Colombe Cahen-Salvador: A global movement to solve global problems

Recorded atMay 21, 2020
Duration (min:sec)09:47
Video TypeTED Stage Talk
Words per minute195.11 fast
Readability (FK)52.54 medium
SpeakerColombe Cahen-Salvador

Official TED page for this talk


We need to think beyond national borders to solve global problems, says activist Colombe Cahen-Salvador. Reimagining the world's fractured systems of governance and calling out their ineffective responses to major issues -- from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change and human rights -- she introduces Atlas, a movement unifying people to create a truly democratic world.

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:13 For years, I have been working on a simple idea:
200:16 for humanity to take its next leap ahead,
300:19 we need to work together across borders to solve global issues.
400:24 In the modern world,
500:25 no wall or border can protect us from crisis.
600:28 We have no other choice but to unite,
700:31 and we need to do it fast.
800:33 In 2016, I was devastated by the UK's decision
900:36 to leave the European Union.
1000:38 I'm French, and for me, the EU is a symbol of a more open and global society.
1100:43 But suddenly, my beliefs were shattered.
1200:45 And I wasn't alone in feeling this way.
1300:48 My partner, Andrea, who's Italian,
1400:49 and Damian, a German friend,
1500:51 also felt the shock of seeing the world turning inward.
1600:55 We realized that despite being from three different countries,
1700:58 we witnessed the same challenges:
1801:00 migration flows being dealt with in an inhuman manner,
1901:03 climate change
2001:04 or high youth unemployment.
2101:05 And we also had the same hopes and dreams in our everyday lives.
2201:09 We also realized that to solve European issues,
2301:12 the outdated model of always putting national interests first
2401:15 had to go.
2501:17 So we decided to act.
2601:18 For a few months, we worked on the idea of launching Volt,
2701:22 the first pan-European political movement.
2801:25 And then, naturally, we told our Facebook friends,
2901:28 and a lot of them responded saying they were up for the challenge
3001:31 and wanted to help.
3101:33 People started holding small community meetings in parks,
3201:37 universities and pubs
3301:38 to discuss their common future
3401:40 and share their solutions to the continent's biggest problems.
3501:44 We mobilized tens of thousands of people across 28 European countries
3601:49 Two years in,
3701:51 Damian was elected to the European parliament
3801:53 on the campaign run by volunteers across borders
3901:56 on the idea that we are stronger together.
4001:59 We showed that by collaborating across borders,
4102:01 by uniting and acting as one,
4202:04 we could start changing how people think.
4302:06 We were the first ones to attempt something of this scale
4402:09 and to succeed.
4502:10 Despite this,
4602:12 after the European elections in May 2019,
4702:14 Andrea and I looked into each other's eyes
4802:17 and asked that frank question that you never want to ask
4902:20 once you have worked for two years towards something
5002:23 that actually worked out:
5102:24 "Is this enough?"
5202:26 No, it wasn't.
5302:28 We knew that today's urgent challenges are not just European
5402:31 but global.
5502:32 We also knew that we couldn't even attempt to solve them
5602:35 by only focusing on Europe,
5702:37 a continent that represents less than 10 percent of the world population.
5802:41 The underlying issue is that the way we see the world
5902:44 and the way the world works
6002:45 are fundamentally wrong.
6102:47 In the span of two generations,
6202:49 the world has changed more than in the previous 20,000 years.
6302:52 We can land on the moon,
6402:54 we can wake up in Shanghai and go to bed in New York.
6502:57 We have access to a huge amount of information all the time, everywhere.
6603:01 But we still see the world as our immediate vicinity.
6703:05 But issues like COVID-19, climate change, migration,
6803:09 fiscal justice or human rights
6903:11 mean that we need to think and unite beyond national borders.
7003:15 A global approach is needed to solve them.
7103:17 Countries need to collaborate,
7203:19 share resources, information and solutions.
7303:22 It's not just the right thing to do
7403:24 but it's also the smart one.
7503:26 So in the weeks following Damian's election,
7603:28 Andrea and I decided that we would create a global movement
7703:32 to unite people beyond borders
7803:34 and solve those issues that concern us all.
7903:36 We called it NOW! because we're not very creative,
8003:39 and because it needs to happen now.
8103:41 So I know that going beyond national borders is not the easiest thing to do,
8203:44 so here's the framework that has been guiding our work.
8303:47 I call it "think, unite and leap forward."
8403:51 First, we need to change the way we think about the world.
8503:54 Whether we like it or not,
8603:55 we already live in a globalized world.
8703:57 We need to stop thinking within national frameworks
8803:59 and start thinking globally.
8904:01 Take, for example, how we think about taxation.
9004:04 Multinational companies like Facebook or Amazon
9104:07 already operate across borders,
9204:10 but they pay very little taxes in very few countries
9304:13 because we think of them within national frameworks.
9404:16 And as a result,
9504:17 we lack a global tax system.
9604:19 Due to this,
9704:21 countries are deprived of at least 500 billion dollars annually.
9804:25 Five hundred billion dollars.
9904:28 To put it in perspective:
10004:29 with half of that amount of money,
10104:31 we could put an end to global hunger for one year.
10204:34 But we don't,
10304:35 because of the way we think about the world.
10404:39 At NOW! we want to change this.
10504:41 We connect people from all across the world
10604:43 who discuss, work together and understand
10704:46 that global is the new normal
10804:48 and that they have more in common than what separates them.
