitfire Swedish teen, or possibly because of the growing awareness and importance of global issues amongst the general population. Either way, the 2019 General Assembly has now concluded. But what happens when the world leaders come together and why does it matter? 

 

What is the United Nations General Assembly?

The General Assembly of the United Nations meets together in New York City annually, 2019’s meeting marked the 74th session since the UN was founded in 1945. With 193 member states represented, as well as ‘non-member observer states’ such as the Vatican and European Union, it is a time for small and large nations alike to come together and be heard. Unlike the UN Security Council, which is made up of the US, China, the UK, France and Russia, members of the General Assembly do not pass binding resolutions. 

As the world’s most prominent diplomatic stage, the General Assembly offers world leaders a forum to debate the biggest global issues, domestic threats and concerns, and international peace and security. From climate change to humanitarian crises to territorial disputes – everything finds its way to the ‘table’. And leaders seek to secure a seat at the table where they feel an impact can be made, and felt. 

While the UNGA may not pass actionable laws, many of the resolutions that have come out of it have made a major impact. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, that set the first global standard for human rights. The Millenium Declaration in 2000 that set actionable targets to reduce poverty and improve access to education amongst other goals. (Read more about the Millenium Goals here.) And, of course, the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, that gave us the 17 SDGs to work towards until 2030. 

The General Debate

The main component of the UNGA is called the General Debate. This year’s theme was “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion”. 

Each member state is given 15 minutes to address the UNGA, although the recommended time is rarely adhered to. (Fun fact: Indian defense minister V.K. Krishna Menon holds the record for longest UN speech ever, he spoke for  7 hours 48 minutes in 1957.) 

Brazil is first to take the stage, a tradition earned in the early days of the UN General Assembly when the nation always volunteered to speak first. Brazil is followed by the United States as host country, and then the remaining member states who all have their turn based on “ level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.”

Although it’s called the General Debate, there isn’t actually much debating. Speakers can discuss any topic of importance to their government, although they generally align their speeches with the overall theme for that year. 

What was new in 2019?

The priority this year was Climate Action, and heads of state and government came together for the Climate Action Summit.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requested that countries who wished to speak during the summit only did so if they have “concrete and transformative plans” to halt rising global temperatures, achieve carbon neutrality and cut carbon emissions by 45 percent. And even then, they only had three minutes.

Much like the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action can not be solved by the UN body alone or any of the member states who have made it a top priority. All members must come together, pressuring those who take the state of the planet less seriously, to collectively strategise ways to fight global warming and cut carbon emissions within their own respective countries. 

According to researchers, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, the world needs to cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2030. The goal is massive, particularly because most current climate action commitments don’t come close to meeting the goal. This year, 65 countries pledged to increase their climate targets. While a positive step, the new commitments only limit global warming to between 2.7 and 3.7 degrees celsius – far above the goal’s threshold. The UN has two upcoming climate conferences, one later this year and one in 2020, which will give members another opportunity to increase their commitments. As individuals, we can contribute to climate action in our day to day lives alongside world leaders, read more about Goal 13: Climate Action here.  

Here are some of the highlights from the Climate Action Summit. 

  •  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he would more than double the target for his country’s renewable energy to a goal of 450 gigawatts. As one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, this was a positive step. 

 

  • Members of the Green Climate Fund, money that helps developing nations with their climate efforts, pledged to double their current contributions – bringing the fund to $7 billion. 

 

  • 32 members, 25 subnational governments, and 34 businesses committed to opening no more coal plants after 2020. 

And then there was ‘that speech’ that made all the difference….

Why was this year different?

The Greta factor. The 15 year old Swedish student who began protesting for climate justice by herself outside the Swedish parliament just over one year ago, is now a familiar face in the headlines. 

She arrived in New York for the GA  in novel style, opting to spend two weeks travelling by a zero-emissions boat rather than taking an airplane. Since landing in the US, she’s been on every talk show, met with President Obama, and even addressed the U.S. Senate. Her address at the UN went viral, as she urged world leaders to take climate action more seriously. 

