At the Paris Peace Forum on November 12 last year, French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders launched a global discussion on forging a new consensus for the post-Covid-19 world. This discussion is continuing through an ongoing debate, with contributions from leaders and experts from around the world. Below, explore the contribution of Sandra Breka, CEO of Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH
Building Back Better Inclusively
Build Back Better has become a global mantra. Beyond bringing the pandemic under control, global recovery must happen in far-reaching new ways that equip the world for a future very different from the pre-Covid-19 era. Rejuvenated international cooperation, social justice, and modern philanthropy are key to making this happen.
The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored, and in many ways exacerbated, the diverse global crises that confront us today. The advancing climate crisis and destruction of biodiversity, for example, threaten humanity’s very existence. The transition to a greenhouse-gas-neutral society and managing the impact of climate change pose challenges as great as any humankind has ever faced.
Moreover, uneven development, economic contraction, and growing wealth disparity threaten social peace. Inequalities within and between societies undermine social cohesion and the legitimacy of political institutions, and fuel political polarization and democratic erosion. The call for social justice grows louder, as discrimination based on race, gender, and other social categories limits many people’s access to a decent life.
In the face of these multiple emergencies, the sustainability of peace and humanity requires no less than a wide-ranging reassessment of the status quo and reform of all sectors. Locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, we need cooperation and institutions that deliver: institutions that help solve the global issues we face, with particular attention to their interdependencies.
Future policies, including multilateral cooperation must emphasize on the social dimension of economic and ecologic transformation processes and ensure equitable access to opportunity – with a focus on education and health in the digital age.
Building a more equitable world in the context of massive technological change means maximizing technology’s benefits and preventing unintended consequences. This requires international cooperation and governance to emphasize digital inclusion and universal connectivity, the protection of human rights in the digital space, and access to digital public goods for all.
The pandemic has exposed the gap between the need for global solutions, on the one hand, and a retreat from the multilateral institutions established to provide them, on the other. Thus, governments worldwide must strain to revive multilateral cooperation.
The global demos appears to stand behind such a rebooting. The United Nations’ UN75 survey showed that people worldwide share the same concerns about the future and that an overwhelming majority (87%) find international cooperation vital to address today’s challenges.
Future cooperation requires a new consensus and robust legal framework. It demands mutual political will in the context of underlying global power shifts and despite competing visions and interests.
We need an inclusive approach: inclusive of geographies, of opinions (though opinions based on principles, such as human rights and democracy) and more inclusive of actors from all sectors: governments and international organizations, the private sector and the technical community, academia, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders. The most promising approach to multilateral cooperation means leveraging the expertise of civil society organizations, the reach of governments, the innovation and independence of philanthropy, and the efficiency of the private sector.
Philanthropy is still largely mistaken as solely a beneficial source of funding. In fact, philanthropy has professionalized with a view to impact, and today offers much more than money: independent from breaking news and election cycles, it can take risks, and search for the right solutions to local, regional, national, and global issues.
Philanthropy can reach out to parts of society that neither governments nor businesses reach – and can support citizens in participating and forging partnerships across sectors. Philanthropy can create appropriate and supporting legal frameworks for local and cross-border giving and avoid politically motivated policies, which lead to shrinking spaces.
Beyond being a source of finance, philanthropy needs to fulfill its potential as a catalyst for solutions to the challenges we face.
What gives me hope is that an increasing number of actors share a sense of urgency and a vision of enhanced cooperation. As the co-chairs of the Alliance for Multilateralism point out: “the major challenges of our time, by their nature and global scope, cannot be addressed by countries separately but must be tackled jointly”. Leaders across the globe are already Building Back Better by undertaking efforts to adapt their institutions to meet the challenges ahead.
Sandra Breka, CEO of Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH
Sandra Breka was appointed to the Board of Management of the Robert Bosch Stiftung in September 2017. Before joining the foundation in 2001, Sandra Breka served as Program Director at the Aspen Institute Berlin after an assignment with the American Council on Germany in New York. After studies in Germany, France and the United States, she obtained her M.A. at Columbia University in New York. She was a Yale World Fellow in 2008.
Sandra Breka is a Member of the European Council on Foreign Relations as well as the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the European Endowment for Democracy. She serves on the Munich Security Conference Board of Trustees, the Board of the Mercator Institute for China Studies and the Executive Committee of the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung and the European Foundation Center Governing Council.