It’s hard to imagine any good news coming out of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 4 million people globally, with the highly contagious Delta variant fueling case counts and infection rates. Meanwhile, vaccine nationalism has prevented the world’s most vulnerable populations from receiving their fair share of COVID-19 vaccines.
While it’s true that world leaders have a lot of work to do before they can turn a chapter on the pandemic, 2021 hasn’t been all bad.
In just seven months, governments and activists from around the world have made tremendous strides to achieve the UN’s Global Goals by 2030. From implementing plastic bans to ending child marriage, we are all working together to make the world a more equitable place free from extreme poverty.
We have five months to go before the year ends, and we’re wondering: What do you want the world to accomplish before next year?
As part of this week’s #MoveTheWorld Monday, Global Citizen is challenging you to tell world leaders what you want to see from them in 2021. It can be anything from securing quality education for children in every country to ending our reliance on fossil fuels. When you dream big to end extreme poverty, the possibilities are endless!
To inspire you, we’ve rounded up a list of 12 things the world has already accomplished in 2021 to defeat poverty, defend the planet, and demand equity.
1. More countries are stepping up to support rural farmers living in poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every person in the world, but rural farmers have been hit particularly hard. As they struggle to access resources and consumers amid social distancing regulations, more countries have taken action to support the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a Global Citizen partner, which disburses grants to rural farmers in low-income nations.
Nations like Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Uganda pledged to increase their contributions to IFAD, while the Vatican announced its first-ever contribution to the international agency to fight poverty and hunger.
2. Small communities are supporting each other to combat food insecurity.
Governments aren’t the only ones lending a helping hand when it comes to fighting hunger. This year, more communities have gathered to support each other through collective action and mutual aid.
Starting as a way to combat food insecurity arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the United States are stocking colorful community fridges full of canned foods and fresh produce for their neighbors in need. Nonprofit organizations are teaching youth how to grow their own food in the middle of food deserts, and activists in South Africa have started a zero-waste grocery bus to feed people in need.
3. China eliminated malaria.
In important health-related news, China announced that it has officially eliminated malaria after a decades-long effort to subdue the infectious disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.
As part of their efficient and targeted campaign, public health officials in China researched treatment options, reduced mosquito breeding grounds, and distributed anti-malarial resources — such as insecticide-treated nets — to people across the country. Now, the country joins just three others in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Western Pacific Region that have been awarded a malaria-free certification.
4. A new HIV vaccine has shown a 97% response rate in Phase I clinical trials.
According to UNAIDS, there were 37.7 million people living with HIV in 2020. While research opportunities and a greater global focus on HIV/AIDS has helped treat the infectious disease in recent years, hundreds of thousands of people die from AIDS-related illnesses each year.
But 2021 has renewed the world’s hope in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This year, a team of researchers released data from clinical trials in the development of an HIV vaccine that showed a 97% response rate, according to ABC News. While the vaccine is still in Phase I and has a long way to go before it can be widely distributed, its high efficacy rate is a testament to innovation and progress in the health field.
5. El Salvador is trying to expand access to education through digital resources.
Around the world, an estimated 258 million youth are out of school, according to UNESCO. By missing out on educational opportunities, children face higher risks of experiencing income instability, hunger, and a lack of access to health care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for kids to stay in school because of social distancing regulations and safety measures, but El Salvador is working to prevent that.
Through an agreement with Google For Education, El Salvador wants to become the first country in the world with 100% of its students active in the digital classroom. The move will revolutionize El Salvador’s classroom model and have far-reaching effects on children’s access to education around the world.
"Our mission is to guarantee access to education,” said El Salvador’s Secretary of Innovation Vladimir Handal. “Undoubtedly, we are setting a precedent, never seen before at the country level.”
Defend the Planet
6. 77 countries in the world have now announced full or partial bans on plastic bags.
Single-use plastic products like plastic bags and straws are some of the most damaging products to the environment because of their durability and ubiquity. According to the World Economic Forum, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.
To combat the effects of plastic pollution on the planet, more governments have stepped up to ban single-use plastics and promote sustainable alternatives instead.
7. Reddit investors adopted 3,500 endangered gorillas in 6 days.
Remember the amateur investors from Reddit who took on Wall Street earlier this year? Turns out, they care about a lot more than making money and “sticking it to the man.”
