Special Summit on Sustainable Development Features Guest Speaker

By YENA SEO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Expository)

During the second session of the Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) conference, delegates in the Special Summit on Sustainable Development had the opportunity to hear from Sushma Raman, the Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University. Raman spoke to delegates on the importance of development and the cooperation between state and non-state organizations when addressing issues and crises.

The Special Summit on Sustainable Development has been focused on addressing post-health-crisis development, inspired by the most recent Ebola outbreak that horrified most of the international community and had terrible impact in many impoverished African regions. Raman has worked with various organizations to address injustice and the human condition in several of these regions. Raman also teaches courses in public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, lecturing on intersectional leadership, nonprofit policy and collaboration between governments and non-governmental organizations.

Raman spoke on the importance of facilitating leadership within local and regional bodies in order to address development issues. Raman emphasized that top-down approaches, which were addressed by many of the delegates of the Special Summit on Sustainable Development during moderated caucuses, can often cause more harm than good.

“You need leadership in regional bodies and institutions, which helps with representation and leadership at the global level,” Raman said. “We must answer the question: How do we bring different voices to the table?”

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Sushma Raman, the Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University, speaks to the Special Summit on Sustainable Development on her own experiences.

Raman also spoke on her experiences in Haiti during development and reconstruction work after the disastrous earthquake in 2010. Raman noted that while in Haiti, she saw that there was a need for greater clarity on how resources were deployed. Raman also stated that there was often confusion among government officials, international agencies and local non-profits, which then led to even more disarray among the general public and citizens who needed aid the most.

“We need different mechanisms to design interventions that would allow people to understand how to best aid a certain region,” Raman said. “We also need more investment in community-led initiatives.”

Many delegates had questions for Raman, including the dais. The delegation from New Zealand posed a question for Raman on creating cultural understanding when dealing with infrastructure and development, while a delegate representing Venezuela inquired on development in its own country.

While many delegates had spoken on the World Economic Forum during moderated and unmoderated caucuses, Raman shared her experiences with the World Social Forum, which gathers civil society organizations annually and strives to counter hegemonization and facilitate bottom-up approaches.

“Many global institutions have rules and frameworks written in a post-war period,” Raman said. “These approaches do not necessarily benefit certain countries and regions, so we need to examine their feasibility in modern-day society.”

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