Reflections on UN75

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was pleased to participate in celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations on UN Day on 24th October 2020, by contributing to the IdeaSphere World #Connversations Rountable Relay convened by X360.

This wide-ranging and fascinating series of roundtable discussions involving leading commentators, changemakers and social innovators across the world began in the Asia Pacfic region at 1-3 a.m. UTC and the relay then headed westwards in a series of two-hour sessions that finished in the Americas Pacific at 9-11 p.m.. Congratulations are due to John Wells and Allison Hornery, the concierges of the X360 project, not only for conceptualising this celebration of the UN at 75, but also in convening and moderating this #connversation initiative – and surviving what was a very long day!

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’S Chairholder, Tim Unwin, participated in the fascinating Americas East rountable, which brought together a very diverse group of thoughtleaders from the eastern USA (Gadi Ben-Yehuda, Peter Scoblic, Richard Kerby, Tim McDonald), Canada (Ashleigh Weeden, Úna Hassenstein) and Mexico (Carlos Castañeda Girón, José Maria Guajardo) as well as outliers from the UK and the Philippines, and many other participants, to discuss a diversity of issues around the role of the UN, the kind of world in which we wish to live, and the evolving character of public participation in decision making, not least as it is mediated through digital technologies. Key issues that struck a particular chord, included the role of new financial instruments and institutions, new ways of convening public dialogues, how to get the balance right between rural and urban interests, “Open” and proprietary systems and technologies, youth participation, and the UN’s role in contributing to a better (or indeed worse) world.

The roundatables (thanks to X360) also introduced the wealth of emerging way through which digital technologies can be used to encourage such dialogues – not least through the images we may choose to show as backgrounds on Zoom conversations, the rich side conversations in chats, and innovative new platforms such as IdeaSpace.

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