While Greta has undoubtedly elevated the urgency of climate action, it is the world’s youth who have taken her message and demonstrated a level of activism unprecedented in recent history. Millions of people took to the streets all over the world ahead of the GA, and the following week, to strike against climate change. The protests took place in an estimated 185 countries, and even included a small showing of scientists in Antarctica. Youth, those under 18, have championed the cause. Striking, and missing school, to call on world leaders to protect their planet and future. 

“Yesterday millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action, especially young people. We showed that we are united and we young people are unstoppable.” – Greta Thunberg

 Watch Greta’s ‘How Dare You?’ speech below.

I went with my own daughter to the Climate Strike in London, and even though I’ve been to my fair share of protests through the years, I was surprised by the energy, passion and anger of the younger generations. When you see a 12 year old girl with pigtails calling for justice, you know that change is coming.

The SDGs

The SDG Summit took centre stage during the first two days of the General Debate. This involved present heads of state and government following up and reviewing their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDG Summit was the first official event dedicated to the SDGs since the agenda was adopted in 2015, four years ago.

The GA took a look at data and trends from within some of the specific goals such as extreme poverty, child mortality rates, and water and electricity access in rural areas. This gave members a chance to step back and see where progress has been made, but also look at where there are still major shortcomings. The biggest message to come out of the summit was that all members are off track to meet the goals by 2030 – but that there is still time. 

The political declaration, “Gearing up for a Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development”, set a clear message for the next decade: planning time is over, now we need action. Several actions or commitments were made by member states in response. 

  • Finland pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.

  • Mexico pledged to deliver internet access to all citizens, including vulnerable communities.

  • President Salih of Iraq spoke about using the SDGs as a framework for rebuilding his country after years of conflict. Creating jobs for youth, good governance for all citizens, and combating corruption were mentioned as priorities. 

Collaboration between the public and private sector is paramount for progress, achieving the SDGs without ‘partnerships for the goals’ is not possible.  “Private sector companies hold the key,” remarked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the summit. The private sector played a key role during the summit, these are some of the highlights. 

  • The UN Global Compact, a corporate sustainability group, released a report calling on the private sector to do their part. 

  • Mastercard reiterated their commitment to the SDGs, with plans in progress to bring nearly 500 million people in deeply impoverished regions into the banking system.

  • Danone, along with 19 other companies such as Kellogg and Nestlé, launched an initiative to protect biodiversity. Particularly: eliminate deforestation, protect natural ecosystems, boost regenerative farming, and become less reliant on overused crops. 

With only a decade left, UN Secretary General António Gutteres’s opening words said it best.  “We are far from where we need to be…We are off track.” But with new commitments, and a much needed refocus, there is still time to achieve the goals if words turn to action. 

So, why does the UN General Assembly matter?

Of everything I’ve learned from the Sustainable Development Goals thus far, the importance of working together to create change is without a doubt the number one takeaway. One committed nation can’t stop global poverty. One advocate for climate change can’t stop the rising temperatures. One leader can’t deliver world peace.

The UN General Assembly matters because of the opportunity it gives the world to work together, to learn from one another, and to organise for the betterment of humanity. Multilaterism is defined as multiple countries working together to pursue a common goal, and this is the purpose of the UN GA at its core. Countries can disagree with one another for most of the year, but when they come together at the GA it gives everyone an opportunity to step back, if even for a day, and mobilise around issues in which they find common ground. 

UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad‑Bande of Nigeria concluded this year’s session with the following:

“In a highly polarized world, multilateralism is the only guarantee of peace, security and sustainable development. The world will not survive for long unless we cultivate the give-and-take spirit, which is a distinct and defining attribute of multilateralism.”

It isn’t perfect. Commitments don’t always turn into actions and not everyone will get along. But in a world with increasing threats to security and stability, a growing refugee crisis, trade wars and political uncertainty, any event that brings us all together –  particularly to make that world a better and safer place – matters. 

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

As I began getting into each of the 17 SDGS, I found myself struggling with the sheer weight of some of the goals – particularly this very first one. So, I spoke with my team at ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates. Anita, President and Founder of AM&A, told me to be honest (as I was in the intro piece) – I should share my struggles, share my revelations, and don’t be afraid to admit when I just have no idea what to do. I found that this released me in a way, and allowed me to approach the goals in both naivety and an eagerness to learn and understand.

