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Bouncing back better after COVID-19: The Paris Peace Forum’s contribution

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Mayelinne De Lara
Mayelinne De Lara
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António Guterres addresses the first Paris Peace Forum, 11 Nov 2018.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

New year, (many) new challenges, new Paris Peace Forum edition. Over the last year, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has created an extraordinary number of additional challenges. The pandemic – the Forum’s organizers say – “knows no borders and calls for collective solutions. Yet, international coordination is at loss”. This is where the Forum steps in: born in 2018 with the aim of responding to the crisis of multilateralism, the 2020 edition has been heavily – albeit not entirely – refocused on the responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

Without any doubt, the numbers of the third edition of the Paris Peace Forum are impressive: around 12,000 participants, with 151 countries represented, and the participation of over 50 heads of state and government and 12 international organizations; 178 debate sessions and project pitches, relayed to a global audience through 117 hours of live broadcasting; 850 project applications received, with 100 of them being presented at the Forum and 10 granted support for the next year. But what do these number mean? Not much. What really matters – the Forum’s organizers are eager to stress – are the practical results; and the third edition of the Forum, besides its impressive numbers, can also show quite some interesting deliverables.

In line with its traditional approach, the Forum’s 2020 edition – which for the first time was largely moved online due to the current restrictions – has adopted a combination of top-down and bottom-up initiatives.

As usual in the Forum, there has been no shortage of high-profile initiatives. The Finance in Common Summit has gathered 450 public development banks, which pledged to align their investments with the SDGs and climate objectives. A coalition of states, international organizations, and private foundations has announced a contribution of half a billion dollars for ACT-A, an accelerator of COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. And leaders from all over the world started a conversation on the post-COVID global recovery, setting the stage for what has been already named as the “Paris Consensus”.

Yet, the Forum has sought to maintain the practical focus that sets it apart from other high-level initiatives. After reviewing more than 850 applications (a record since the creation of the Forum), a jury selected 10 projects and pledged to provide them with customized assistance in order to scale them up and expand their positive impact.

Some of the selected projects are directly related to the COVID-19 crisis. “Justice for all amid COVID”, for instance, aims at de-congesting Ghanaian prisons in the midst of the pandemic, while the “#CoronavirusFacts Alliance” promotes cooperation among fact-checking organizations from all over the world to combat disinformation around the coronavirus crisis. Other selected projects had a broader approach to COVID-19. The “Safe Trade Facility” project, for instance, seeks to promote safe trade across Africa, while “Weaving the recovery” empowers indigenous women throughout Latin America, leveraging tourism, culture, and the textile sector – all of this in support to the two continents’ post-COVID recovery. In addition, “Swoop Aero” operates a drone-based medical logistics to improve access to health in remote areas of Malawi.

Yet, COVID-19 is not the only issue affecting our world and requiring multi-stakeholder cooperation – and the scope of the remaining selected projects reflected this. Some of the projects focus on the environment, one by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (“AI for Climate”), and the other by providing online tools, training, and grants to independent local NGOs and activists in Russia (“People for Nature”). Two other projects focus instead on inclusion. The “Baromètre du pluralism culturel et religieux” aims at measuring identity tensions within societies, while “Inclusion des talibes au Mali et au Senegal” seeks to respond to a societal inclusion issue by addressing a deficit in educational governance. Finally, the last of the selected projects – “EURECS Ethiopia” – seeks to support the controversial electoral process of the second most populous African nation, with a view on mitigating potential conflicts arising from it.

As in the previous editions, the Forum has represented an occasion for actors of all kinds, from states and international organizations to local groups, to discuss challenges and policy solutions at the local, national, and global levels. As we prepare for 2021, getting together to address the challenges that 2020 brought to us is already a good start.

About the author:

Guido Lanfranchi

Guido Lanfranchi is an international affairs professional based in Den Haag, Netherlands.

He studied at the Leiden University and Sciences Po Paris, and got with the Council of the European Union in Brussels. His research focuses on the EU, the Middle East and Africa.

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