Interview with Give Me 5! campaign founder Juan Chebly
The Institute for International Communication at St. John’s University is an official partner of the Give Me 5! campaign. In an interview with Juan E. Chebly, we are taking a closer look at the campaign and what it’s about:
Q: As the founder of the Give Me 5 campaign, please tell us in three sentences: what is the Give Me 5 campaign about?
The Give Me 5! Campaign is an advocacy organization with members in over 30 countries taking action to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We are a community of concerned citizens worldwide who want Sustainable Development to become a priority as a plight for human rights of present and future generations. We empower people to understand the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to take action within their own communities.
Q: You are also involved with the Nexus Dialogue series of the UN Environment Management Group – Why are these dialogues important and how are they linked to the goals of the Give Me 5! campaign?
I also serve as Lead Adviser to the UN Environment Programme and have served the UN in various capacities since 2013. My current responsibility is serving the UN Environment Management Group in their mandate to foster cooperation and convergence of environment strategies within the UN system and its 51 Member Agencies.
The puzzle of sustainable development cannot be solved by solely concentrating on the pieces. It has to be seen as a whole and not only as a series of isolated issues and problems. For these dialogues, a “nexus” approach is the one that focuses on overlaps across sectors, in other words the practical applications of interdisciplinary work. These dialogues and supporting e-discussions seek successful examples and lessons learned. It is also a way to foster inclusive participation in the work of the UN system.
The Give Me 5! Campaign is all about inclusion and participation to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is about “We the peoples of the United Nations” coming together for people and planet. In this sense, we support the work of the UN in general, but more so when an inclusive and participatory approach is taken to big impact issues like the nexus approach and collaboration across sectors.
Q: Do you remember the moment when you realized that the central idea behind the Give Me 5 campaign can really have a big impact on the world and should be advocated for? Tell us about this moment.
I was serving as Coordinator of the World We Want Campaign launched by the UN Development Programme at the time. We had reached out and heard back from millions of people across the world. They shared their dreams and aspirations for a better world by the year 2030. The UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs had taken shape as the most inclusive development agenda the world had ever seen. The ‘what’ needed to be done was clear. However one question eluded global consensus – How are we going to get this done?
It was my last week at UNDP and I was traveling to Addis Ababa to attend the 3rd Financing For Development Conference of the United Nations. This conference was meant to answer the ‘how’ to finance and achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. I looked at the work of Columbia University colleagues which estimated the additional investments needed to achieve the SDGs. I then compared this figure to something tangible – global military spending.
“My findings were bewildering… the equivalent of 5% of global military spending would be enough to fix pretty much everything that is wrong with the world!”
Yet the Addis Ababa Declaration made not a single mention of military spending! I knew I had to share this with the world and an academic paper was not going to cut it… people after all do not think in academic jargon and in terms of billions and trillions. That is when Give Me 5! was born.
Q: In one sentence, how can someone participate/ help to reach this goal?
Change starts from within and anyone taking action for people and planet can become a Give Me 5! Advocate and start a local Give Me 5! Chapter, spreading the message and inspiring others to do the same.