EQ at the United Nations

UN Headquarters – First Emotional Intelligence Conference

Three Inspiring Insights on Peace, Learning, and our Future


Imagine a world with no poverty. With equity for all. With thriving enterprise AND ecological health. Imagine a world where wellbeing flourishes… for all of us.


In 2015, the United Nations, with input from over 10 million citizens, voted to implement the Sustainable Development Goals… 17 ambitious challenges on which we must make significant progress by 2030. But how? In addition to legislation and enforcement, what are the human skills we all need to foster such a world?

At the first emotional intelligence conference held at the United Nations’ Headquarters, May 17 2019, Daniel Goleman, Patricia Freedman, Richard Fernandez and other experts spoke on EQ and how the skills of emotional intelligence can empower these vital goals. This is a watershed moment as the science and practice of emotional intelligence is featured on the world stage at a new level.

Presenting Six Seconds’ work for the Sustainable Development Goals (see below), Patty Freedman shared key insights on social emotional learning as a systems-level approach to building capacity — that we each exist inside a system (or many systems) and that growing EQ isn’t just about “a class,” it’s a process of growing strength inside that system. Additional important insights from this remarkable day:

Alison Smale, UN Under-Secretary-General, started the conference on why emotional intelligence is an essential resource for the UN and all of us: “As we strive to achieve the ambitious 2030 agenda for the sustainable development, and achieve it we must, we will need more than technological know how and scientific innovations. The skills we learn here today, or bring to the fore, can be taught to children and adults in every country and in any language. [Emotional intelligence] techniques help individuals communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, build resilience, diffuse conflicts, and empathize with others are abilities that can enable us to improve our lives, our schools, our communities, our countries and our world.”

Bintou Keita, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (shown to the left), shared two stories of her experience in building peace by including people and honoring the emotions that are present in the room. She said when she heard about the conference, “unlocking emotional intelligence – wow, we bring something fantastic in this place”… because, “When we talk about the Sustainable Development Goals, no one has to feel she or he is being excluded, marginalized, discriminated, devaluated…”

Daniel Goleman, author of the 1995 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, shared insights on EQ and the science of peace – as “the skillset that is required to reach the Sustainable Development Goals…. they are Noble Goals, it’s the world we want to see, they are all for the greater good, and they give the world toward those goals a deep meaning and value. It’s a purpose that resonates with the heart. And that dimension of purpose and value intersects with emotional intelligence in a very important way…. Emotional intelligence brings the human ability to move together toward those goals in an effective way.”

Patty Freedman’s talk introduced Six Seconds’ approach to social emotional learning as a systems-level solution for building capacity. “Every child lives within a system. We cannot make positive change for the child — teach them EQ or give them rights, or whatever the mission is — without considering the layers around of the child.” She reminds us, “at their roots SDGs are people problems. Technology innovations will help. Legislation is essential, but unless we get people in the system to change, we will never reach the SDGs,” and emotional intelligence are the skills required to do so.

Chris Ruane, Member of Parliament in the UK, creator of the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) and executive at The Mindfulness Initiative, gave an uplifting and powerful presentation on integrating mindfulness practices in the British Parliament to support an institution that can lead toward the Sustainable Development Goals by being more engaged, more present, and more intentional. “We have sprinkled these institutions of politics and government with mindfulness, and they are bearing fruit…. we are a cross-party group, and we leave our politics at the door to develop these inward human gifts.” 


How can emotional intelligence empower the Sustainable Development Goals? Patty Freedman leads POP-UP Festival which is the largest emotional intelligence program in the world, focused on SDG #3, Good Health & Wellbeing, as well as Education, Equity, and many other SDGs. In partnership with UNICEF, this free program will reach 1.5 million children & adults in 174 countries via over 10,000 volunteers from The Emotional Intelligence Network. See http://6sec.org/popup to join us.

Patty Freedman’s keynote to the United Nations’ Emotional Intelligence Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals is to the right.

The full conference is online on UN TV here

Joshua Freedman
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