10904:51 We host weekly events
11004:52 in which we discuss topics such as LGBT rights,
11104:56 pandemics,
11204:57 fiscal justice
11304:58 or mental health.
11405:00 We break down those global challenges
11505:02 to see how they impact people in various parts of the world.
11605:05 And our members have already shown a global thinking,
11705:08 actively rallying their governments to solve those issues,
11805:11 like ensuring a fair distribution of vaccines across the world.
11905:15 Second, after changing the way we think,
12005:17 we need to unite beyond borders.
12105:19 This way, we can make governments act on global issues.
12205:24 Take the example of the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong.
12305:27 China has systematically cracked down on rights, democracy and freedoms,
12405:31 but countries have barely responded to protect Hong Kongers.
12505:34 And I don't mean weak statements of condemnation
12605:37 that won't lead to any actual change,
12705:39 but proper responses such as sanctions.
12805:42 That's why at NOW!, a couple of weeks back,
12905:44 we launched a campaign to demand that democracies rally
13005:47 to be able to stand up meaningfully to China.
13105:50 And to get their attention,
13205:52 we started hosting weekly protests in front of Chinese embassies.
13305:56 Within a couple of weeks,
13405:57 we engaged more than a million people online.
13506:00 Our hope is that by uniting and mobilizing people across borders,
13606:04 we will be able to successfully lobby nations
13706:06 into imposing coordinated sanctions on China.
13806:10 Finally, we must have the courage to leap forward
13906:13 to create the world of tomorrow.
14006:15 We need a system of governance that works for us all across the world.
14106:20 And while some supernational institutions like the United Nations exist,
14206:24 their enforcement mechanisms are extremely limited.
14306:27 Citizens cannot participate,
14406:29 and national interests often prevail.
14506:32 And on the national level,
14606:33 political parties are bound by electoral timetables and borders,
14706:37 which means that they cannot operate in a coordinated global manner.
14806:42 Policy making, governance and politics need to stretch further.
14906:46 Take the example of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
15006:50 Countries have shown an incredibly shortsighted approach to the pandemic.
15106:55 They haven't collaborated when it comes to protective equipment,
15206:58 vaccines or medicines.
15307:00 At NOW! we launched a campaign
15407:02 demanding that the World Health Organization ensures
15507:05 that health workers across the world, regardless of their nationalities,
15607:08 get priority access to future COVID-19 vaccines.
15707:12 We leveraged a network of doctors on social media to raise awareness
15807:15 and started a petition targeted at the WHO.
15907:19 For two weeks,
16007:20 our members spread the word digitally and on the streets,
16107:24 and then we got a response from the Director-General of the WHO
16207:28 welcoming our campaign,
16307:30 reemphasizing that the power to do so lies within member states,
16407:33 but committing to working with them in that direction.
16507:36 And look -- this was a very nice letter, but it was completely pointless.
16607:40 The WHO cannot act meaningfully on this issue.
16707:44 But the point is,
16807:45 a United Nations agency should be able to act meaningfully,
16907:49 should be able to create binding policies and implement them
17007:52 when faced with a global threat.
17107:55 Right now, the most we can hope for
17207:57 is for some world leaders to hear our scream
17308:00 and decide to do the right thing.
17408:02 This cannot continue.
17508:03 In the globalized world,
17608:05 we need a true democratic and accountable global system of governance.
17708:10 And that's also what we're working towards,
17808:12 but I know that global governance will not happen overnight.
17908:15 For this, we need people to push their governments
18008:17 to act in a global manner,
18108:19 to show that collaboration leads to better results.
18208:22 We need to prove the case
18308:23 before we can change the way the world works.
18408:26 So this is my framework:
18508:28 think beyond national borders,
18608:30 unite across the world
18708:32 and leap forward to make sure that the world actually works as one.
18808:36 And I know it is easier said than done,
18908:38 but it is doable.
19008:39 Take our case as an example.
19108:41 NOW! was only launched on the first of January 2020
19208:45 but already counts thousands of members in more than 100 countries.
19308:49 We are beginning to see that it is possible to unite beyond borders,
19408:52 that it is within our reach.
19508:54 And we're not special, nor am I in any way.
19608:57 I don't have any cool skills,
19708:59 and the thought of giving this talk terrified me.
19809:02 But I am testing different ways to effect change on a global scale
19909:06 because I know that national mindsets and national frameworks
20009:09 have to leave room for something bigger,
20109:11 for something better.
20209:12 My hope is that within my lifetime,
20309:15 I will see what living as one world actually means,
20409:19 that by uniting,
20509:20 we will be able to safeguard democracy,
20609:22 to protect the environment,
20709:24 to save lives by sharing vaccines,
20809:26 to create safer routes for migration,
20909:28 among many other achievements.
21009:31 I don't know whether I have the one solution --
21109:33 no one does.
21209:34 I don't know whether NOW! will be successful
21309:37 in achieving these goals.
21409:38 But this is not the point.
21509:40 The point is that you should take action to effect change on the global scale.
21609:44 My hope is that many of you will start to work together across borders,
21709:48 that you will create and innovate new ways for the world to be truly one.
21809:52 Because yes, we are stronger together.
21909:55 So what are we waiting for?
22009:57 Thank you.