Arts + Culture

Interview: Activist Juan Elias Chebly

Interview with activist Juan Elias Chebly in the lead up to the 9/23 conversation on Millennial Factivism at the UN.


On Monday September 23rd we'll be joining ONE, Transparency International, and the United Nations Millennium Challenge in presenting an interactive conversation on people-powered, technology-facilitated activism (Millennial Factivism). In the lead-up to the event we've been getting to know the panel of activists. Below we speak with expert on sustainable development as well as Global Youth Advocate for the UN Millennium Campaign, Juan Elias Chebly.

OKA: What issues are you most interested in seeing the upcoming General Assembly take up?

Juan Elias Chebly: Greater emphasis on hearing the voice of the people. In other words, inclusion in finding concrete sustainable development goals, with poverty and human development at their core.

OKA: In terms of activism, do you have a specific action you could recommend that our readers take on? For example, is there something we all can be doing in our every day lives that could have a social impact?

JEC: Humility is key, not humility of rags but of knowing our limitations, and of being able to listen to people. It is time for policy makers and academia to consider the voice of the people. It is not enough to think of the single mother in Kenya when drafting a new development agenda, we need to reach out and listen to what matters most to her. We need to put aside competition and self interest, to make way for cooperation and common interest. Mother Teresa once said: “If you don’t live to serve, you don’t deserve to live”.

OKA: What was the most effective (if any) instance where music influenced politics, or of music + activism? And secondly, who is your current favorite musical artist?

JEC: Live Aid, Moscow Peace festival. For some reason I think the safe answer here is U2. Ha! I will listen to anything with a good beat to it, but I enjoy Bon Jovi’s optimistic take on rock and roll.

OKA: What new developments – policy-wise, technological, or other – are you most excited about?

JEC: Technologies for Sustainable Development. More specifically, the MY World Global Survey for citizens, where the Data revolution of our time becomes a practical and powerful tool for inclusion and accountability. It is a ground-breaking solution to meaningful inclusion because it is a space for all human beings to express their dreams and their expectations, by telling policy makers what matters most to them in real-time. It is an accountability tool because we hear directly from people, so they can ultimately hold their governments accountable to their promises. The data visualization and analytics gives us an incredible amount of stories, and is the place to start if we really want an inclusive development agenda by “we the people.”

Join us this Monday 9/23 at the UN for an interactive conversation on Millennial Factivism. For more from the activist panel check out our interview with Nigerian socioeconomic/political activist and blogger Japheth Omojuwa.

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Photo: Aisha Asamany

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