Youth Perspectives

8 big ideas to improve the state of the world

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Disrupt the status quo. Image: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Ana Saldarriaga
Impact and Digital Engagement Manager, Forum Foundations, World Economic Forum Geneva
Kulé Galma
Community Engagement Specialist, Young Global Leaders, World Economic Forum

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  • In a time of high uncertainty, the need for scalable, coordinated and collective action is more urgent than ever.
  • Members of the Forum of Young Global Leaders are disrupting the status quo with big ideas to drive systemic change in times of crisis.
  • Learn more about the impact of Young Global Leaders around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing inequity, injustice and vulnerability across the world. To date, many individuals, communities and organizations continue to navigate this health crisis while trying to manage its unmeasurable socio-economic consequences.

In addition to the pandemic disruption, the many technological advancements and fast-paced change is challenging humankind to learn and evolve at speeds never experienced before. Furthermore, more than any other previous generation, today’s leaders have a much better understanding of how their actions will impact our collective future.

This has presented us with a unique opportunity to rethink the way we do things and challenge the status quo. It is time for leaders to respond and pave the way for a sustainable and inclusive recovery.

Every year since 2005, the Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL) selects a diverse cohort of promising leaders to accelerate their impact and shape a more inclusive and sustainable future.

During the 2021 YGL Annual Summit, global leaders from different sectors, backgrounds and locations pitched their “Big Ideas” to tackle existing issues and called on their peers to scale their impact and create lasting change. As we work to build back better, these leaders identified “out of the box” priorities to ensure effective post-pandemic recovery plans and secure a better future for current and future generations.


What is a YGL?

Solve health inequity

David Walcot, Founder and Managing Partner, Novamed; Dr Neema Kaseje, Surgeon, Médecins Sans Frontières (Aliko Dangote Fellow), and Dr. Yoshinbou Nagamine, Senior Manager, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Emerging markets face high levels of health inequity, the arrant levels of which have been exposed by the pandemic, with inequitable vaccine access. Left to the market, low-income countries would receive vaccines up to seven years after high-income counterparts, which have greater purchasing power and offer stronger economic incentive. (Purchasing) Power = Force x Velocity

Emerging states should focus on market-shaping to build economic force through consolidation of purchasing efforts – like the recent AVAT initiative by the African Union. Despite low purchasing powers, the sheer size of consolidated markets create greater economic incentives for resource mobilization. This paradigm shift could transform the landscape of global resource allocation in healthcare – including COVID-19 vaccines.

Restore our natural world

Bhairavi Jani, Executive Director, SCA Group

I believe that in the 21st century we have to move away from the anthropocentric view of the planet. Once we see ourselves not as the “lords” of our natural world and but as an integral part of it, then our understanding of it and its different systemic components will be transformational.

We will be able to see that we can work closely with nature without destroying it. We will understand that in protecting and restoring our planet’s natural world through nature-based solutions and acting in partnership with each other and other species, we can find new ways to co-exist.

Have you read?

Champion quality journalism

Heba Aly, CEO, The New Humanitarian

The role of quality journalism has never been more important in the battle against misinformation – especially when it comes to the big challenges facing the world, from the global pandemic to the climate crisis, migration to racism. We need access to information we can trust to make sense of a changing world. But quality journalism doesn’t come easy – and is threatened in many ways.

To help it thrive, we should all champion journalism that holds power accountable, amplifies the voices of the vulnerable, and provides reliable information about the issues that matter to global citizens. Each of us can do so by reading it, spreading it and financially supporting it.


Tackle air pollution

Tolu Oni, Professor, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cambridge (Aliko Dangote fellow)

Air pollution continues to be the deadliest global environmental health risk. It affects every organ in the body and contributes to the large global burden of respiratory and allergic diseases. In 2020, the world witnessed an unprecedented and powerful assertion of ‘right to life’ associated with air quality. This came from the landmark ruling in the case of a death of a young girl from asthma in the UK.

The private sector needs to tackle air pollution, from monitoring and reducing own emissions, using its leverage over suppliers, and using innovation abilities to find new ways of doing things. Raising awareness of their actions and having citizen engagement, we can set the stage for the next big clean air movement.

Rethink multilateralism

Khaled Igué, Founder and President, Club 2030 Afrique (Aliko Dangote Fellow)

The COVID-19 pandemic, a global pandemic as well as global warming, represents a challenge on a global scale. To get out of this and find solutions, we will have to collectively think, work and find solutions that benefit the whole humanity. This kind of global challenge knows no borders, no race, no religion. Before the COVID-19 crisis struck, numbers said that implementing the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would cost between USD 50 trillion and USD 70 trillion, over a 10-year period (2020-2030).

Africa already had an infrastructure financing gap of $108 billion per year. The pandemic brings another emergency, as it has caused Africa to lose $173 billion to $237 billion in GDP so far. In contrast, AfDB President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of African Development Bank, estimates the value of public development banks' commitments by 2030 under the SDG programs at $2.3 trillion; a concrete response in favor of financing adapted to the realities of the 21st century.

Unlock the network effect

Caroline Boudreaux, Founder, Miracle Foundation

As countries recover from the pandemic, we must take the historic opportunity to build back better, and greener. We adapted first to a world in lockdown, and then to a new business and leadership reality. We need now to prove a new way to connecting, to convene the power of the YGL community combining government leaders, civil society activists, business from venture capitalists and asset managers to hard core conglomerates executives.

This is an urgent call to join our talents. Our network power can prove to be the essential element for transformative change for a more sustainable, equitable and greener world.

Regenerate cities

Diane Binder, Founding Partner, Regenopolis

With all the recent events that have shattered our world, we are entering a new cycle in our civilizations history where we have been reminded that human and planetary well-being are intertwined. As the world seeks to build back better, business as usual is no longer an option. We must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, putting people and nature at the heart of all our efforts, while using well-being the measure of all progress rather than just economic growth.

Given the current and expected demographic shifts – particularly in continents like Africa – the development of new urban solutions like regenerative cities are more urgent than ever. Our pillars should therefore focus on regenerate, replenish and sustain our urban and natural environment for the benefit of thriving communities and future generations.

Use tech for health

Paul Meyer, CEO, The Commons Project Foundation

It is no secret that the ongoing pandemic has brought about immense logistical challenges. As lockdowns get lifted, economies begin to open and vaccine plans are rolled out, no universal system to authenticate the genuineness of COVID-19 certificates and testing exists.

To support governments in their quest to build back better, we are launching CommonCheck - a privacy-preserving service which allows the verification of incoming travellers’ health statuses even before their journey begins. This solution ensures a seamless travel experience and enables governments to develop a reliable means of assessing individuals’ health statuses to promote safe cross-border travel for all.

Related topics:
Youth PerspectivesCOVID-19
Solve health inequityRestore our natural worldChampion quality journalismTackle air pollutionRethink multilateralismUnlock the network effectRegenerate citiesUse tech for health

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