Working Visit UN Geneva 

Geneva, Switzerland – 14 & 15 November 2023


During the 14th and 15th of November 2023, a working visit to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland took place in honour of the 10th anniversary of CIFAL Flanders, the 20th anniversary of CIFAL Global Network and the 60th anniversary of UNITAR. A delegation of 25 participants including board members, partners, the CIFAL Flanders team and the first four SDG Ambassadors through the Voka VCDO programme held interesting meetings and visited multiple institutions during this 2-day programme.

Programme – 14 november

9:30 – Meeting at United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)

In the UNITAR office of Geneva, the delegation was welcomed by Angus Mackay, Director Division for Planet at UNITAR, and Evelyn Avalos Cortez, Project Manager Division for People at UNITAR.

Evelyn Avalos Cortez introduced the work of UNITAR and CIFAL Global Network.

Angus Mackay exchanged interesting thoughts on the roles of all actors of society in advancing the SDGs and ecological sustainability for companies.

Closing remarks by Ari Epstein, Chair CIFAL Flanders.

11:30 – Meeting at World Trade Organisation (WTO)

At the headquarters of the WTO, the delegation met with Frank DuhamelBelgian representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Centre Européen de Recherché Nucléaire (CERN) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

Frank Duhamel explained the inner working of the organisation and several interesting cases.

15:00 – Introduction to the United Nations

16:00 – XX Annual Meeting CIFAL Global Network at the Palais des Nations

During the twentieth annual meeting of CIFAL Global Network, the delegation was given the honour to represent CIFAL Flanders and their own organisation during several pitches in the presence of Nikhil Seth, UN Assistant Secretary General and Executive Director UNITAR,  Alex Mejia, Director Division for People at UNITAR and Head CIFAL Global Network, and Estrella Merlos, Associate Head CIFAL Global Network.

Introduction speech by Ari Epstein , Chair CIFAL Flanders.

Presentation about CIFAL Flanders’ PCA2030 Trajectory by Peter Wollaert.

Pitch of Blue Gate Antwerp, new SDG Pioneer, by Dimitri Torfs.

Pitch of  Brussels Airport Company, new SDG Champion, by Sylvie Van den Eynde and handover of the UNITAR Training Certificate of Completion by Nikhil Seth .

Presentation of the Voka Charter Sustainable Entrepreneurship and the collaboration with CIFAL Flanders by Helen Jacobs.

Pitch of DNS Belgium, new SDG Ambassador, by Arnaud Recko and handover of the UNITAR Training Certificate of Completion by  Nikhil Seth.

Pitch of  Elep, new SDG Ambassador, by Yves Peiffer and handover of the UNITAR Training Certificate of Completion by Nikhil Seth.

Pitch of  Fruit At Work, new SDG Ambassador, Belgium by Yannick Aerts and handover of the UNITAR Training Certificate of Completion by  Nikhil Seth.

Pitch of  LRM, new SDG Ambassador, by Nathalie Roosen and handover of the UNITAR Training Certificate of Completion by Nikhil Seth .

Closing words by Nikhil Seth.

“Sustainability literacy leading to sustainability action is in the DNA of each and every CIFAL centre.”

18:30 – Meeting and dinner at Vieux-Bois

After an interesting day, the delegation enjoyed a dinner with Katrien de Pauw , General Representative of Flanders to the United Nations .

The diplomatic representation Flanders at the UN in Geneva is at the heart of global action, working hand-in-hand with the WHO, ILO, and UNAIDS. Nowadays Human Rights and humanitarian aid are other crucial topics high on the agenda.

The office is also a vital link between the different Flemish departments and the specialised UN institutions where new international policies are being developed on emerging topics such as artificial intelligence, circular economy, the gig-economy and platform work. They also fosters connections with Flemish knowledge hubs like the universities and research centres. It’s a two-way street: spreading Flemish expertise worldwide and bringing international policy developments straight to Flanders.

“Bringing the SDGs to life is a collective effort extending beyond governments. Therefore, CIFAL Flanders is a key partner for the Government of Flanders, as they are working to encourage action and raise awareness among stakeholders like businesses and private sector, educational institutions and local authorities.”

