April 28, 2020

Center for Global Affairs Professors WPS Sidhu and John Kane Play Key Role in Historic United Nations Global Initiative

In January 2020, to mark its 75th anniversary, the United Nations (UN) launched its UN75 initiative, which includes an international survey that asked people from around the world to share their thoughts on the most pressing global challenges.

Seeking support from academics in examining the survey data, Under Secretary General Fabrizio Hochschild-Drummond invited Center for Global Affairs (CGA) Clinical Associate Professor WPS Sidhu and Clinical Assistant Professor John V. Kane to play an integral role in the initiative. A former consultant to the UN, Sidhu teaches the UN specialization courses at CGA; Kane teaches research methods, data analysis, and applied statistics.

The CGA professors worked in conjunction with the UN75 team and colleagues from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva to analyze the data from one of the largest global surveys ever fielded. The UN75 initiative gathers data and input from the public through five streams: a one-minute public survey; dialogues; public opinion polling; social/traditional media analysis; and a mapping of UN reports, and academic and policy research.

As of March 2020, more than 13 million people from 186 countries have taken part in the initiative, with more than 40,000 completing the one-minute survey, and more than 330 dialogues held in 87 countries. The team’s preliminary report was published this month, with final results scheduled to be presented during the 75th UN General Assembly Session at a high-level meeting on September 21, 2020.

“The interim report identifies environmental protection, protection of human rights, less conflict, equal access to basic services, and zero discrimination as priorities,” said Sidhu, pointing to the fact that the survey questions and choices reflect all of the concentrations offered by CGA. He also noted that the survey responses showed a noticeable uptick in the importance of global cooperation as the socio-economic upheaval caused by COVID-19 spread around the world. “This pandemic highlights the importance of greater solidarity and coordination,” he asserted. “None of these issues can be resolved without multilateral cooperation.”

Kane, who provided many of the statistical analyses for the preliminary UN75 report, will conduct an independent study course for CGA students over the summer to code the open-ended responses on the survey and develop themes that will go in the final report. “It is very rare to have a survey that is fielded worldwide,” said Kane, adding, “It is a unique opportunity to hear from people from all parts of the world and get their feedback on the same questions. I hope the survey results will have a real impact in guiding policy makers.”

After September, UN75 will convene discussions on how best to take forward the findings. The final UN75 report will be published in January 2021.

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