Intergenerational dialogue holds great significance in the current global context due to the challenges facing multilateralism and the role of the United Nations © Shutterstock

The significance of intergenerational dialogue in the global landscape
In an interview with UN Today, Alejandro Bonilla Garcia, on behalf of Greycells, Peace Child International and the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS) to discuss the platform that unites people of all ages.
7 Jun 2023

To begin, please could you explain what intergenerational dialogue involves?

An intergenerational dialogue is a meeting that brings together individuals of different age groups, specifically those aged 16 to 80 and beyond. It is a co-designed, co-planned, co-moderated, and co-created platform where both older and younger individuals participate equally. The steering committee responsible for organizing this dialogue comprises an equal number of youth and elders, represented by associations or individuals interested in shaping a “UN 2.0.” Each panel within the dialogue consists of an equal number of youth and elder speakers. Additionally, all press conferences and interviews associated with the dialogue ensure gender-balanced representation by featuring an equal number of elder and youth participants.

Can you tell us why fostering collaboration between different generations matters and why it is particularly important now?

Intergenerational dialogue holds great significance in the current global context due to the challenges facing multilateralism and the role of the United Nations (UN). We are witnessing threats to the international legal order established in 1945, as evident from recent events such as Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. These challenges extend beyond security and politics and encompass various domains such as health, human rights, trade, environment, telecommunications, and social policies. Both New York diplomacy and “International Geneva” are deeply affected by these challenges, and it is crucial to adapt multilateralism to the new political, military, economic, social, and environmental forces at play. We cannot afford to resort to improvized solutions, fragmented reactions, or short-sighted decisions. Instead, future agreements and mechanisms should be rooted in thorough analysis and in-depth debates that involve civil society. Engaging in intergenerational dialogue allows us to combine the wisdom and experience of elders with the energy and innovation of youth, leading to powerful solutions for sustainable development and the future of multilateralism.

It’s clear that intergenerational dialogue provides a unique platform for addressing these pressing issues. Could you elaborate on the role of Greycells FOGGS, and Peace Child International in building intergenerational bridges and their involvement in the upcoming UN Summit of the Future?

Greycells and Peace Child International are actively engaged in fostering intergenerational dialogue and building bridges between different age groups. These organizations have a proven record of accomplishment in this regard. They are currently involved in the global civil society’s preparations for the UN Summit of the Future, scheduled to take place in New York in September 2024. As members of the Coalition for the ‘UN We Need’, Greycells and Peace Child International are working in collaboration with a host of youth and mainstream organizations based in Geneva and around the world. The aim is to deliver powerful solutions that result from combining the wisdom and experience of elders with the energy and innovation of youth. The Intergenerational Summit being organized by these two organizations will bring together diverse stakeholders to shape the future of development and multilateralism.

That sounds like a significant undertaking. Can you share more about the planned intergenerational dialogue and its objectives?

The upcoming intergenerational dialogue, provisionally named ‘21st Century Multilateralism: What Role for International Geneva?’ is being prepared for spring 2024. It is an exceptional dialogue aiming to bring the voice and message of international and Genevan civil society to the Future of the United Nations Summit. Given the importance of two upcoming UN events: the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in 2023 and the Future of the United Nations Summit in September 2024, this dialogue holds great relevance. The goal is to create a platform where the contributions of civil society worldwide can be heard and incorporated into future agreements and mechanisms. Greycells, in collaboration with a broad coalition of NGOs, is leading consultations in all regions of the world to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue.

Alejandro Bonilla García, President of Greycells © Alejandro Bonilla García Archives

The work you have undertaken is truly impressive, could you please give an insight into the role of the steering committee and support from other organizations in Geneva?

The steering committee plays a crucial role in shaping the final design and content of the intergenerational dialogue. Their contributions and expertise are vital in ensuring a meaningful and impactful dialogue. Considering the significant activities promoted and supported by all our partners in favour of international Geneva and civil society worldwide, we believe their collaboration and possible support to be of utmost importance. We have support from the permanent missions to the United Nations in Geneva, Canton, and the City of Geneva, as well as institutions like the Foundation for Geneva, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. On top of this, we have many partners such as: The University of Geneva, the Geneva Welcome Center (CAGI), the Eduki Foundation and the Forum Suisse de Politique internationale. The involvement of all our partners greatly enhances the dialogue by providing valuable insights, expertise, and resources, thereby ensuring the success of this initiative.

Thank you for sharing insights on the concept of intergenerational dialogue and its importance in the global landscape. Now, I would like to shift our focus to the recently released Interim People’s Pact for the Future: 2023 Civil Society Perspectives on the Summit of the Future, which was published on May 18th. Could you provide some key highlights from the pact and explain how it contributes to the ongoing discussions and preparations for the UN Summit of the Future?

Civil society perspectives play a crucial role in shaping the agenda and outcomes of international summits, including the UN Summit of the Future. The engagement of diverse civil society organizations, grassroots movements, and non-governmental entities brings a variety of perspectives, expertise, and innovative ideas to the table.

The Interim People’s Pact for the Future presents key recommendations and proposals from various organizations and individuals. These include suggestions for addressing pressing global challenges, advancing sustainable development, promoting human rights, fostering inclusivity, and strengthening multilateralism. The pact’s release on May 18th demonstrates the proactive involvement of civil society in the discourse surrounding the UN Summit of the Future.

By presenting a collective voice, the Interim People’s Pact for the Future serves as a platform to influence decision-makers and advocate for meaningful change. It contributes to ongoing discussions and preparations by offering alternative viewpoints, innovative solutions, and a call for transformative action. These civil society perspectives can help inform the agenda, policies, and commitments discussed during the UN Summit of the Future, enhancing its relevance and impact.

It is essential for policymakers and summit organizers to consider the insights and recommendations put forward by civil society in initiatives like the Interim People’s Pact for the Future. In doing so, they can ensure a more inclusive, comprehensive, and effective response to the complex challenges faced by our global community.

Thank you for providing such valuable information about intergenerational dialogues and their role in shaping the future of multilateralism as well as the paramount importance of the Interim People’s Pact for the Future. We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming initiatives.

Thank you for having me. It has been a pleasure discussing this important topic for the prestigious UNToday, the official magazine of international civil servants. We appreciate the opportunity to raise awareness about the significance of intergenerational collaboration and the role it plays in creating a better future for all.


1 Alejandro Bonilla García, President of Greycells (Association of Former International Civil Servants for development) https://www.greycells.ch/ https://www.foggs.org/ https://www.peacechild.org/

2 https://www.c4unwn.org/

3  https://c4unwn.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Interim-Peoples-Pact-for-the-Future-Compressed.pdf

* Alejandro Bonilla García is a Former Senior Official of ILO and President of Greycells.
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