We are living a new reality. Last week, as I returned from my first visit to the African continent since the beginning of the pandemic, I arrived in what felt like a different world: there is open and large-scale war in Europe.
© Andrew Lozovyi
I think back to the lessons my grandparents shared of surviving the first and second world wars; the fear my parents lived through during the Cold War; and myself, growing-up with the Iron Curtain very much in place dividing people. These lessons learned and experiences earned laid the foundation for a bold experiment in democracy at scale: the European Union. The aim was to prevent war, bring people and peoples together, and create shared prosperity for all with enduring peace as ultimate goal.
And despite all of our efforts, it seems we haven’t learned enough from past experiences. The army base near our family home nearly emptied out while I was in a Zoom call for our work in the cocoa sector. The troops went East, flying low over our home as they left.
I also realized that while Europe thankfully hasn’t experienced this level of conflict in decades, for many of us this still hits close to home. It makes me realize how we all live our lives in a fragile setting, that we all have our own realities. Yet we all have a duty to understand each other, our history, our present, and our dreams for the future. What connects us is much, and always, stronger than what separates us.
We all have a duty to understand each other, our history, our present, and our dreams for the future. What connects us is much, and always, stronger than what separates us.
IDH was borne of an ambition to contribute to a better world, where all share in prosperity and peace. What is happening now in Europe fits with the growing reality of ‘peak volatility’ across the world. The latest IPCC report shows that the effects of climate change are growing even quicker than expected, contributing to the volatility we face across the globe. It makes our role at IDH even more relevant, as we work to build bridges – not burn them. As we connect people – not divide them. As we share – not take.
The growing insecurity across the globe, and in many of the countries where we work and live, make realizing our goals all the more complex and needed. It makes me more determined than ever to deliver, to contribute in the ways that we do best.
I was in Côte d’Ivoire last week and got to know our IDH team and partners better, learning about the complexities, the needs, the potential solutions. The cocoa sector is complicated and political, and witnessing – again – the extreme poverty some farming families and communities live in, was humbling.
As we travelled from Abidjan, the capital, towards the East, the level of development gradually dropped, until we arrived on a farm where the workers reside in an unfinished shed. A place with no roads, where schools and healthcare are far away. Here there was no forest left; all land is understandably being utilized to carve out any income possible.
The community offered us a warm welcome and shared delicious food, leaving a lasting impression. We were shown the work they are doing to improve their livelihoods, assuage their doubts and bolster their determination. The leaders of a women-only savings group explained how they generate additional income through new enterprise.
Later that week we met the leadership team of the cocoa board, the Minister of Water & Forests, the leadership of the African Development Bank, and many other partners. It painted complex picture.
In a divided world, we are all invited to contribute to the work of restoring trust in our systems, in our ability to push for change that benefits everyone.
What I saw there, and in many places, was a lack of trust among the government, farmers, private sector and NGOs. There is no shared language and much strife, which results in conflict rather than solutions. What can we do? What is our role in situations like these?
In a divided world, we are all invited to contribute to the work of restoring trust in our systems, in our ability to push for change that benefits everyone. I now look to this example for inspiration and as an invitation to always look for where we can best contribute to the greater good. This is how we can navigate these times towards that future of shared prosperity and peace.