Aaron Etra is the co-founder of the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration, which organizes two series of international life sciences conferences (ICMAN and ICNODAT) and fosters ongoing cooperation among organizations worldwide under the auspices of the Global Health Collaborations Association. He has long represented NGOs at the United Nations, which he also served as an official in Geneva, and is Chair of the Executive Committee of the Council of Organizations of the United Nations Association of the USA. As an expansion of the feature published in the September issue of Boardoom, he shares his insights on how youth should be empowered in this special contribution by BestCities Global Alliance.
Can you tell us about your role as chair of the Executive Committee of the Council of Organisations?
The COO is a federation of NGOs whose establishment dates back to the formation of the United Nations and whose role is to support the work of the UN in all its aspects and worldwide. I Chair an Executive Committee of 23 persons drawn from the member organizations which itself undertakes programs and projects, while also encouraging partnering among its member organizations and with other organizations and networks in the U.S. and internationally.
Do associations currently report on their contribution towards the 2030 agenda? If not, how can they?
Yes, there are several forums in which associations and other NGOs meet, interact, report and review the progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. I would like to encourage even greater participation and discuss such opportunities at the length they deserve.
BestCities are committed to advancing our industry and we feel that a role or us to help associations engage with the next generation of association members. What do you think engaging with this generation would bring to the industry?
It is essential to bring the meetings industry as a whole in closer touch with the aspirations and priorities of the world’s youth. The challenge is to convince the next generations that they can indeed further their goals, at least in part, through participating in meetings programs and projects. As an industry we want to be able to measure impact and people are working on different elements however measuring societal impact is not easy.
Do you have any suggestions how we can do this?
One such source of measurements of societal impact is the Indicators developed for measuring progress toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These have drawn on expertise from all quarters worldwide and provide a universally applicable data base.
You attend a number of industry events. What events or activities do you find most valuable?
I find particularly valuable sessions and programs where meetings representatives from the two basic groups – exhibitors and planners – have meaningful exchanges and opportunities to present and test innovations and new directions for their respective activities, with a view to a collaborative result.
The 2019 High Level Political Forum theme is ‘Empowering Young People’ – What do you see as the fundamental pillars required to empower young people?
The ability to participate, engage and have meaningful impact on policy and practice is what draws youth to the likes of the HLPF and the 67th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference that just concluded at UN Headquarters. Youth can and should question current policies and action, provide fresh insights and perspectives, demand changes where felt necessary and hold all stakeholders to fulfilling their respective roles.
What do you think the main benefits to the industry are for effectively engaging the next generation?
The benefits include refreshing both the leadership and membership with new energy, enthusiasm, talent and belief in the future. It presents opportunities for all parties to learn, diversify the industry and create a whole new generation of future leaders in the meetings industry.
How do you think an organisation like BestCities Global Alliance can support the growth of the industry through youth engagement and legacy?
BestCities can ensure that its members are tuned into worldwide opportunities for youth engagement and legacy, both in respect of subject matter and modalities. It can inform and assist its members and their constituents in assuming the roles they can play in the issues of the present and the future which will improve their functioning and enhance their relevance.