I suspect I am not the only one that looks at some of the SDGs and wonders “how can I, as one person, possibly make a difference?” Which is why, as we continue this journey together, I hope you’ll find patience in my own learning evolution, enabling you too to learn lessons from the supportive voices at AM&A.

goal 1: no poverty

 

The first goal of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is No Poverty. What a colossal goal to start our Living the SDGs journey. It being #1 is, however, not by chance. According to the United Nations, as of 2019 there are over 700 million people worldwide living in extreme poverty – that’s 1 out of 10 of us and 1 out of 5 children. How, in our ever-advancing world, can this be? And how do you even begin to make actionable changes to lift 700 million people out of poverty? 

When I first began thinking about Goal 1, and what it instinctively means to me, I found that I clearly associated the word ‘poverty’ with someone who is ‘poor’. It’s an easy association to make, especially when you read that those living in extreme poverty survive on less than $1.90 a day. That’s less than $60 a month, about the same amount I spent at the grocery store yesterday for food – some we didn’t even need. 

But, poverty isn’t as simple as a distinction between people who have money and people who don’t. Technically speaking, and according to The World Bank Group, it is described in this way:

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.”

Importantly, poverty can exist simply because you were born in a certain area of the world or because you don’t have access to clean water. Poverty can happen as a result of social or gender inequality or even a lack of healthcare access. Most of the families living in poverty are employed, and work arduously long hours, and still barely survive. It may surprise you that 8% of employed workers and their families live in extreme poverty. That means over 80% of people in this situation spend their every waking hour trying to get out of it – to no avail. 

How do you measure poverty?

I read articles all the time about people in the US or UK who are living in poverty, and I’ve seen it first-hand in London, but the stories we read are still a far cry from those in developing countries where there is mass starvation, no access to education, no sanitation, ect. (Not saying one is more worthy than the other, poverty and the inequalities closer to home are still extremely important to address.) How is poverty measured? 

In 1995, the United Nations adopted two definitions of poverty. 

Absolute poverty is defined as : a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services. 

Absolute poverty often comes with starvation, suffering, and premature death and is an urgent call to action. 

Overall poverty is defined more broadly: lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterised by lack of participation in decision making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in many developing countries, pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries, loss of livelihoods as a result of economic recession, sudden poverty as a result of disaster or conflict, the poverty of low-wage workers, and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets.

Otherwise, those who are not living in the minimum acceptable standards within the society they live.

How would you eliminate poverty?

So, this brings back to my core question: how can I, as one person, help achieve SDG #1 – No Poverty?

I’ve been reaching out to my friends in the travel community, asking them a very simple question. If you were in charge and had the power to eliminate poverty, what steps would you take? What initiatives would you start? How would you make ‘no poverty’ a reality?

As you might expect, I had a variety of responses – from blank stares to laughter, but for some of those I asked – the question was heavy. I could see the cogs turning, the creative juices flowing, and these participants in my social survey came out with some truly inspiring ideas. 

The truth is, it’s really a complicated question. You can’t just decide to lift up one group of people without considering the others. Many people responded with ‘provide women in poverty with skills and education’, which I find entirely logical. That was until a friend who lives in Morocco shared with me that women empowerment initiatives were gaining steam in her country, but nobody was working on encouraging the local boys to support them as well. When girls from the programs got married, they didn’t have the same support system in place that was being pushed elsewhere and the problem wasn’t being solved.

Not so simple after all.

Actionable Ways for Individuals to End Poverty

My social survey came up with some interesting ideas for eradicating poverty, some more far-fetched than others. Abolish all borders, provide equal access to education, buy local, add more libraries, create a course for any would-be travellers to help them understand that we are all the same – only our cultures and customs differ. 

Some took it even further with suggestions such as simplifying setup of and reducing tariffs for local business registration. Making it easier, and encouraging, for locals to get involved with increased tourism. Or adding a tourism sustainability metric to websites like Tripadvisor, so tourists can make more informed travel decisions and make sure their purchases and travels support the local economies they visit. (A brilliant idea actually!)  

