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UN Sustainable Development Challenge: Cristian Ramos Miranda Reflects

Cristian Y. Ramos Miranda was a finalist in the 2018 UN Sustainable Development Challenge and is currently a MA Candidate at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Recently, he took the time to talk to the Center for UN and Global Governance Studies about his experience participating in the UN Sustainable Development Challenge and why he believes the Sustainable Development Goals are so important.

Why are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) important?
I believe the SDGs are historically important as in the age of globalization and technological advancement they are an invaluable opportunity to bring countries and non-governmental agencies together to find the solutions to the problems afflicting our world.

What SDGs did you address in the project and how did you address them?
The SDGs I addressed in my project (which I titled ‘Refugee Legal Defense Project’) were Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), Goal 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). When I was developing this proposal, I was thinking of the 65 million people that were displaced at that time due to conflict and wars, a number that now exceeds 68 million people.

I addressed Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) thinking that refugees are not invaders in anyone’s country, but people who are doctors, lawyers, and persons with technical or other skills who are able to contribute. They add value, they do not diminish it.

I addressed Goal 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions) by proposing what I called ‘Legal Aid Centers’, where refugees could go to acquire disenfranchised and critical legal representation in their plea for asylum.

Goal 17 is the most important, because we need the UN Refugee Agency, along with other international organizations and enhanced state and regional cooperation to do their part in any project that aims to achieve 2030 Agenda (which is encapsulated in the 16 Sustainable Development Goals). It involves the countries refugees and asylees fled from, the countries with refugee camps, and third countries where refugees and asylees are granted asylum.

What advice would you give to others participating in the UN Sustainable Development Challenge?
I would say to them to think of the issue that they which to solve, the issue that moved them to pursue a career in the field of international relations, and then think of which Sustainable Development Goals it fits into. Choosing a goal first without thinking of an issue or certain matter first is a trap that should be avoided. Finally, the most important part is HOW to address the issue, not the issue itself, and I think it should come from experience, not be invented. That way, their proposal will be genuine.
In my case, when I was finding a solution to the lack of legal representation for refugees, I thought of Legal Aid Centers where refugees and asylees could go and get advice and computers to file for asylum. I got the idea from my experience working at a Disaster Recovery Center for FEMA.

How would you describe your experience with the UN Sustainable Development Challenge?
It was a gratifying experience from the moment I started writing my proposal. If there is something I learned, it is that you never know what you can achieve or what world-changing idea you could come up with if you do not dare. The first step will always be to sit down and start writing on that laptop.

Want to learn more about Seton Hall’s UN Sustainable Development Challenge? Are you a high school student or undergraduate ready to submit your own ideas for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals? High school students click here and incoming graduate students click here.

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