By Erika Howard

Last weekend The UN Department of Public Information and the IFP (The Independent Filmmaker Project) hosted the 3rd annual Envision at The Times Center in New York City. Since 2008 the annual forum has focused on using documentary films to highlight important global issues. This year’s theme was how we can use film to achieve the first millennium development goal of eliminating extreme poverty and hunger. In addition to documentary filmmakers, the event was attended by an international group of NGOs, activists, UN representatives, and journalists.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte gave the opening night address, and was followed by the screening of an HBO documentary The Sound of _Mumbai, that featured the journey of Indian children who live in slums of Mumbai, but are given the hope of a better life through a classical musical performance. The second day featured an address by Hugh Evans, co-founder of The Global Poverty Project whose compelling multi-media presentation 1.4 Billion Reasons_ encouraged attendees to join the campaign to become more active about fighting extreme poverty. Visit http://www.livebelowtheline.com/ to learn more about this campaign.

The conference also featured additional screenings that included the 2011 Oscar nominated documentary feature, Waste Land. Earlier, a group of notable documentary filmmakers participated in a panel discussion called “On the Front Lines: Balancing Issues and Art in Documentary Storytelling.” The filmmakers screened portions of their work, and spoke about how documentaries have the power to not only raise awareness about important issues, but can galvanize change in societies.

The last session of the day featured a panel that addressed, “The Role of Women in Alleviating Hunger and Poverty.” The panel discussed how women in developing countries often face societal limitations that deny them the ability to constructively contribute to their societies. However successful programs from NGOs such as Pro Mujer, proved that when investments are made in women, they have the extraordinary ability to bring out vital changes – helping to lift their communities from abject poverty, to a place where they can thrive and flourish.