While my q&a with my peers didn’t provide me with the secret answer to eliminating poverty to pass on to you, it did teach me a couple things:

First, so many more people care than you’d think. They may not even realise it themselves. Some of those I asked looked at me like I had asked how I could get to the moon on the city bus.This was almost always followed by careful consideration and a very thoughtful answer. 

Secondly, we don’t often walk around asking big questions as conversation starters. But maybe we should. After the initial discomfort, I had some truly inspiring conversations with people. Others loved it from the word go, and were excited to stop the small talk and discuss global issues that matter – hypothetical or otherwise. 

1. Let’s talk about poverty (and everything else!)

Have the ‘weird’ conversations. Don’t be afraid to ask people their opinions on topics that matter to you. They may have insight into something you had never considered, and you can take the opportunity to educate others. 

The more I get into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the more I feel the stats heavy on my soul. I say that as lightly and honest as I can, but the truth is I take this project very seriously and that means taking on the responsibility of my words. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die EVERY DAY due to poverty. Just let that sink in for a minute. I can’t save 22,000 children from dying every single day on my own, trust me,I’ve mulled over the possibilities. But I can have the conversation. 

I can hear you saying “poverty is not the best networking topic”, but why not? I’ve done the legwork for you – it works. Sure, not every person, particularly those you’ve never met before, will meet you half-way. Most will. If you don’t want to discuss global issues in a socially constrained scenario, talk to your friends and your family.  Give others the benefit of the doubt, take the leap, most of us want the world to be a better place. Let’s bring our voices together. Let’s talk about diversity, accessibility, privilege, and using our travels to make a difference. 

 Every conversation plants a seed, and those seeds can grow into action. 

2. Empower local communities when you travel

How many trips do you take a year? Working within the travel industry, I probably have a slightly skewed view of the average. But let’s say you take one trip abroad every year. How do make sure every dollar you spend supports locals in that economy? 

We need to ask the questions:

  • How do you ensure that those souvenirs at the market are supporting local craftsmen and were not imported from elsewhere? 
  • How do you know whether that village a tour group is taking you to is empowering the people or suffocating them?

These aren’t trick questions. As we become more and more conscious of travelling responsibly, we need to do our research. It can be done, and it can make a big difference. 

Ensuring our holiday money supports those wages, especially as a collective group of global citizens on a mission for change, could be life-changing. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), a 10 per cent increase in a country’s average income will reduce the poverty rate by between 20 and 30 per cent. 

Here are some easy tips for empowering local communities when we travel:

  • Most big companies should have a responsible tourism policy. Look it up. If you can’t find it, ask before you book. 
  • Do your research. Take the time to read up on different cultures and activities in the region, particularly if you are visiting indigenous tribes or impoverished areas. Don’t wait until you’ve already paid and visited to realise you’ve made an unethical choice. 
  • Hire local guides and tour companies. Read reviews online, email ahead of time to ask how they use the money/support the communities you’ll be visiting.
  • Purchasing souvenirs should be stimulating for the economy, respectful of locals and leave a neutral impact. (ie don’t buy rare collectibles important to the nation’s heritage, animal/natural products that shouldn’t leave.) Many destinations have local cooperatives or artisan workshops where you can buy directly from the person who made it. If you can’t find these, ask questions. 

3. Don’t forget local poverty

When discussing global poverty, it is typically the ‘absolute poverty’ we imagine. Emotive charity advertising has ingrained imagery of starving children living in faraway places in the minds of anyone with a television. Those commercials are often our first exposure to poverty in the west. But consider these stats.

  • 12.7% of Americans live in poverty, approximately 40.6 million people (The metrics for measuring poverty in this case are based on income.)
  • More than 4 million people in the UK live in deep poverty, with an income level 50% or more below the poverty line threshold. 

These families may attend the same schools as your children and live in the same community, but they are struggling. 

I always find travelling in developing countries incredibly humbling. You quickly appreciate your ability to buy food just because you want to try it, to have hot running water in your hotel room every evening, and your freedom to go back to the ‘luxuries’ of home. 

But, it’s important to remember that not everyone around you has the same access. The battle against poverty can be happening right next door, literally.

