Colombe Cahen-Salvador
1,566,515 views • 10:00

For years, I have been working on a simple idea: for humanity to take its next leap ahead, we need to work together across borders to solve global issues. In the modern world, no wall or border can protect us from crisis. We have no other choice but to unite, and we need to do it fast.

In 2016, I was devastated by the UK's decision to leave the European Union. I'm French, and for me, the EU is a symbol of a more open and global society. But suddenly, my beliefs were shattered. And I wasn't alone in feeling this way. My partner, Andrea, who's Italian, and Damian, a German friend, also felt the shock of seeing the world turning inward. We realized that despite being from three different countries, we witnessed the same challenges: migration flows being dealt with in an inhuman manner, climate change or high youth unemployment. And we also had the same hopes and dreams in our everyday lives. We also realized that to solve European issues, the outdated model of always putting national interests first had to go.

So we decided to act. For a few months, we worked on the idea of launching Volt, the first pan-European political movement. And then, naturally, we told our Facebook friends, and a lot of them responded saying they were up for the challenge and wanted to help. People started holding small community meetings in parks, universities and pubs to discuss their common future and share their solutions to the continent's biggest problems. We mobilized tens of thousands of people across 28 European countries

Two years in, Damian was elected to the European parliament on the campaign run by volunteers across borders on the idea that we are stronger together. We showed that by collaborating across borders, by uniting and acting as one, we could start changing how people think. We were the first ones to attempt something of this scale and to succeed.

Despite this, after the European elections in May 2019, Andrea and I looked into each other's eyes and asked that frank question that you never want to ask once you have worked for two years towards something that actually worked out: "Is this enough?"

No, it wasn't. We knew that today's urgent challenges are not just European but global. We also knew that we couldn't even attempt to solve them by only focusing on Europe, a continent that represents less than 10 percent of the world population. The underlying issue is that the way we see the world and the way the world works are fundamentally wrong. In the span of two generations, the world has changed more than in the previous 20,000 years. We can land on the moon, we can wake up in Shanghai and go to bed in New York. We have access to a huge amount of information all the time, everywhere. But we still see the world as our immediate vicinity. But issues like COVID-19, climate change, migration, fiscal justice or human rights mean that we need to think and unite beyond national borders. A global approach is needed to solve them. Countries need to collaborate, share resources, information and solutions. It's not just the right thing to do but it's also the smart one.

So in the weeks following Damian's election, Andrea and I decided that we would create a global movement to unite people beyond borders and solve those issues that concern us all. We called it NOW! because we're not very creative, and because it needs to happen now. So I know that going beyond national borders is not the easiest thing to do, so here's the framework that has been guiding our work. I call it "think, unite and leap forward."

First, we need to change the way we think about the world. Whether we like it or not, we already live in a globalized world. We need to stop thinking within national frameworks and start thinking globally. Take, for example, how we think about taxation. Multinational companies like Facebook or Amazon already operate across borders, but they pay very little taxes in very few countries because we think of them within national frameworks. And as a result, we lack a global tax system. Due to this, countries are deprived of at least 500 billion dollars annually. Five hundred billion dollars. To put it in perspective: with half of that amount of money, we could put an end to global hunger for one year. But we don't, because of the way we think about the world.

At NOW! we want to change this. We connect people from all across the world who discuss, work together and understand that global is the new normal and that they have more in common than what separates them. We host weekly events in which we discuss topics such as LGBT rights, pandemics, fiscal justice or mental health. We break down those global challenges to see how they impact people in various parts of the world. And our members have already shown a global thinking, actively rallying their governments to solve those issues, like ensuring a fair distribution of vaccines across the world.

Second, after changing the way we think, we need to unite beyond borders. This way, we can make governments act on global issues. Take the example of the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong. China has systematically cracked down on rights, democracy and freedoms, but countries have barely responded to protect Hong Kongers. And I don't mean weak statements of condemnation that won't lead to any actual change, but proper responses such as sanctions. That's why at NOW!, a couple of weeks back, we launched a campaign to demand that democracies rally to be able to stand up meaningfully to China. And to get their attention, we started hosting weekly protests in front of Chinese embassies. Within a couple of weeks, we engaged more than a million people online. Our hope is that by uniting and mobilizing people across borders, we will be able to successfully lobby nations into imposing coordinated sanctions on China.

Finally, we must have the courage to leap forward to create the world of tomorrow. We need a system of governance that works for us all across the world. And while some supernational institutions like the United Nations exist, their enforcement mechanisms are extremely limited. Citizens cannot participate, and national interests often prevail. And on the national level, political parties are bound by electoral timetables and borders, which means that they cannot operate in a coordinated global manner. Policy making, governance and politics need to stretch further. Take the example of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries have shown an incredibly shortsighted approach to the pandemic. They haven't collaborated when it comes to protective equipment, vaccines or medicines.

At NOW! we launched a campaign demanding that the World Health Organization ensures that health workers across the world, regardless of their nationalities, get priority access to future COVID-19 vaccines. We leveraged a network of doctors on social media to raise awareness and started a petition targeted at the WHO. For two weeks, our members spread the word digitally and on the streets, and then we got a response from the Director-General of the WHO welcoming our campaign, reemphasizing that the power to do so lies within member states, but committing to working with them in that direction. And look — this was a very nice letter, but it was completely pointless. The WHO cannot act meaningfully on this issue. But the point is, a United Nations agency should be able to act meaningfully, should be able to create binding policies and implement them when faced with a global threat.

Right now, the most we can hope for is for some world leaders to hear our scream and decide to do the right thing. This cannot continue. In the globalized world, we need a true democratic and accountable global system of governance. And that's also what we're working towards, but I know that global governance will not happen overnight. For this, we need people to push their governments to act in a global manner, to show that collaboration leads to better results. We need to prove the case before we can change the way the world works.

So this is my framework: think beyond national borders, unite across the world and leap forward to make sure that the world actually works as one. And I know it is easier said than done, but it is doable. Take our case as an example. NOW! was only launched on the first of January 2020 but already counts thousands of members in more than 100 countries. We are beginning to see that it is possible to unite beyond borders, that it is within our reach. And we're not special, nor am I in any way. I don't have any cool skills, and the thought of giving this talk terrified me. But I am testing different ways to effect change on a global scale because I know that national mindsets and national frameworks have to leave room for something bigger, for something better.

My hope is that within my lifetime, I will see what living as one world actually means, that by uniting, we will be able to safeguard democracy, to protect the environment, to save lives by sharing vaccines, to create safer routes for migration, among many other achievements. I don't know whether I have the one solution — no one does. I don't know whether NOW! will be successful in achieving these goals. But this is not the point. The point is that you should take action to effect change on the global scale. My hope is that many of you will start to work together across borders, that you will create and innovate new ways for the world to be truly one. Because yes, we are stronger together. So what are we waiting for?

Thank you.