On September 26th, 2015 the South South Awards gala will return to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The event, featuring a red carpet, elegant cocktail hour and reception, and musical performances that each year fill the space with the exotic instrumental sounds of the global south, and it promises to be nothing less than spectacular. At a press preview hosted at the South-South News Headquarters in New York City on August 21st, Alexandru Cujba, Secretary-General of the South-South Steering Committee for Sustainable Development (SS-SCSD) and Art Arellanes, Executive Producer of the gala, introduced this year’s creative team and offered a sneak peak of this year’s upcoming event.
Each year the awards are dedicated to a different cause. This year is especially significant because it marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, a milestone that has made the year 2015 synonymous with “the year of global action.” The ceremony, presented by the International Organization for South-South Cooperation (IOSSC), will honor the contributions made by the United Nations, governments, the private sector and civil society towards the advancement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development in the global South, “specifically in the areas of poverty reduction, education advancement, and humanitarian impact,” read the press release. It will feature a red carpet and an elegant cocktail hour and reception.
The magical night is created by a production team consisting of a group of creative individuals, some of which are returning to the South-South Awards for the third and fourth time, others who have won Emmys and Oscars.
From the much-anticipated Super Bowl half-time show, to White House galas, Art Arellanes has produced some of the world’s most noteworthy events. Joining him as the show’s Music Producer is Ray Chew, who has worked with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Carrie Underwood, and Ludacris, and who has produced some of America’s most prevalent shows such as American Idol and Dancing With the Stars. The award show’s Director, Robins Abrams, joins the team after having won an Emmy in 2014 for directing the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. Additionally, for this year’s event the award-winning documentary filmmaker, Mark Jacobs, has produced a series of videos centered on the issues concerning the MDG’s, the new development plan, and the award ceremony’s honorees. Jim Wurst, former president of the UN Correspondents Association, returns as the award ceremony’s writer for the fifth year in a row. Also joining him on the writing team are Jon and Dan Macks. Jon is an eight-time Emmy nominee who has worked on the Tonight Show, the Academy Awards, and the Emmy and Golden Globe awards show. And Dan has written various benefit dinners, galas, and musical events including the Children’s Defense Fun, Autism Movement Therapy, and the NAACP Image Awards.
Over 1,000 people attend the award ceremonies, and among them are a-list celebrities, world leaders, and icons of global development. However, despite the glamorous nature of the show, Mr. Cujba emphasized that the red-carpet event is not like the Academy Awards. There are also members of the private sects, especially CEO’s who attend. “We are building private and public partnerships,” explained Mr. Cujba. “[Through the Awards] we establish a network of individuals and officials who are interested in advancing their countries and building partnerships that can help those countries who don’t have the means to convey their messages, not only to the United Nations, but to the investors and business communities all around the world.”
In an effort to engage and inspire audience members, the awards feature world-class musical performances by renowned artists from the United States and the global South. “We see how people react to music, art, and ambiances that we can create… we want to emphasize the positives,” said Mr. Cujba. Past performances have included, among others, Don Felder’s rendition of “Hotel California” and a performance by Oumou Sangare, the Malian Wassoulou musician.
Despite the honorable philanthropic nature of the award ceremonies and their aim to celebrate and enlighten the public on the global advances made in reducing poverty and increasing education in developing countries worldwide, at the press preview, Mr. Cujba was faced with a series of challenging questions posed by some of the audience members.
One attendee wanted to know why the committee sometimes chooses to honor the presidents of countries that are still poor. After a moment's thought he responded: "I look at things like whether [those countries] were able to promote women, and have good numbers or proportions of women in government. Our goal is to identify those best examples that will stimulate others.”
Another audience member mentioned a promise that the Secretary-General made to give the member states one trillion dollars. He wanted to know, “What happened to the money that was supposed to be used to help those countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?” Mr. Cujba explained that one of the purposes of the South South Awards is to celebrate the promises that were actually brought to fruition this year. “We all know that politicians have this habit of promising, and it is the role of civil society to follow up on those promises. With [the South South Awards] we want to emphasize something that was implemented, that was achieved, that was good. With you, through you, we can constantly raise that issue.”
The ceremony is co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda the United Nations, the South-South Steering Committee for Sustainable Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Telecommunication Union, and the International Organization for the South-South Cooperation.