The Paris Peace Forum 2019 has just ended: Our Thoughts!

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The second edition of the Paris Peace Forum, an initiative of the (and mainly funded by) French Foreign affairs and benefiting from high patronage of President Emmanuel Macron, has just ended. Better and bigger than the first edition, this year’s forum brought over, according to its director-general, delegations from 140 countries including 33 heads of state, 12 heads of international organizations, 7000 participants, 114 projects presented, 9 major initiatives, 80 panels. 

As we mentioned in our recent Paris Talks blog post on some of the must-go-to conferences in Paris this year, the Paris Peace Forum promoted, once again, its Franco-European perspective on peace, despite the fact that exhibited projects, talks and debates we presented by a diverse group of individuals from multiple corners of the world. 

It’s worth mentioning here that, though a few American, Asian and Middle-eastern organizations were present, many of the countries that are leading the geopolitical game around the world like the United States, Russia, China, Israel, Turkey, and/or Iran were absent. 

Anyway, let’s take a minute to mention some of the key takeaways and projects shared that captured our attention.

1.   The Future Is Female: Achieving Women’s Economic Empowerment

Miren Bengoa speaking at the Paris Peace Forum

Moderated by KAREEN RISPAL, the current French ambassador to Canada, the session advocated for the fact that women’s economic empowerment is a key condition to achieving sustainable development. Despite efforts to change perspectives such as the SDGs, women continue to be underrepresented in all economic areas. They are underprivileged when it comes to owning land or controlling production assets. In many developing countries, in particular, women have little or no access to the labor market. How do we change this situation? Miren Bengoa, a recent Paris Talks speaker was part of a panel of experts that discussed issues related to women's economic empowerment. Acknowledging the fact that there can’t be any sustainable future if women aren’t fully enabled to participate in the economy, Miren reminded the Paris Peace forum audience that there needs to be a total engagement from every power holder (mostly men).

2.   The AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub captured our attention

This is a platform that aims to test innovative solutions to common challenges to Europe and Africa through a new approach to youth inclusion. The Hub is a follow-up of the fifth AU-EU Summit in Abidjan in November 2017 under the form of a platform gathering young Africans, Europeans and Diaspora, to refine, pilot, monitor and report on concrete solutions from the AU-EU Youth Agenda, across six topics: Education, Job Creation, Environment, Peace & Security, Governance, Culture & Sports. The Hub held its first working session in November 2018 and defined seven pilot projects linked to the six thematic areas of the Abidjan Youth Agenda. 

3.   “My country first! Anti-Globalism and the questioning of collective action”. 

Moderated by Sophie Pedder (The Economist), this discussion panel covered issues related to challenges globalism is facing. The past years have seen growing discontent and outward questioning of global elites and global institutions – including traditional multilateral bodies. A wave of political sentiment putting forward national sovereignty, protectionism and nationalism have swept the planet, putting in question not only future global governance efforts but also existing international rules and mechanisms. In a world where challenges are increasingly interconnected and require collective action, how can we take these voices into account? How do we rebuild faith in the global architecture in the age of ‘my country first’? These are just some of the questions panelists tried to answer.

Some thoughts:

Beyond the human, intellectual and business connections we made at this year’s Paris Peace Forum, we left the Grande Halle de la Villette with mixed feelings asking ourselves questions such as: what will happen if Emmanuel Macron isn’t re-elected and his successors don’t want to host this forum anymore? Is such a forum necessary? Can it last? What is the ethical and strategic value of such kind of a peace gathering if, a few days later, the same city will host more than 25.000 people from 150+ countries for a fair dedicated to security and surveillance technologies?

Michael & Keenya at the Paris Peace Forum 2019

This leads me to the conclusion.

The Paris Peace forum 2019, somehow, echoes the results of this year’s Paris Talks white paper recommendations. Just like our Blueprint For Peace; Innovative Solutions To Modern & Future Conflicts shows, the forum draws conclusions, through discussions and exhibited projects, of the state of peace and conflict globally. 

While the Paris Peace forum 2018 and 2019 emphasized more on looking at conflicts from a global perspective, it’s important to note that this year’s Paris Talks works reached an obvious and important conclusion showing that conflicts, in the modern world, arise (not only from global sources - which seem to be the Paris Peace Forum’s approach- but) from multiple local, national and international sources also, especially when we fail to listen to one another, and when our legal systems fail to produce a "level playing field" between minorities and the majority, but also between the least and most advantaged people (and nations) of our communities.

We're looking forward to getting inspired and making human connections again at the 2020 edition of the Paris Peace Forum. Bravo to the Forum's team for putting this world-class work together.