2021: A Year of Challenges: Conflict, Climate, Viral and Institutional

As we flip the calendar to 2022, Global Action is in a different place than we were at the beginning of 2021. At that time, and with the support of funders and program affiliates near and far, we were mostly focused on recovering the work for which we have been known for some time — including the restoration of our access to UN Headquarters and the internships and face-to-face policy scrutiny which such access made possible.

As the year has come to an end, we (and many others) have still not found our way back into UN spaces. The reason given for this denial of access is COVID-19 which has certainly complicated every aspect of our collective work. Such complications have turned us into a largely virtual project and, at least for now, taken away much of the richness of our modest contributions, including to the many young interns who have for years experienced both wonder and frustration in those UN spaces.

But it is not all about the virus. Indeed, COVID-19 has served as an excuse for some states to keep groups like ours more on the fringes of policy, to attempt to reposition NGOs as part-time support for state initiatives rather than full-time appraisers of the UN’s potency and effectiveness. The desire of some to maintain “state-driven” policy processes is understandable at one level, but the Glasgow Climate Conference and other multi-lateral engagements over this past year raise serious questions as to whether the UN’s working methods and the intentions of its states parties are sufficient to bring the human community back from the brink of climate disaster, authoritarian governance and a world awash in deadly weapons.

We have our doubts. As our nearly 2 year exile from UN spaces shows only faint signs of coming to an end, we have decided to take a step back, to examine some of the ruts into which we have also fallen and refocus our modest energies in ways that genuinely add value in the pursuit of a more peaceful, greener, more equitable world, a world fit to sustain the lives of our children and those who will follow them.

We will spend the winter months consulting with friends and affiliates about how and where to contribute what we are able. We will resume internships if and when it is possible to give them the experiences we believe it is essential for them to have. For now, we will do less on social media, will write fewer blog posts, will spend less time sharing what we like and don’t like about how the UN is conducting its policy business. For this short period, it is more important to assess than contribute.

Hopefully both will be possible. But we have strayed from assessment for too long. Indeed, over these past years, we have helped many to find their policy direction but have not asked for directions from others often enough. One of the hardest things for a small organization to do in the context of large city and large institutional engagements is to keep track of your own value — where it is exists, how it can berst be maximized, when and how it matters. The world surely isn’t holding its breath while we answer these questions, nor are the massive problems associated with declining biodiversity, melting ice caps and a world literally awash in weapons going to take a pause while we take ours. We are small, but that is no excuse for squandering any part of our potential value. It is this value that we now need to discern.

If you have ideas for us or suggestions regarding how and what we should engage next, we’re all ears. Feel free to write anytime to zuber@globalactionpw.org or chime in on twitter @globalactionpw.  In the meantime, thanks to all of you who continue in this struggle, who refuse to give in to the viral, climate and other threats which continue to take their toll on families and communities worldwide.  If this heartbreak is ever to end, we know that you will be out there leading the charge.  We look forward to fully joining you in due course.