Ensuring an equitable recovery is at the heart of the United Nations General Assembly, which kicked off this week in New York.

The pandemic has precipitated a sudden awareness of humanity’s common vulnerability and interdependence, and the need for a collective response to the major global challenges.

A crucial player in this cooperative action against global perils are civil society organizations, but they cannot work alone. Governments must heed the wake-up call and work hand-in-hand with civil society to find urgent solutions for the pandemic itself, and the climate emergency. 

But we have too often seen the opposite in recent months. Vaccine nationalism and the scramble for doses by rich countries has once more resulted in the poorest countries being left behind — despite the fact that the pandemic can only come under control when everyone has equal access to vaccines and treatment.

The same short-sightedness is obvious in the fight against climate change. With the next COP26 climate conference only weeks away in Glasgow, governments are still too reluctant to step up to make the necessary political and financial commitments to secure a low-carbon future and protect those countries most vulnerable from the devastating impact of climate change. 

What does this inaction mean? Concretely, it means lives lost, poverty, hunger, and the erosion of human rights. In the last year, due to the pandemic, 101 million more children fell below the minimum reading literacy threshold, bringing the total to 584 million children. Between 70 million and 161 million more people are going hungry every day. And an additional 119-124 million people have fallen back below the poverty threshold, with 150 million people being pushed into extreme poverty. Decades of progress towards meeting the UN's Global Goals, which aim to eliminate poverty worldwide by 2030, are being reversed before our eyes.

But there isn’t anything inevitable about this. We, the international community, have the power to “build back better”. To accelerate progress on the Global Goals, and to ensure that no-one is left behind in tomorrow’s world. Where there is a will, there really is a way, particularly because we already know what we need to do — and how to go about it.

Firstly, we already have the collective frameworks to address these issues. On sustainable development — poverty, education, health, equality, democracy, and protecting our planet — the Global Goals provide 17 goals and clear objectives for every government to achieve by 2030. On climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convenes yearly to agree on action, guided by the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On women’s rights, France and Mexico were the co-hosts this year of the Generation Equality Forum, which set out a clear pathway for action and investment to achieve gender equality.  

Working everyday and behind the scenes to support these frameworks is the international community itself, stretching from individual citizens to nonprofit organizations, from private sector to public authorities, from philanthropists to activists. 

Civil society organizations are critical players because they have both the power to act, and the power to motivate action by others. Global Citizen, for example, leverages the power of collective citizen action and visibility from popular artists to obtain development commitments from governments, the private sector, as well as to encourage alignment between commitment maker words and actions — and hold them accountable if need be. This delivers concrete results: Global Citizen’s Vax Live concert, which took place in May in Los Angeles, secured $302 million and 26 million vaccine doses.

The Paris Peace Forum is another example of an organization which strives to maximize this collective action, identifying and supporting projects that further the Global Goals agenda from all over the world, and assembling coalitions of governments, international organizations, civil society, and companies to set new rules, boost resources, or simply better coordinate actors.

This innovative approach to international diplomacy enabled the Paris Peace Forum to help lever $500 million for ACT-A, the accelerator for COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and therapies, directly boosting vaccination in developing countries.

Global Citizen and the Paris Peace Forum are therefore natural partners, and proud to be working together on these issues, particularly at two key upcoming events. On Sept. 25, at the Global Citizen Live event in Paris, Global Citizen and the Paris Peace Forum will be joining forces around three of these challenges: vaccine equity, climate action, and reversing declines in global development. 

And our two organizations will continue that work at the next Paris Peace Forum meeting again in the French capital between Nov. 11-13 2021. With many heads of state and global leaders present, the Paris Peace Forum will be a host for ambitious coalitions on climate overshoot and vaccines, among others.

Global Citizen and the Paris Peace Forum are convinced that their organizations, and citizens everywhere, have the power and duty to take action. We can all make a difference to achieve the world we want to live in, so that no-one is left behind.

But civil society organizations can’t do this alone. Governments have a double role: as a force for good in the world themselves; and as supporters and facilitators of other changemakers, who play such a crucial role in raising awareness of global challenges and fighting poverty everywhere.

Global challenges require global solutions. Our two organizations will continue to work side by side in the coming months and years to find those solutions, building tomorrow’s world together alongside all those who believe in dignity, equity, and sustainable prosperity for all. 

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.


Demand Equity

Paris Peace Forum: To Build Back Better, Let’s Build Back Together

By Michael Sheldrick  and  Justin Vaisse