Katrien de Pauw elaborated upon the importance and tasks of the Flemish representation to the United Nations in Geneva and the role of sustainable development.


Programme – 15 november

Map of the Palace of Nations

9:00 – Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review of Cuba

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council that calls for each UN Member State to undergo a peer review of its human rights records. The delegation had the opportunity to attend a part of the UPR of Cuba in the famous Room XX of the Palais des Nations.

10:00 – Meeting with the Belgian Ambassador to the UN

The delegation was welcomed by Ambassador  Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations, and Julie ProbstFirst Secretary (Human Rights), during an interesting meeting about human rights. 

Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve and Julie Probst explained the function of the Human Rights Council and the role of Belgium. We further discussed the current state and priorities of Belgium together with interesting case examples of other countries.

12:00 – Visit to the UN Bookshop

13:00 – Lunch at Cuisine Lab

The team of the Cuisine Lab restaurant is a diverse and inclusive community that consists of refugees, former refugees, immigrants and locals from Geneva and Switzerland at large. They integrate their home country cuisine into the restaurant, using local and seasonal products.

14:30 – Visit to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum shows us how humanitarian action affects all of us. The museum promotes the understanding of the history, current events and challenges of humanitarian aid.

17:00 – Strategic Heritage Plan – Building H

The Strategic Heritage Plan, the renovation of the United Nations historic Palais des Nations in Geneva, marked a milestone in 2021 with the opening of Building H.

XX Annual meeting CGN

The twentieth annual meeting of CIFAL Global Network took place in the week of 13 to 17 November 2023. The directors of all CIFAL centers were present to discuss their progress of the past year.

Nikhil Seth

Alex Mejia

Estrella Merlos

UNITAR’s 60th anniversary gala concert

In the evening of November 16, at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève, the gala concert “Music from all corners of the world for peace and our planet” to mark UNITAR’s 60th anniversary took place. #UNITAR60

Find all the pictures here.

Programme of the evening

19:30 – Welcome remarks

Nikhil Seth, Executive Director UNITAR

Luis Gallegos, Chair UNITAR Board of Trustees

Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN in New York and Member UNITAR Board of Trustees

Benjamin Woodroffe, President Global Foundation for the Performing Arts

19:45 – Musical performances

Grupo Siembra & Danzadina

20:45 – Cocktail reception

We will be back Geneva!

Participant list

Board of Directors CIFAL Flanders

Ari Epstein , Chair CIFAL Flanders and CEO AWDC

Ingrid Lieten, Vice chair CIFAL Flanders and CEO Verso

Dirk Franco, Strategy and Policy Advisor University College PXL

Sylvie Van den Eynde, Chief HR and Corporate Affairs Officer Brussels Airport Company

Partners CIFAL Flanders

Paul Bartels, Sales Director Global Goals Community

Jens De VosDirector Projects Voka

Rob de WithCo-founder Global Goals Community

Helen JacobsCoordinator Sustainable Entrepreneurship Voka

Dimitri TorfsBusiness Development Manager Bopro and Member of Blue Gate Antwerp Management Committee

Geert LauwersDepartment Head Sustainability Province of Antwerp

Johan Van DammePolicy Coordinator Sustainability Flemish Government

Christel VandenhoutenHead Sustainable Development Brussels Airport Company

Nadia VranckenDirector Bopro

SDG Ambassadors

Yannick Aerts, Co-CEO and CSR Director Fruit At Work

Yves Peiffer, Managing Director Elep

Arnaud Recko, Sustainability Coordinator DNS Belgium

Nathalie Roosen, Senior Investment Manager LRM

Team CIFAL Flanders

Maya De Deyn, Trainer and Project Manager

Elisabeth Goes d’Huart, Trainee Project Manager

Levi Halewyck, Trainee Project Manager

Marijke Janssens, Trainer and Project Manager

Mathilde Van Caeckenbergh, Operations Manager

Louise Vandekerckhove, Trainee Project Manager

Peter Wollaert, Managing Director


David Bijnens, Journalist ROBtv and TVLimburg