The third edition of the Paris Peace Forum was held from 11 to 13 November 2020. Stakeholders from different backgrounds were brought together to discuss global challenges and promote constructive solutions. This year, young Ismaili professionals from the France jurisdiction also participated as volunteers.

To minimise the risk posed by the pandemic, this year’s Paris Peace Forum was held in a digital format and attended virtually by over 12,000 participants from across the world. The major focus this year was the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and working towards a more secure future in its aftermath. Topics under discussion included financing for relief and development initiatives, ensuring widespread access to a Covid-19 vaccine, increasing access to medical tools, the impact of the pandemic on refugees, and reforms to improve public health, the environment, and social cohesion in the post-pandemic world. 

Envisioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, this forum was launched to promote multilateralism and drive progress on issues that concern the world at large, such as peace, climate change, cyber insecurity, and growing inequality. A major partner since the first forum, AKDN is now one of the founding members of the Forum.

In a statement on this year’s Paris Peace Forum, Mawlana Hazar Imam said: “The unprecedented global pandemic has presented major public health challenges. We require continued collaborative energy from governments, civil society institutions, and the private sector to overcome this crisis, protect life, and build for the future from a position of strength and wisdom. I am pleased that the Aga Khan Development Network and the Paris Peace Forum are working closely towards these goals.”

Some members of the Jamat volunteered as digital chat moderators at this year’s forum, representing the only group to be accepted as volunteer contributors. 

Shala Nourmamode, a 26-year-old who works in early childhood development at a humanitarian organisation and is based in Brussels, volunteered as a digital chat moderator. Her responsibilities included maintaining an interactive flow on the live chat, and selecting questions to be sent to the discussion moderator. 

Shala praised the forum’s focus on a wide range of issues.

“It was a great opportunity to attend a high-level forum and listen to discussions led by prominent experts and speakers. The content was diverse and interesting, with a high focus on Covid-19 and also including environmental preservation, climate change, gender equality, financing of humanitarian efforts, and pluralism.”

Laïqa Karim Jouma, a 25-year-old event manager from Paris, also volunteered as a chat moderator during the Forum.

She called volunteering for the Paris Peace Forum “an enriching and challenging experience.” 

As a chat moderator, Laïqa had the opportunity to attend and moderate a session called “From statistics to solutions: where do we go from here?” which included Dr Zeenat Sulaiman from the Aga Khan Health Service, Tanzania as one of the speakers. 

“I was really lucky and proud to moderate the session. It was great to hear Dr Sulaiman speak about AKDN’s work coping with the Covid-19 crisis,” she said.

As an event manager, Laïqa said she hopes to one day work on the organisation of an event such as the Paris Peace Forum, and that this experience will help her achieve this goal.

Anah Jaffer, a 25-year-old marketing project manager from Paris, volunteered as a digital greeter and live chat moderator. She described it as managing the “digital backstage.” 

Anah said she enjoyed the opportunity to interact with individuals from different parts of the world who are working to bring positive change.

“I truly think it was a wonderful overall experience and a tremendous opportunity… I had the good fortune to meet very committed people from around the world (Kenya, Brazil, Senegal, etc.) who work for NGOs or associations that execute meaningful projects,” she commented.

An aspect that Anah found interesting was occasionally finding herself reassuring speakers before they went live.

“It is funny when you know that person works for a big NGO, but at that moment there was no gap between us. That is what connected me to them as human beings,” she said.

The third edition of the Paris Peace Forum featured numerous prominent panelists and speakers including Melinda Gates (from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Tedros Ghebreyesus (Director-General of the World Health Organisation), Anne Hidalgo (Mayor of Paris), Michael R. Bloomberg (from Bloomberg LP & Bloomberg Philanthropies), Nadia Murad (Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Nadia’s Initiative), Mohammed Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Grameen Bank), Brad Smith (President of Microsoft) and Emmanuel Macron (President of France).