A global call for local action

A global call for local action: Reflections from the Global Summit in Amman


One of IDare’s community members (Johanne Kalsaas) recently participated in the Global Summit. It was an intense week full of new insights, innovation, and inspiration. Want to acquire some of it? Then keep reading!


What brought you here?

It is early Monday morning. A group of people has gathered in the big conference hall of Jordanian NGO Generations for Peace. We are sipping coffee and tea, trying to chase the remnants of sleepy haze away. All of us have disrupted our normal routines to come here this morning. Some have traveled from another continent. Some just needed a few minutes’ walks. Some are experienced diplomats, big directors, esteemed academics, powerful politicians. Others are young students, grassroots-activists, low-wage workers, small-scale entrepreneurs. We are from very different backgrounds and have very different places in society. Then – what has brought us all together? This is the question executive producer Melanie St. James asks participants on the very first morning of the Global Summit in Amman

– Changing the world, someone answers. It’s a big statement. Somewhere else, people might roll their eyes. Even laugh it off. But not here. Instead, people nod their heads in agreement. The stage is set for change.


Collaboration and youth agency for a sustainable future

The 2018 Global Summit in Amman marks the ten-year anniversary of an initiative to build an inclusive and collaborative framework for change. The idea was born when Melanie St. James attended the 2007 World Social Forum. While working to find solutions to the most difficult challenges facing humanity, she realized that this enormous forum with over 60000 attendees from 110 countries was actually too small. She realized that it was missing important stakeholders in global development – while it gathered civic and socially minded change actors, people and organizations working on environmental and economic perspectives were gathered somewhere completely different. The different fields, all crucially important for sustainable development, were isolated from each other. There was no common platform for dialogue, collaboration, and coordinated efforts. So, in 2008, Melanie and her team decided to create one.

Built on the principle “through collaboration, change is possible”, the biannual Global Summit aims to find systemic solutions to global issues. The event has previously been held in USA, Brazil and the UK. This time, its wings have spread all the way to Jordan. Having the kingdom as a location for the Global Summit is far from purely coincidental. According to the president of Generations for Peace, Dr. Mohanned Arabiat, Jordan and the Global Summit have similar roles to play in the world – a commitment to spreading the message of peace, with youth as the main messengers:

Jordan’s greatest asset is its people. More specifically, it’s youth. Unfortunately, some people look at them and see them as a challenge. It’s time for a paradigm shift. We need to look at youth as […] potential. Youth represent hope and opportunity. Youth need to be trusted. They will deliver. We know through our experience that youth-led interventions are an important contribution to peacebuilding and development.


Sustainable Development Goals within reach

Do you believe we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?

Another question is thrown at us, this time from Alberto Natta of the UN Development Programme’s Arab office. The 17 goals agreed on by global leaders in 2015 as the ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’ are undoubtedly ambitious: Ending poverty or hunger, providing quality education and employment for everyone, ensuring gender equality and combatting climate change are just some of the targets the world’s nations have committed to reach by 2030.

People exchange doubtful glances. Some mutter the word “no”. Since the SDGs were formulated three years ago, it seems the world is caught in an endless downward spiral. In 2017 alone, the global number of refugees increased by 3 million. Almost 70 million people are now forcibly displaced. Conflict is still raging in Syria, the war in Yemen has been labeled the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’, 7 million people are estimated to be killed yearly by air pollution alone, and gender-based discrimination still drives female infanticide around the world.

But then, Alberto reminds us about the Millennium Development Goals. Like the SDGs, these goals were highly ambitious: halving extreme poverty, reducing child mortality and achieving universal primary education for both girls and boys. So – what did the goals actually achieve? First of all, extreme poverty was not halved. It was more than halved, reduced from almost 2 billion to around 800 million people. Mortality in children under 5 years old was also reduced by more than half. Despite population growth, the number of small children dying annually went from almost 13 to 6 million. Children not receiving primary school education around the world was also almost cut in half. In some cases, the gender disparity in schools was reduced from 74 girls for every 100 boys to 103 girls for every 100 boys.

Alberto points to another aspect that should make us optimistic for the future, especially in the MENA region: reiterating the message that youth is crucial to peacebuilding and development, he confronts us with some numbers that give cause for optimism:

Nearly 70% of Jordan’s population is under 30 years old. In the Arab world as a whole, almost one in three people are youth between the ages of 15-24. This makes over 100 million people, just in this region alone. Do you still really believe it’s impossible for us to achieve the SDGs?

The glances people exchange now are a lot less doubtful.

Ever heard someone say: “In order to change the world, you need to change yourself first”? In the next article from the Summit, we will look at how self-development can impact global development. Stay tuned!

By Johanne Kalsaas

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