In London (I use this example as it’s my home), many families struggle to feed their children during the summer holidays. Typically children get free meals during school time and when they aren’t going to school, they aren’t getting food. Last year alone, the UK’s biggest food bank gave away 1.6 million packs of food supplies – a 19% annual increase from 2017.  There are next to no affordable childcare provisions for children above nursery age, putting an even bigger strain on working parents. When there is no childcare available, parents are forced to leave their kids at home which can lead to gangs or crime, leaving early from education, and cyclical poverty over generations. 

My point of all this is that we don’t need to travel in order to end poverty. There’s work we can do close to home as well. So, what action can we take?

 

  • Don’t waste food. One-third of food produced around the world goes to waste. I am so guilty of this and it’s an area I need to work on. If you have food in your kitchen that you know you aren’t going to eat, there are dozens of food waste apps now that connect you with local people who want it. Also, food waste is also responsible for 6-10% of greenhouse gases. Be more mindful of the food you buy and consume it responsibly. For those who spent their day choosing between paying to keep the electricity on or buying breakfast for their family, every bite matters.
  • Support local charities. Whether by volunteering your time or donating money, support the charities in your local community who work with those living in poverty. Programs that support education and training, provide after-school care, help with housing, or provide food are all great choices. Most organisations are overjoyed to have support in anyway that you can provide it. 
  • Freecycle your stuff. I’ve been trying to walk the walk in my own life, slowly making small changes that I hope will contribute the SDGs. A few weeks ago instead of selling off things one by one for pocket change, I gave away an almost-new crib, two years worth of baby clothes, and buckets of toys on a local Facebook group. It all went to a young mother who was almost due but had no means to buy the ‘extras’ for her child. It cost me nothing and was all items that I was no longer using. For her it was priceless and it gave her one less thing to worry about. 

Is ending poverty too BIG?

There is hope. 36% of the world’s population lived in poverty in 1990. As of 2019, The United Nations estimates that it is now closer to 8.6%. That is undeniable progress, which happened through cooperation and action over the last few decades. (Read about the history of the SDGs here to understand the legacy.) 

One child starving to death today is one too many. One woman forced to walk five miles for a clean bucket of water is too many.There are still too many people dying, too many people struggling, in a world of shocking inequality.

I’m under no illusion that I’ll solve poverty by wasting less food, travelling more responsibly, or talking about important global issues with my friends. But just as the SDGs cannot work alone, neither can we. If we all begin making these micro changes, amplifying our voices, and joining together in purpose – the poverty scale will begin to shift.

Ending poverty is big, but it isn’t too big. We are bigger. And we can do better. We outnumber poverty 9 to 1. It’s time to bring to life, and lives, the real difference just one person – you – can make.

Please comment below and share actionable ways that YOU think we can use to end poverty.  

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world. 

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

HUSSSSSHHHH. PROTECTING AND RESPECTING THE POWER OF TRAVEL PILGRIMAGE

There’s something very different about an attraction versus a place of pilgrimage.

Yes, both can be icons immediately identifying a place, a people.

Yes, both attract visitors, often numbering in their millions.

Yes, both require preplanning, often involving tour guides and groups to be able to gain access, to get around.

Yes, both have the potential to be powerful source of valuable tourist dollars, or pounds, or rupees, or rubles, or any other currency.

And yes, both have the ability to offer visitors invaluable insights through rich storytelling – their reason for being, their well disguised yet profoundly important details, their role in the greater scheme of things.

Which is why as a traveller it is so easy to get busy booking a visit to an attraction, the thought of logistics distracting from what is lingering so close below the surface – its power as a sacred place. Until one comes face to face with one of these places. The number in the world is few, yet when seen, when felt, there is no question about its unique classification.

Case in point: the DMZ – the still active, 38th parallel, 200km long and 2km wide demilitarised zone between North and South Korea – the world’s last remnant of the Cold War, and front line of enduring threat of conflict yet prayers for peace.

