5Q: Jonathan Ferguson, ECHO Foundation Intern at Community Forests International
Jonathan is a fourth-year International Relations Honours and Modern Languages (Double Major) student from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
1. What is your summer internship?
This summer I’m the ECHO Foundation Intern at Community Forests International, the Canadian headquarters of Forests International, which is an international environmental charity operating in Atlantic Canada and on the Tanzanian island of Pemba. My primary responsibility is helping with grant-seeking for our operations in Pemba, as well as helping out with some projects here in New Brunswick. Due to my familiarity with International Relations and of the United Nations, and thanks to incredible support from CFI, I was also able to add an international component to my internship. After some research and reaching out to the UN, I was able forge a link between the UN and CFI. I was subsequently able to attend a conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York!
2. Tell me about the conference you attended at the United Nations!
I attended the UN’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF for short). It’s the UN’s principle guidance mechanism for achieving the 2030 agenda. Signed by all 193 member states in 2015, the agenda’s 17 ambitious goals aim to drastically improve the human condition in only 15 years. I attended as a member of civil society on behalf of Forests International, in the NGO Major Group.
3.What were some highlights of this experience?
Highlights include being in the same small room as the Deputy-Secretary General of the UN and the Directors of WHO, UNICEF and FAO for the launch of the State of Food Insecurity 2019 (SOFI)report, witnessing a speech by the Secretary-General himself in the General Assembly, and contributing to a section of civil society’s outcomes document (a.k.a. shadow report) on the HLPF, which expresses our viewpoints.
It was incredible to see what goes on behind the scenes – both the positives and negatives. I am thrilled to see how hard-working the volunteers representing civil society at the UN are – but I was disheartened to see how certain member states tried to suppress criticisms highlighted in civil society statements. Since news is coming out that very few countries are on track to meeting any of the 17 sustainable development goals, civil society’s voice and advice has never been more important to hear.
4.What is your extracurricular and community involvement on and off campus?
At Mount Allison I’m the Secretary-General of MtAUN, the Model UN society responsible for organizing our MtAUN Conference which takes place here in Sackville in October, and for preparing a delegation for an external conference in January. (Experience with Model UN helped me significantly during the HLPF!) I am also on the executive of the POLS/IR society, and co-president of the Fencing Society. Off campus, I sit on the Board of Directors of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Nova Scotia, am a Project Officer and Canada’s GCM Team Leader of the international youth NGO We Make Change, and am an Associate Member of the Canadian Pugwash Group, the national affiliate of Pugwash International, which is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning international organization that seeks the abolition of Nuclear Weapons and WMDs.
5.What are you most looking forward to next year at Mount Allison?
The MtAUN Conference!!! This is set to be our biggest year yet, with at least five universities and high schools coming to Mount Allison to attend, and with more MtA students involved than ever before. We have catered this year’s conference to include not only those with prior experience, but also complete beginners: everyone is welcome! Check out our website for more: (http://mtaun.org)
Bonus question: What is one piece of advice you would give to your first-year self?
I’d say that if you want to influence real change, making the most of the opportunities around you isn’t always enough. Sometimes you have to make the opportunities themselves.