Tuesday March 17, 2009 - NEW YORK - Tuesday 17: The MDG Awards global launch event at the United Nations building on March 17, 2009 in New York City. PHOTO CREDIT: © 2008 by Steve Mack
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New York City. March 17th, 2009. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was honored at the UN General Assembly for his lifetime of service in human rights. Nobel Peace Prize winner Tutu once said, “do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world," epitomizing the spirit of the MDG Awards. Widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience”, he has been described by Nelson Mandela as “somewhat strident, often tender, never afraid, and seldom without humor, his voice will always be the voice of the voiceless.” Tutu managed to entertain all of us with his comedic comment, “I’m not as young as I look.” He spoke of a 400 year old school in Holland that he visited after it was named in his honor and said a child asked him, “Were you here when the school was built?” He danced and sang off the stage singing, “I’m going to take a sentimental journey.” It is obvious why Tutu has so many books compiled of his speeches and sayings. Many people were in awe of being in the presence of such a great human being and humanitarian.
Actor Armand Assante opened the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) program, remarking, “I am pleased to be among the most extraordinary minds of humanitarianism in the world. Many have to negotiate through hatred to get things done, these men negotiate through peace.” Macy Gray rocked the UN with her message of love getting everyone moving to her hit “Say Good-Bye”, a perfect Millennium message for us all, “My world crumbles if you are not here.” Sol Guy, the co-founder of DCM, and co-creator, co-producer, and host of MTV’s 4REAL teased the audience to let loose and not give “diplomatic claps” when applauding. A veteran artist manager, Sol is one of Canada’s leading music executives .4REAL is a community of individuals from around the world who are passionate about creating social change through action, art, and culture. K’Naan; (known for his rhymes and activism), belted out his memories of growing up in a war torn Somalia. Njakatiana, heart throb singer from Madagascar melted the hearts of the audience. Mike Hucknall from Simply Red sang “Come to My Aid” solo. The evenings band was made up of multi-instrumentalist and musical director for Paul Simon; Mark Stewart, Steve Jordan on drums, David Paich from TOTO on keyboard , Keaton Simon on guitar, and other award winning artists. Sol said, “We have a collective chance to make a radical change.” It was a treat to see The Junior Fountain Gospel Choir perform amongst the great artists of the world.
Dr. Kevin M. Cahill was presented with A Lifetime Achievement Award for his life long dedication of extraordinary service. Dr. Cahill said, “healing and solidarity are moral responsibilities for all of us.” He reflected upon his experiences in disease ridden Somalia in 1962, the embargoes on health care that affected Nicaurauga in 1987, first hand accounts of what is happening in Darfur, Chad and the Congo. He stated that he has “tried to heal the wounds of war.” Dr. Kevin M. Cahill, is a leading specialist in tropical medicine who worked in the streets of India with Mother Teresa. For more than 45 years, Dr. Cahill has been a driving force in humanitarian assistance and relief efforts around the world.
Largely responsible for putting the evenings festivities together were David NG; Chairman of the World Harmony Alliance and H.E. Ambassador Francis Lorenzo. Lorenzo stated that to achieve the MDGs, we need to develop a global partnership for development and to address the challenges effectively. Action and interaction are needed in all countries and from all sides: governments, business, non-governmental organizations, academia, community groups, individuals and United Nations entities
Jonathan Granoff ; author, attorney, and international peace activist who’s life's work is dedicated to the total elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide spoke. Granoff called the UN “home for everyone” saying, “While many worry about Wall Street, the majority of the poverty stricken in the world have no street.” Poverty levels around the world are deepening with each passing month. He said that $1.3 Trillion a year is spent on military.
Opening remarks were made by H.E. Miguel d’Escato Brockmann about the South South Corporation to help the worlds poorest and most vulnerable people. Other remarks were made by H.E. Nassir Abdlaziz Al-Nassar and Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs. We were reminded of the Millennium Goal set in 2000 to bridge the gap between poverty and wealth. We have lost a decade when we expected to be closing the gap between the rich and poor. With recent economic downturns this goal is growing increasingly difficult.
The General Assembly was filled with government officials, international luminaries, renowned artists, astute members of society and celebrated figures.
The “lifetime achievement” recognition is being used to kick-off what will be an annual MDG awards event. Beginning in September, the awards program will shift to recognize individuals, organizations and nations that are making impressive progress in implementing the eight MDGs as established in 2000 by the United Nations. The goals are to be achieved by 2015 in response to the world’s primary development challenges.
Story by: Sara Herbert-Galloway
Photos by Steve Mack