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Empowering Change: Reflections from SDGs Week 2023 at UNGA

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Anila Noor, Policy expert on migrant and refugee integration, founder of New Women Connectors, feminist leader and refugee activist, was in New York in September 2023 to join the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summit Week during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). She shares below her reflections and insights from the SDGs Week, emphasizing the urgent need for change.


In September 2023, I had the privilege of participating in SDGs Week during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It was an eye-opening experience that exposed me to the chaos of UNGA, the challenges of navigating heavy security, enduring long walks, and grappling with the hierarchy of power structures. However, amidst all these challenges, I felt a renewed sense of purpose and determination, particularly in advocating for feminism and climate action.

A Shift in Power

As I walked through the corridors of power and witnessed the intricacies of UNGA, it became increasingly evident that we are in dire need of a shift in power dynamics. Enough is enough. We can no longer accept the status quo. It's time to challenge the existing power structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice. Making our voices heard and taking action is not just a choice; it's a necessity. We cannot afford to let this moment pass by without making a stand for what we believe in. Climate action, as important as it is, often seems dwarfed by the magnitude of the climate crisis. However, the conversations at UNGA78 gave me hope by highlighting the concrete steps that cities, countries, regions, and companies are taking to accelerate the transition to a green global economy.

Inclusivity Matters

One of the most inspiring aspects of UNGA was the opportunity to bring the voices of refugee and migrant women into the conversation. Their perspectives are invaluable, and we must ensure that they are heard. By advocating for #FFP+ (Feminist Foreign Policy Plus) and #WPS (Women, Peace, and Security), we can work towards a more inclusive and just world. It's crucial that we all come together to inspire hope, build momentum, and challenge those who are not willing to step up. We need more ambition, and we need more action.

Striving for meaningful participation

As much as I feel honoured and privileged for the opportunity to experience such a powerful event, I cannot silence the truth of my experience as a female refugee activist and policy influencer, originally from Pakistan and with lived experience of migration. I cannot ignore the barriers that still keep people like me outside of the most important decision-making spaces. In the name of security and protocols, I, along with other powerful feminist leaders and climate activists, was kept on the sidelines during the SDG Summit Week. For a small-scale organization such as New Women Connectors, sending a representative to such an event is a serious investment that comes with substantial financial costs and requires efforts from an entire team. It’s time these investments pay off. We need to collectively put in practice our promises concerning the access to these closed spaces, to bring intersectionality at the heart of policy-making. We did not come all the way here just to share our stories, but to be meaningfully involved in the whole designing of decision making.

“We are not beneficiaries, we are not their data, we are not their projects, we are people, we are the future.”

To conclude, SDGs Week 2023 at UNGA was a powerful reminder to keep on challenging these hierarchies and systemic power dynamics. We cannot let the chaos and challenges deter us from our mission. Instead, we must use these experiences as fuel to drive us forward. The urgency of the issues we face, from climate change to gender inequality, demands that we take action now. Let us continue to work together to inspire hope, build momentum, and hold those in power accountable. The time for change is now, and we must seize it with unwavering determination.


Anila Noor found herself involved in the subjects of forced migration and identity crisis when she had to go through that reality herself. She has diverse experiences working with national and international nonprofit organisations and causes, namely dealing with peace-building efforts, refugee integration, and special education focused on women's rights. She has advocated for refugee resettlement and social/political engagement of refugees in Europe. In 2018, she founded New Women Connectors, a movement striving for mainstreaming the unheard voices of migrant and refugee women living across Europe. She is Member of the European Comissions Expert Group on the Field of Migration, Asylum and Integation, and continues daily to work towards a meaningful inclusion of migrant, refugee and stateless people in decision-making.

For information on the events Anila attended at the SDG 2023 week, and the feminist leaders she connected with, read our blog post New Women Connectors at the SDG Summit Climate Week 2023

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