In March, a group of people from the subreddit community r/Wallstreetbets kicked off a mass gorilla adoption campaign to donate money to the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Their donations not only went to supporting gorilla conservation efforts across the world but also inspired people outside of Reddit to donate funds.
"I was just made aware that you have been adopting gorillas on our website and I just wanted to say thank you so much for this incredible support,” said Dr. Tara Stoinski, president and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. “It will go a long way in helping our important mission."
8. Canada passed two laws to affirm the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
On Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 22, the country took a step toward promoting the equity of Indigenous peoples by signing two laws that recognize Indigenous status and rights and incorporate them into federal legislation. Supporters are hailing the pieces of legislation as "a triumph we should all celebrate."
Earlier this year, the remains of 215 children were found at a former Canadian residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, sparking international outrage. Since then, hundreds of unidentified bodies have been found in other provinces, prompting government officials to examine how they can better respect and advance the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
While the country still has more progress to make to guarantee justice for Indigenous peoples, the two new laws are a step in the right direction. Officials have also promised to work closer with Indigenous rights groups on how to move forward together.
9. The US made Juneteenth a federal holiday after decades of campaigning.
Since June 19, 1865, Black communities have commemorated and celebrated Juneteenth to mark the end of slavery in the United States. While it has never been celebrated at the national level, local governments have taken steps to make Juneteenth a state-wide holiday in recent years, with activists encouraging the federal government to follow suit.
This year, US President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth National Independence Day a federal holiday.
“We have come far and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration,” Vice President Kamala Harris said. “It is not only a day of pride, it is also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action. And with that I say, Happy Juneteenth everybody.”
10. Misogyny is now a hate crime in England and Wales.
Gender-based violence — which includes stalking, sexual harassment, and physical violence, among others — primarily affects women and girls around the world, threatening progress on achieving gender equality by 2030. As more countries take steps to acknowledge the harms of gender-based violence, England and Wales have led the way by making misogyny a hate crime in 2021.
Prompted by the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman in London, women’s rights activists campaigned legislators to enact legislation requiring police forces to record when a crime is motivated by hostility based on gender. While some police forces across the UK had already marked cases involving misogyny as hate crimes, the new law officially requires all police forces across England and Wales to do so as well, according to Russh.
11. Governments, corporations, and philanthropists pledged $40 billion of investments in gender equality initiatives at the Generation Equality Forum.
Convened by UN Women, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) kicked off in Mexico City in March with the goal of securing landmark investments and policy changes to help make gender equality a reality by 2030. After months of campaigning and conferences by renowned world leaders and women’s rights activists, the GEF concluded in Paris in June, resulting in $40 billion of investments.
“Together we have mobilized across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women. “The Forum’s ecosystem of partners — and the investments, commitments, and energy they are bringing to confront the greatest barriers to gender equality — will ensure faster progress for the world’s women and girls than we have seen before.”
The funds will go toward several initiatives that promote gender equality, such as investing in women-owned businesses, supporting intersectional policy changes, ending unpaid care work, and expanding girls’ access to education.
12. More regions of the world are tackling period poverty.
More than half of the world’s population menstruates, but 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation services globally. This is the reality of period poverty, which disproportionately affects women and girls.
Thankfully, 2021 has seen more nations join the call to end period poverty. Following in the footsteps of France and Scotland, New Zealand rolled out its own initiative to provide free menstrual products to students in schools across the country.
Other governments have introduced initiatives to tackle hygiene and sanitation issues, too. In the UK, for instance, the government scrapped the tampon tax, or an extra charge that some countries place on menstrual products, on Jan. 1, starting the year off right.
How We Can Keep Making Progress
These 12 wins demonstrate the incredible progress that can be made when the world works together to end extreme poverty, but more needs to be done.
World leaders have to put their money where their mouths are and enact policies that will end extreme poverty. They need to end reliance on fossil fuels and invest in renewable technologies. They need to listen to the millions of Global Citizens asking them to take action.
This week, join our movement by speaking directly to world leaders about what you want them to accomplish in the second half of 2021.
Then make sure you’re following @GlblCtzn on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube to keep up with each week’s challenge. Share your experience on social media, and we may feature you on our social channels!
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.