NEW YORK – The Concordia Summit celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and while the event was digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it still offered the insights of experts and leaders in their fields through fascinating conversations on a variety of themes and issues.
Concordia Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO Matthew A. Swift said, “I co-founded Concordia believing in genuine conversation, the power of partnership and collaboration for impact. I love to learn and listen to others that I may agree or disagree with. Amicable conversation needs to be the norm, not the exception and as a society we've been headed in the wrong direction for too long… Over the course of this week, the 10th Concordia Annual Summit is a series of conversations that represent a remarkable array of backgrounds, ethnicities, perspectives, and experiences. Concordia does not shy from the controversial or sensitive. Rather, we tackle those issues straight on.
“If you want to learn, hear from others, and debate these complex and challenging issues that we face, then get ready for the next five days. This year's Concordia program is the single best agenda that we've put forward.”
Among the informative discussions on the first day of the Summit, the morning session focused on the U.S. Elections and Civic Engagement while the afternoon session focused on the COVID Response and Recovery. Marianna Vardinoyannis, Concordia Leadership Council member, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and 2020 recipient of the UN's Nelson Mandela Prize, spoke about children's rights and inequality during the global pandemic and thanked Concordia co-founders Swift and Nicholas Logothetis for their efforts. Her speech, titled United for Children's Rights against Inequality in the COVID-19 Era, highlighted the responsibility of the international community to safeguard the most vulnerable children and their rights in these difficult times.
Vardinoyannis said, “Basic human rights are being violated and the predictions for the future are obscene if we don't act now. COVID-19 will damage years of progress. The pandemic has become a hard reality for all and everything shows children will be the biggest victims.
“The loss of parents due to the virus, poverty, violence, exploitation, trafficking are different shades of a nightmare for them… Health and safety are the preconditions for survival while education is the key to their future and the creation of equal and inclusive societies.”
She continued, “I would like to make special reference to the refugee children and orphans of COVID-19 who are especially vulnerable to exploitation and educational exclusion. In the global recovery from the pandemic, education and access to basic technological tools for all should be among the priorities responsibly shared by the international community. This would be a step for the future, a challenge to reinvent education. In the COVID-19 era, with no access to social benefits and health care and with weakened health systems even in developed countries many children's lives are at great risk.
“The virus does not discriminate, it threatens everyone. It is therefore urgent that the international community join forces to ensure free access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines for all and especially for children. It is an ethical responsibility, but at the same time, it can become part of the global cure. It might look difficult, but we must believe in the power of unity.
“Throughout my fight against childhood cancer, I witnessed great progress not only in research, therapies, and care, but also in the field of free access for sick children and their families as a result of cooperation between the governments, public and private sector, international organizations, the scientific world, and civil society. Such challenges required collaborations, global unity and solidarity to become our fundamental values.
“Sharing responsibilities is the key for our shared world. It is our duty to restore hope for young generations and leave no one behind. The way this crisis will be handled will be the new measure for the day after,” Vardinoyannis concluded.
Also among the discussions on the first day of the summit, Business Leadership & Coordination in COVID Response was sponsored by Calamos Investments and presented in partnership with Yahoo Finance.
Moderated by Akiko Fujita, Anchor/Reporter for Yahoo Finance, the session featured Greek-American John Koudounis, CEO of Calamos Investments and a Member of the Concordia Leadership Council. Since the pandemic hit, Koudounis has led by example in demonstrating the positive effects that can be realized via corporate citizenship. In response to the pandemic's far-reaching and long-term, impact on society's most vulnerable populations, Koudounis founded the Chicago CEO COVID-19 Coalition. By rallying and challenging his peers in the business community, Koudounis and the Coalition have raised more than $1.3 million so far for those in need. Koudounis shared his perspectives on the business community's response to COVID-19 and the ways that business leaders can continue mobilizing, growing, and sustaining support for the most vulnerable in society with an emphasis on relief and recovery.