Less than a two hour drive from the Republic of Korea’s capital city, the significance and seriousness of a visit to the DMZ begins to set in before leaving Seoul. The list of ‘must’ s and ‘must not’s is short, but clear: passports are a must, respectable clothing is a must, signing off a waiver in case of unexpected cross-border hostilities or contact with mines is a must, restrained communication is a must, photos in military zones are a must not unless given the all-clear. Careless, politically associated hand gestures and comments are a must not. Wandering off is a must not. Taking the direction of Security Escorts is a must. These are not tour guides, they are UN-assigned, conflict trained, armed officers. Respect is a must.

Suddenly, visibly and audibly, the chemistry of the group changes. Driving into the DMZ, passing through well reinforced security gates manned by well-armed officers, only the sound of the official UN bus engine can be heard. The quiet is broken only by injections of information by the Security Escort: how far we are from the border of North Korea, how many people work in the DMZ, how many pre-war descendant families live in the DMZ, how many hectares of rice fields farmers are given if they live in the DMZ compared to those outside (17 vs 2), how many mines still lay hidden in the deep grasses around us (thousands).

And then we arrive. Ground zero: JSA – the Joint Security Area.

Sacred has a colour: Hex #5b92e5, also known as UN Blue.

Sacred stirs a reaction, an almost primal reaction. Hussssssshhhhhhh.

Suddenly the spirit of entitlement that tourists often have having paid for the right to control the where, what, when and how of travel evaporates. The ‘here & now’ transcends all else. There is nothing else that matters.

Because here it is, here, right in front of us – the line that marks separation between the two Koreas. The place where, 66 years ago, where the UN overlooked an armistice signed by North and South Korea which ended the Korean War. The place where, months ago, the leaders of the two Koreas shook hands in hopes of denuclearisation and unification. The place where the sight of UN Blue symbolises enduring hope that the history books may one day, hopefully one day, write a final chapter of peace, unity and forgiveness.

To see the place seen so many times before on a television or mobile screen, to reflect on its detail, is one thing. To feel it, however, is quite another. To try to describe it is to realise one has lost their ability to speak. There are no words – only sounds, only tears.

Hussssshhhhhhh.

Humility mutes all conversation. It’s haunting. And it’s disturbing, in a really good way. Here is where history was, and continues to be, made. Here is where horror and hurt, hardship and hunger, healing and hope all collide. Here is where we are reminded, vividly and voicelessly, the blessing that we have of being able to see completely different world that reveals to us, raw and real-time, the gift of peace.

This is what separates an attraction from a place of pilgrimage.

The intensity of the meaning of this place of pilgrimage is made clear by the fact that, in these times of selfies and see-me-here, photographs actually don’t matter. Vivid captures  are embossed in mind and heart while standing still in silence, knowing that you can’t actually capture what you’re seeing and feeling with a simple frame.

It’s about standing in the sun on a dry wooden blue bridge the one that connects North and South Korea shutting your eyes and just listening to the sound of crickets somewhere nearby. It’s about feeling the warmth of the Fall sun showering down, noticing tiny little droplets of water on overgrown grasses that once, only 50 years ago, hid soldiers still in their teens, ready to die for love of country. It’s the smell of pine trees. Here is where learning rises above leverage, where respect rises above rights, where silence rises above soundbytes and selfies.

The same is felt standing at the door of cell 46664 on Robben Island. The same is felt at the `Door of No Return’ in Ghana. The same is felt in but a handful of locations across the globe – places where meaning means more than holiday memories.

These are the moments when tourism becomes sacred, and when sustainability is about protecting and sustaining the spiritual value of a place, not just its economic, social, cultural, or environmental.

Because while one can put tourism infrastructure and policies in place to maximise the commercial opportunity of attractions, there are some places where commerce has no place.

Their power, their richness, is in the husssssshhhhhhhhh.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

 

CLIMATE ACTION/SDG 13 – INSPIRING ACTION THROUGH UNDERSTANDING, NOT SHAMING

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) takes place each year in September in New York City. Uniting 193 Member States, the UNGA is, as stated by the UN, a “unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.”

For just under 10 days, this coming together of international leaders puts at the forefront the critical issues that we are facing in our shared world today – issues that are going to either accelerate, or challenge, our ability is one shared global community to move forward, lifting up the baseline so that all can feel a valued, contri​b​u​t​ing part of a world in which we are all working towards ensuring longterm social, economic, environmental and spiritual growth and development.

