Close to 200 students from across Niagara learned about sparking change in the world during a
training day hosted at Brock University by the United Nations on Saturday, Nov. 11.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: Youth Training event brought attendees
together at the campus’ Pond Inlet to address the root causes of poverty and increase awareness
of local and global initiatives.
The event was led by special guest Christian Courtis, Human Rights Officer, United Nations
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and gave youth practical training to
develop a deeper understanding of sustainable development in the areas of health, economic
growth, social inclusion and environmental protections.
“The event was very well attended,” said Liette Vasseur, who was present at the event to speak
about her work as the university’s United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) chair. “They came and spent their whole Saturday learning what the 17
Sustainable Development Goals, defined by the United Nations, are and
understanding how the United Nations works.”
Other presentations and collaborators of the event included: Ana Sanchez, Brock University,
Chair, Department of Health Sciences (Moderator); Irene Podolak, Action Africa Help
International and Brock University Health Sciences Adjunct Professor; James Reid, Director and
Producer; Lillian Lincoln Foundation; Kathryn Baker-Reed, Skills for Change of Metro Toronto;
Ben Brisbois, Healthier Cities and Communities Hub, Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
University of Toronto; and Steven Lee, Executive Director of FES (Foundation for
Environmental Stewardship) and its 3% Project.
Vasseur shared the work she is doing with the UNESCO chair in the area of sustainable
development (specifically in relation to climate change) in a panel discussion that afternoon.
Drawing from her book, Adaptation to Coastal Storms in Atlantic Canada, she discussed the
priorities and options available to coastal communities as they work to mitigate the effects of
climate change and how successful initiatives in Atlantic Canada can be applied to other coastal
communities such as Saint Barthélemy and Ecuador.
The event finished with a screening of Reid’s documentary, Minutes to Die, Snakebite: The
World’s Ignored Health Crisis. The film takes a deeper look at how snakebites are killing more
than 500,000 people every year – many of which reside in rural areas and developing countries
where access to hospitals and life-saving anti-venom is severely limited. It outlines the clear link
between this health crisis and poverty, inequity, and social justice and what is being done to
develop new, cost-effective treatments.
Vasseur said she was inspired by the insight and enthusiasm of all of the youth attendees.
“I think a lot of students were highly inspired by the event and I’m hoping there will be
momentum on campus now as the students seem quite interested to contribute.”