Salt Lake City-based foundation brings UN Conference to the world

When thousands of people come to Salt Lake City from Aug. 26-Aug. 28 to take part in the 68th annual United Nations Civil Society Conference, many more will participate around the world via online video streaming sponsored by the Utah-based Semnani Family Foundation.

Those attending the conference in person or online will be engaging in a global conversation on “Building Inclusive and Sustainable Communities,” this year’s theme based upon one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The annual conference attracts between 2,000 to 4,000 representatives from more than 300 non-governmental organizations representing more than 80 countries. It will be the largest international event in Salt Lake City since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

“We are pleased to be able to underwrite the live online video streaming of such a prestigious and historic United Nations conference,” said Khosrow B. Semnani, Semnani Family Foundation president. “Making it possible for people around the globe to learn best practices on sustainability is a privilege for the foundation. We are proud of the strides Salt Lake City has made in this area. There couldn’t be a better place to showcase what can be done in urban areas.”

Live streaming will take place on the official conference website, and will be archived at

For half a century, the annual conference was held at UN Headquarters. Recently, the UN began holding it in global cities such as Melbourne, Australia; Paris; Mexico City; and Bonn, Germany. Salt Lake City is the first city in the United States to host the annual conference outside UN Headquarters in New York.

“Salt Lake is international in its outreach,” said Semnani. “It has a welcoming culture—which was evident during the Olympics, World Cup events and other events.”

This international focus is part of the reason why, in Nov. 2017, that Utah Valley University was granted affiliate membership status with the UN Department of Public Information, which led to Salt Lake City becoming the host for this conference. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski encouraged the UN to make its Sustainability Goal 11 the conference theme. Goal 11 aims to “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030.”

In addition to being the second largest Salt Lake City donor to the conference, the Semnani Family Foundation has a history of supporting United Nations initiatives directly and indirectly—such as donating to UNICEF and UNHCR. More recently, with the goal of democratizing philanthropy, the foundation conducted a matching-funds campaign in partnership with The People’s Prize and 5th Element group called “Women Rising” that raised $1 million from 2000 micro donors to benefit clean water solutions identified by charity:water and workforce assimilation programs delivered by the Free Yezidi Foundation.

The Foundation is also providing $300,000 funding to pilot the first three People’s Prize inclusive innovation competitions, which are likely targeting SDG5 (Training Girls in STEAM), SDG12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and SDG13 (Climate Action).

The Semnani Family Foundation began in 1993 and focused on helping suffering children and women around the world. It has supported a range of sustainability goals and visions. For example, the foundation created the Maliheh Free Clinic which provides free health care services in Salt Lake City. It has sustained religious interfaith dialogue in Salt Lake City. Across the world, the foundation has supported various charity outreaches such as the Red Cross operations in Yemen, Rohinga Muslims in Miyamar, Yazidis in Iraq and helped Moms Against Poverty’s program to build housing for orphans displaced by floods.

The civil society co-host, the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, is based in New York and represents the more than 1,500 civil society organizations that are formally associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications.

The United Nations Civil Society Conference (previously known as the Department of Public Information (DPI) Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference) is the premier event in the civil society calendar at the United Nations. It typically attracts more than 3,000 participants representing over 700 civil society organizations from over 100 countries. Each Conference focuses on a different United Nations topic of interest related to the work of civil society and NGOs. This international forum also brings together senior United Nations system officials, prominent international civil society organizations, academicians, public opinion makers and international media to discuss issues of global concern. More on the United Nations Civil Society Conference:

Conference website:

Semnani Family Foundation website:

More on the Sustainable Development Goals: