One-hundred years ago marked the end of one of the longest and deadliest armed conflicts in history. The First World War killed tens-of-millions, set off a chain reaction of revolution and fragility, and created the conditions for the deadliest influenza pandemic in history. Next week marks the armistice of the Great War, with centenary commemorations taking place in Paris starting November 11th. As many as 60 heads of state and multilateral institutions will attend to mark the end of World War I, and the tension between “internationalists” and “nationalists” will certainly be on full display.
Paris Peace Forum
Yet, beyond the ceremonial limelight, French President Emmanuel Macron will use the centennial as a platform to inaugurate the first Paris Peace Forum—an effort not only to preserve a peaceful world order, but also to represent collective action as a mainstay of international relations. Macron said the Forum will allow people to “think together, propose concrete initiatives, and reinvent multilateralism…to ensure peace gains ground every day.”
The Forum will bring together innovators the world over, showcasing solutions for peace and security, environment, development, and inclusive economies. Altogether, it will feature 120 governance related projects selected from among 900 applications from 116 countries.
As a partner to the Forum, The Rockefeller Foundation will keep its eyes peeled for ideas that promote good governance through advances in science and technology. Several aspects of governance are helping to shape the Foundation’s initiatives in health, food, energy, and jobs, yet two in particular garner further attention—fragility and the notion of the digital state.
Escaping the Fragility Trap
Fragility is again on the rise, bringing instability, conflict and rising hunger for an unprecedented wave of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers around the world. Some 3 billion people, roughly 43% of those in extreme poverty, live in the world’s 50 most fragile states. The crisis is urgent and we cannot solve these challenges alone. Without significant change to address what many refer to as the “fragility trap”, the world seems destined to fall far short of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Recently, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and United States Institute for Peace (USIP) convened a group of global leaders to build on the landmark New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States by offering fresh approaches to dealing with fragility. One key takeaway was the need to ensure inclusive economic growth. Countries affected by fragility, however, often lack the elements necessary for private sector development, including secure property rights, predictable government policy, infrastructure, and a skills base, which underscores the need to direct private investment to fragile countries and enlist the private sector to contribute to peacebuilding. These points are outlined, among other key takeaways, in ODI’s report on Financing the End of Extreme Poverty and USIP’s Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. The Forum presents an important opportunity to advance these discussions and discover other promising ideas to carry forward.
Wading Into the Digital State
The second area of interest to the Foundation is in technology and research that advances a “digital state”—or what we see as efforts to improve people’s lives by supporting government’s use of digital technology to better deliver services and foster innovation. As we wade deeper into the digital future, we’re confronted—on the one hand—with challenges to ethics, privacy, cyberwarfare, and much more; and, on the other hand, we see new opportunities to use digital tools not only to improve public service delivery but to radically transform them.
In Estonia, for example, nearly all government services have been digitized. In India, the implementation of the digital ID system, Aadhaar, has facilitated government subsidies to millions of people who otherwise lacked access, and radically increased access to financial services for the unbanked and those in remote areas. New digital platforms could help solve governance challenges and help governments adapt to shifting citizen demands and expectations.
More to Come
We recognize the Government of France for convening the Paris Peace Forum at an important moment in history, and we’re excited to bring these and other ideas to the Forum as a way to unlock collaboration that will ensure the benefits of progress and prosperity are shared by all.
As the Forum progresses, we invite you to watch this space for blogs from these guest authors:
- Lorenzo De Santis of ODI and Philippe Leroux-Martin of USIP will write about fragility
- Tomicah Tillemann of New America Foundation will cover the Digital State
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