Inadequate international co-operation, hampering efforts to tackle the pandemic, climate change, terrorism and more. Rich nations snapping up COVID-19 vaccines, leaving people in Africa waiting years for immunisation. Extreme poverty awaiting another 150 million people as pandemic-stricken economies shrink further in 2021.
A grim picture painted by panel members – including philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, World Bank Group General Counsel Sandie Okoro and former British Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell – at the recent launch of the Forum for Global Challenges.
But the future is far from hopeless. The world does face significant challenges and the panel was clear that addressing critical global problems requires us to take a different approach - rethinking institutions, combining expertise and looking for innovative answers from the grassroots.
Which is where the Forum for Global Challenges comes in. Through its Institute for Global Innovation, the University of Birmingham is working with Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, West Midlands Combined Authority, UNESCO, UNDP, Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Association of Commonwealth Universities to establish a global community of expertise.
We urgently need to create a fairer, healthier and more sustainable future for everyone on planet Earth. The response to global challenges has been slow and inadequate and so the Forum will work to catalyse action and make a real difference.
Online meetings, events and conversations will unite academics, policy-makers, practitioners, private sector, civil society and public – particularly young people. This global community will work together to find policy, technology and societal solutions for global challenges within two broad areas, climate change and inequalities - examined from the perspective of post-COVID recovery, transformation, leadership and interconnectedness.
The two cross-cutting themes are broad, but contain within them a number of challenges: Green Economy; Restoring Nature; Future Cities; Mobility; Education & employment; Health & Wellbeing; Food Security; and Digital Access.
Creating a wide-ranging international dialogue, the Forum culminates in a major event in May 2022 bringing world leaders and thought leaders from around the globe to Birmingham; gathering to create interdisciplinary, intersectoral, system-wide responses and solutions to the most pressing global challenges. Partnerships cemented in the West Midlands will provide solutions to the problems plaguing our world, inspire future leaders and drive change with lasting impact.
Opening on 2 May 2022 at ICC Birmingham, the three-day inaugural Forum will reflect our troubled times in a ‘hybrid’ face-to-face/online event. Participants will experience a programme of inspiring cross-sector, transdisciplinary thinking that introduces them to the tools to dismantle barriers to change. Critically, the Forum’s online aspect will enable participation of delegates from low- and middle-income countries.
We believe in the power of international action - creating collaborations across academic disciplines and sectors of society; showcasing solutions developed by research, industry and civil society, and obtaining feedback from the Forum community - particularly the public. As we move towards a post-pandemic world, the Forum 2022 comes at a crucial moment of global change and will use the legacy of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to create international partnerships to help achieve this.
This bi-annual global dialogue and showcase of solutions will help improve progress towards the 2030 Agenda of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Launching the Forum, panel members commented that it is time to give less well-off countries a stronger voice and bring together unusual coalitions of experts and activists to seek joined-up solutions.
As Sandie Okoro put it: “We need new leaders who will listen and respond with fresh ideas, while focusing on those most at risk. If you change for the most vulnerable, it makes it better for everybody.”