Ultimately, we need to look at the UNGA as a way of mobilising an annual global call to action.

Interestingly, and often, an individual takes the face of the UNGA, becoming the primary messenger of the UNGA’s central message.  In 2019 there’s no question about who this individual will be. Her identity, and impact, is already well known across the world: Sweden’s young Greta Thunberg who has, with great courage, great conviction, and yet remarkable youth stood up and mobilized an entire generation, the next generation to moving forward as regards climate action.

Greta has become an iconic, invaluable figure for the world in terms of recognising that now, right now, decision makers must make sure that we recalibrate our actions, taking responsibility for decisions that need to be made today that will have a direct impact on our world tomorrow, especially the future of the young people who are increasingly sensitised to the fact that failure to do so will unleash untold damage to their future and the world around them.

Young Greta, making her way to the UNGA across the Atlantic, arrived into the US just a handful of days ago. Rather than flying from her homeland of Sweden to the US, follow​i​ng 15 days at sea she arrived in on a solar-powered sailboat, sailing into the immense sights and crowds of New York. In doing so, she carries a very important message about climate action that indeed we must all start acting. Now.

That message, however, has the risk of being oversimplified by looking at it simply as her having not taken an aircraft. Climate Action, her core message, goes beyond a form of transport. However, her activism risks drawing attention to hooks able to draw in attention and amplification, as sadly demonstrated by The Wall Street Journal, messaging out to the world that “as the 16-year-old poster child for younger generations’ climate angst, also making its way to the New World, as evidenced in the coverage of her carbon-neutral trip, was a concept that in just a few years has swept Europe: flight shame, often hashtagged in the original Swedish, #flygskam.”

The holistic message of Greta is critical: Climate Action (SDG13) needs to start now. Impact of it positively needs to happen now.

However, in today’s day and age of of social media, of hashtag activism, the heart of her wider message is being translated into a hurtful economic, social and environmental one with significant, negative consequences on the global community’s quest for sustainable global develo​p​ment. This, one cannot believe, was her intention, It may, however, result in its effect

The hashtag that many are applying to her and to her cause is #flightshame.

Yes, aviation is the source of carbon emissions, 2% of global emissions, that are indeed having a negative impact on the environment. This truth is not, however, one being lazily accepted by the global aviation community. Quite the opposite. For several years by the global aviation community has been investing exponential amounts of funding and intellect towards finding solutions to reduce and eliminate emissions to ensure that the growth of aviation occurs in a way that is responsible, and sustainable.

Critically, it must be understood: Aviation it not the problem – emissions are.

For this reason, formal, binding commitments have been made by nations and across the entire aviation value chain. Central to this is airlines.

Championed by IATA, the global trade association for 290 of the world’s airlines with membership representing 82% of total air traffic, aviation leaders are acutely aware of the need to take action, now, on the global challenge of climate change. For this reason they have “adopted a set of ambitious targets to mitigate CO2 emissions from air transport:

  • An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020
  • A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth)
  • A reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels 

A multi-faceted approach: the four-pillar strategy

IATA is determined to be part of the solution but insists that, in order to achieve these targets, a strong commitment is required from all stakeholders working together through the four pillars of the aviation industry strategy:

  • Improved technology, including the deployment of sustainable low-carbon fuels
  • More efficient aircraft operations
  • Infrastructure improvements, including modernized air traffic management systems
  • A single global market-based measure, to fill the remaining emissions gap” 

https://www.iata.org/policy/environment/Pages/climate-change.aspx

Aviation is actively, collectively and measurably making sure that it is uplifting the global impact of its overall economic drive in a way that is not doing any environmental damage.

Again, it must be understood: Aviation it not the problem – emissions are.

Our world needs aviation.

Why? Because global travel, trade and tourism rely on opportunity creation delivered through global skies.

We must must never forget that 65 million people around the world are employed through aviation. Every single day 120,000 flights take off carrying 12 million passengers and unlocking 18.8 billion and global trade.

And then there is tourism – a sector that inspired over 1.4 billion people each year to cross international borders to learn, explore, discover. In so doing, greater understanding is established, central to embedding respect and peace across people and places, across faiths, cultures, generations and ideologies. With this Travel & Tourism supports one in 10 jobs (319 million) worldwide, unlocking 10.4% (US$8.8 trillion) of world GDP.

