The Annual Concordia Summit was held last September 20-23 in New York City alongside the High Segment of the 76th United Nations General Assembly. The summit was designed to revolve around the major topics of discussion at the UNGA this year. From environmental sustainability to vaccine distribution, the Concordia Summit delved into the largest problems in the world today. The Concordia Summit highlighted the pandemic-induced standstill of industries and governments at rolling out projects tasked at solving sustainability, digitization, military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and widespread vaccination.
The most common issue discussed at the summit was COVID-19 and the international vaccine rollout. Multiple public-private partnerships increasing vaccine accessibility to encourage widespread vaccination were announced. Most notable was the US government’s partnership with the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Rajiv Shah, which aimed to tackle the “largest threat to widespread vaccination”: vaccine acceptance. Meanwhile, the Former First Lady of Namibia Monica Geingos stated that “the lack of vaccines is a greater threat than the lack of acceptance of vaccines in Africa.” This cyclical debate of the largest threat to vaccine rollout narrowed to the same answer: Americans are privileged to have this conversation of “if” and “when” they should take the vaccine while people all over the world are without adequate access.
Another prominent theme across the Concordia Summit’s panels was the failure of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The discussion panels, which featured military officials and foreign government representatives, revolved around the failures of the Biden administration to facilitate a structured withdrawal and pointed to the lack of stability in the Afghan army. However, in this discussion of the differentially possible policies Biden might have administered for better results, there were varied opinions in regards to the lives of the Afghan people, peaking with Representative Ro Khanna stating that “the situation is worse in Afghanistan, we need every sanction in place on them.” While a few panelists’ remarks detracted from the severity of the human rights crisis in Afghanistan, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband explained that “the case [of fleeing Afghans] needs to be told by themselves, not by men in suits . . . you have to convince people that refugee solutions are manageable and sustainable.”
Another overarching theme of the Summit was the necessity for digitization to develop a more connected international system. Tech company panelists offered an innovative approach to the development of democratic governments and economic institutions all over the world. Discussions ranged from the use of Bitcoin by 8VC, a tech startup owned by Joe Lonsdale to the societal importance of social media by Future of Democracy Fellow, Yael Eisenstat. However, advice to connect low-income citizens across the world to provide greater employment opportunities was more expensive for most nations to afford, as Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos stated.
The final theme present at Concordia was the topic of sustainability. From restructuring of production by corporations like Walmart to offers of environmental replenishment, the Summit stage was an opportunity for multiple actors to share their progress on sustainable solutions. The Summit highlighted numerous sustainability progress reports, including this year’s Walmart Environmental, Social, and Governance Report, which listed the increased focus and usage of materials in decreasing their environmental footprint.
Concordia featured Kate Williams, the CEO of 1% Of the Planet, an international organization that focuses on measuring and tracking donations to sustainable initiatives to forge partnerships with companies like Walmart.
Overall, the Concordia Summit offered solutions and partnerships in response to many of the world’s largest problems. The Summit offered a diverse field of experts and officials to discuss its eight main topics and spark new conversations between the public and private sectors. However, despite the various initiatives proposed, the consensus was unclear at times. This year’s Concordia Annual Summit thus reflected the polarizing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prospect of public-private partnerships and their ability to tackle the world’s biggest issues.