The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
Today we are confronted with shared and cumulative challenges, no matter where we live in the world, and global peace could well be once again at stake. Addressing these challenges requires a renewed commitment to governance, and a collaborative attitude within which we must define and share solutions. The inaugural Paris Peace Forum (PPF) takes place this week from 11-13 November, bringing together stakeholders in global governance for discussion and debate at La Grande Halle de La Villette in Paris. This gathering marks a crucial moment to address the challenges to multilateralism and an opportunity for renewed global collective action.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has chosen to be a co-founding member of this global platform because we believe that, more than ever, governance is crucial to properly address global challenges of the 21st century.
Providing the public goods and services that every citizen deserves and expects from its state is key to peace and prosperity. The PPF has been created so that leaders, influencers and citizens can come together and shape new answers to challenges in leadership and governance.
We now live in a world where crisis know no boundaries, be it natural disasters, mass migration, spread of extremism, global pandemics, cyber threats or food insecurity. In our increasingly interconnected world, what happens in Africa, or any part of the planet, instantly affects almost all of us. For the lack of a better expression, “when Africa sneezes, Europe catches a cold”.
Key players on the global stage and even within the African continent are adopting protectionist stances, and some of them increasingly taking up populist tones. We see “America first”, fractures in the European Union, and Nigeria (Africa’s largest economy), reluctant to join the continental free-trade zone to prioritise its own businesses and industry. We must be wary of these moves away from inclusive economy and international cooperation, both themes of this week’s discussions, but we must also understand where and why they are springing from. If we do not think, work, and implement together, key multilateral institutions and accords, however forcefully voiced, are just powerless, and the rallying and collective power to address problems is toothless.
We are only 100 years from the first World War (WWI’s) Armistice. For many it seems we are on the verge of a new disaster. Let us not turn a blind eye to the changing global context, to these multiplying challenges. More than ever, these require solidarity and partnership. The PPF can serve as an antibody to this retractive, insular world, with states and private actors mobilising in favour of collective action.
As a co-founding member of the Paris Peace Forum, I am firmly convinced that we must strengthen global governance, but this also means using new tools, and paying attention to projects that stem up directly from the people.
It is this citizen-centric approach that appeals to me. The wish to monitor and assess all political commitments made appears obvious when we see that of all the almost 850 governance projects received for this first edition of the PPF, a tenth were indices.
The need to increase participation is a point of concern I stressed at the recent launch of the 12th Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). Africa is failing to provide enough opportunities for its citizens, especially its booming youth population which is not sufficiently integrated, neither economically nor politically. Also highlighted by the IIAG is the shrinking space for civil society. I will be speaking about this during the PPF to highlight the challenges faced by non-governmental actors. Alarmingly, citizens’ political and civic space in Africa is shrinking, with worsening trends in civil society participation, civil rights, liberties and freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
We must come back to the people, who are the building blocks of democracy, - and we must have a very specific focus on young people. By providing the necessary resources and making a shared commitment, we have a better chance of creating a more peaceful and hopeful future for the growing youth populations in Africa and around the world.
I hope that this inaugural Paris Peace Forum can pave the way for us to unite in addressing these goals and make substantial progress towards them.