“Having heard 43 voluntary national reviews, I am truly impressed with the political leadership and national commitments,” said UN Under-Secretary General for Social and Economic Affairs, Wu Hongbo, at the conclusion of this year’s High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development. The 10-day long HLPF came to an end last Wednesday, July 19th. During the last three days of the event, 43 nations presented their Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), in which they presented their progress in achieving the 17 goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Overall, the VNR’s were a success. Despite the fact that each country was only given a limited time for their presentations, each one highlighted significant progress and obstacles towards achieving these goals. With the exception of Iran (who neglected to provide its VNR) and Italy (whose presentation was interrupted by an evacuation of the UN building), the rest of the VNR’s were insightful and easily accessible via livestream.
One of the 43 countries that participated in this year’s VNR’s, France has proven to be a leader in implementing the Paris Agreement, as well as working towards implementation of the SDGs. In addition, it has been able to achieve a high standard of living and inclusive social systems. During this year’s forum, France reaffirmed its role as a leading country in the global process of sustainable development, especially regarding the issue of climate change. But, perhaps the most memorable moment of their presentation was a short clip from a movie called HUMAN. And after watching the preview, you are guaranteed to want to watch the rest of the movie, or at the very least, find out more about it.
It is a long one, but it is worth it. HUMAN is a beautiful collection of stories and images of our world, which ultimately allows us to reflect on our lives through themes such as love, happiness, hate, despair, and violence. The stories are told by over 2000 individuals; from Presidents, to homosexuals, people with disabilities, victims of war, and war veterans, their stories and their emotions are real. The film also highlights the inequalities that exist, showing footage of a war-torn village in Syria, and the eternal lights of the city that never sleeps. There are a total of 11 films, but the theatrical version which has been screened at the United Nations General Assembly, at the Venice Film Festival, and at the Fête de l'Humanité in France, is just over 3 hours long. On the web, the film is available in a three part documentary for free on six YouTube channels, with subtitles available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian, in order to generate the widest possible audience. The work was directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a renowned environmentalist. In 2005 he created the GoodPlanet Foundation which has been committed to educating the public about sustainable development and climate change.
The educational project of HUMAN on the theme of “Education and Sustainable Development” is part of a greater effort of the global Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 to “leave no one behind.”
These stories allow us to learn about each other, our difficulties, our strengths, and to showcase people's’ stories who often go unnoticed. When asked the question “what is your biggest fear?” many who were interviewed in the film replied just that, “to be insignificant, and to not leave a mark on this Earth.” The education project consists of 5 short films, and was launched in October of 2016 by the GoodPlanet Foundation and the French Ministry of National Education.
During its VNR, France discussed that much progress had been made just from the widespread screening of the film. HUMAN has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and the producers plan to continue expanding the project, with a new film on the theme of “Agriculture” currently under development. In addition to the theatrical movie and the short films, there have been books, music, and DVDs published. The project has partnered with the Theatre National De Chaillot, Air France, Paris City Council, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, YouTube, and over 190 prisons in France. It has won many awards, and has been featured at 40 embassies, 80 special events, and 75 festivals worldwide.
For more information on the project including access to the book, DVDs, and the exhibition, click here.
Easy access to the movie can be found here.
Read the 43 VNRs, including France’s here.