Paris Peace Forum volunteers gain unique insight into global governance process

Delegates gathered at the fourth Paris Peace Forum at the Parc de la Villette to debate global challenges and put forward new principles of action for a post-Covid world. This year, young Ismailis had the in-person opportunity to volunteer at the event, and to interact with speakers and representatives of international organisations and NGOs.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Paris Peace Forum gathered the most important actors in global governance for a hybrid edition from 11 to 13 November 2021. The event convened heads of state and government as well as NGO leaders, CEOs of global companies, and leaders of international organisations.

The Aga Khan Development Network has been a Founding Member of the Paris Peace Forum since its inception in 2018, and Prince Amyn, a member of the Paris Peace Forum Executive Committee, attended the event on 11 November.

Delegates met to advance concrete solutions to the enormous challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and improve global governance in times of Covid-19. The hybrid format featured several hundred attendees at the Parc de la Villette in Paris, while the vast majority of delegates engaged through a digital platform.

Young volunteers from the Jamat in France, Belgium, and Switzerland had the opportunity this year to attend in person and help coordinate the smooth running of the conference and its various panels and ancillary activities.

“I loved the panels - I tried to join as many as possible,” said Shamima Oshurbekova. “One of them was on Gender Equity where I met amazing female speakers.”

Volunteers had the opportunity to interact with guests and panellists at the event, many of whom are leading experts.

“After the panel I spoke with Trisha Shetty, who I am planning to reach out to, since one of my specialisations at Sciences Po is Gender, and her experience in this area is very rich,” continued Shamima. “I believe that there are many suggestions and guidelines which she can share with me.”

Other notable speakers included Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union; and Kamala Harris, Vice-President of the United States.

In a rousing address to world leaders, Vice-President Harris spoke of the growing inequality gaps in society and the urgent need to address them. “This is not about charity,” she said. “This is our duty, and what we owe to each other as human beings.”

Sara Daredia travelled from Switzerland to Paris especially to assist at the Forum. "Initially, I was a little nervous coming to the PPF, but once there, the warmth from the other Ismaili volunteers really helped me during my stay in Paris as a whole,” she said.

“The general ambiance was very positive and friendly, even in the way I saw the heads of state and organisations interact with each other,” continued Sara. “This is very promising to see in the interdependent world that we live in today, where collaboration between countries, organisations, and global groups is paramount in bringing peace to the world."


Prince Amyn with Ismaili volunteers at the Paris Peace Forum on 11 November 2021.
Prince Amyn with Ismaili volunteers at the Paris Peace Forum on 11 November 2021.

The AKDN delegation included more than 40 virtual participants from multiple AKDN agencies and departments, and leadership from the Jamati institutions in France. Panellists included Meredith Preston McGhie, Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism; Matt Reed, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation (UK); and Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat.

Partner organisations alongside AKDN featured well-known global names such as the Ford, Rockefeller, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, the United Nations, World Bank, Red Cross, L’Oréal, Microsoft, and many more.

This fourth edition of the Paris Peace Forum followed the UN General Assembly in September, the G-20 summit in October, and the COP26 climate conference earlier in November.

“I feel grateful to have been able to serve for such an organisation,” said Rabia Kara, a secondary religious education teacher with ITREB France. “I learned so much from listening to the discussions taking place on a world scale and feel hopeful about the changes that could take place from such forums.”

Topics discussed included combatting Covid-19; governing global commons (climate, oceans, biodiversity, space); governing cybersecurity and artificial intelligence; fighting fake news; gender equality; strengthening south-south cooperation; and reforming capitalism.

Conversations at the 2021 edition also focussed on addressing various gaps in global governance, and putting forward new principles of action for the post-Covid world.

“I gained new perspectives from the people I met,” continued Rabia. “For example, the various organisations present were eager to share their accomplishments and were equally interested in the work I do with the community and how our interests intersect.”

In addition to hearing new perspectives, meeting eminent guests, and participating in panels, volunteers at the three-day event honed their leadership, communication, time management, planning, and organisational skills.

"The Forum was an opportunity for me to work for the first time in a high-profile event. This unique experience confirmed my desire to work in an international setting in the future,” said Chanel Charaf Zadah.

“I really appreciated the new encounters. And talking to people coming from various parts of the world was enriching both intellectually and personally.”

These are experiences and skills that the young volunteers can take forward into other aspects of their careers and lives.

“What I gained from this experience is coordination skills, as I was mainly responsible for coordinating all general greeters, and a strong sense of responsibility combined with a lot of teamwork,” said Alina Samdjee.

“I will remember working with great people, the size of the organisation for this type of event, and interesting discussions with influential people.”