These metrics are vital to global growth and development, creating a strong global community in which all can participate indirectly and directly, indirectly through what tourism and trade generate across the world in terms of jobs, in terms of inclusivity and in terms of creating a stronger future. To simply hashtag and encourage people to stop flying is overtly encouraging people to stop the growth of aviation. This in turn stops the growth of the global economy, global society and its ability to positively impact the global environment through solutions for the benefit of all.

We live in a time today in which it’s very easy to pass judgment, whether it’s through flight shaming, whether making it clear that one would rather eat a veggie burger than having real beef, or making a fuss over a reusable alternative to plastic.

It’s very easy to turn these personal beliefs and behaviours into finger-pointing around those of others. We cannot live in a society in which our approach to global development is increasingly becoming about turning to the person next to us, looking at what they are doing, and then telling them what they are doing is wrong. This cannot be right.

Everything we do, every day, has a ripple effect – positive and negative. Are changes needed to many of today’s actions to accelerate climate action? Yes, but through inspiration, not accusation.

That is why the global community is focused on, specifically, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to look at the 17 avenues through which we – governments, industries, individuals – can promote development of our global community socially, economically, environmentally, culturally and spiritually. We need to look at these avenues as ways of improving the way in which we live together. https://anitamendiratta.com/blog/sdgs/ We cannot look at the SDGs as 17 as ways of pointing figure fingers and telling people that what they are doing is wrong.

Please, please please ensure that when we look at what how the world is responding to young heroes like Greta (and often unsung heroes that are doing significant things to create significant change, including industries like Aviation working to create positive change), we recognise their efforts to be part of the solution. Firm focus forward on how we can all become part of the solution is needed, not overzealous blame of others for the problem.

The 2019 UNGA is our opportunity to first understand the bigger picture of the world’s workplan – the UN SDGs) – and then identify and commit to how all of our actions, even the smallest, can ensure that we are working towards creating a better world for all.

No one should be left to feel judged or in jeopardy of job loss, in this or future generations. No one can be left behind. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2019

UNWTO Special Advisor Anita Mendiratta appointed to the Board of Tourism Cares

UNWTO Special Advisor Anita Mendiratta appointed to the Board of Tourism Cares

London, United Kingdom – 9th August, 2019

Tourism Cares, a leading US-based philanthropic body of the travel and tourism sector with over 15yrs of proven global experience leveraging the power of the industry to activate social impact programmes in tourism-based communities worldwide – has announced that Anita Mendiratta, Founder and President of ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates, has joined its Board of Directors. 

A trusted strategist in Tourism, Aviation and Development working closely with leaders in governments, businesses, and international organisations, Anita is also Special Advisor to UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili. Her expertise in the areas of national growth, development, and recovery is expected to contribute significantly to Tourism Care’s social impact strategy and activations, including alignment to the UN SDGs. 

In announcing Anita’s appointment, Chairperson of the Board Carolyn Cauceglia (VP Strategic Sales & Account Management at technology solutions firm Amadeus) stated: “We are delighted to share that Anita Mendiratta has joined the Board of Directors of Tourism Cares. Anita’s talent, energy and passion for our industry is contagious. Her deep knowledge of international business, governments, global tourism, sustainability, strategy and leadership coupled with a unique ability to bridge and break through compliments our vision of mobilizing travel and tourism companies’ collective power to ensure lasting impact for destinations in need.“ 

An active advocate of Tourism Cares for several years, Anita believes firmly in its value as a powerful vehicle for industry to work more closely with local communities to embed the principles and practices central to the development of their tourism as a vehicle for responsible, equitable growth and development.

Increasingly, both travellers and the tourism community are looking for ways to make a direct, positive impact on the world we are blessed to discover through our travels. Tourism Cares has invaluable experience in educating, inspiring and mobilising the travel industry in how to connect its people, its sense of purpose and its resources to social impact programmes that are meaningful and measurable. To be a part of the Tourism Cares Board is not only a huge honour, it is a responsibility I take very personally.