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YWF - Kenya joins forces with Atlas Movement during 'Survival Sundays' in Nairobi

Article by Kennedy Karanja, Organizing Lead, YWF Kenya.


On Sunday, May 5, 2024, at the Mageuzi Hub in the leafy suburbs of Kilimani in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, several representatives of civil society organisations, including the Kenyan chapter of the Young World Federalists, met to discuss the future of the United Nations. The discussions were characteristically led by a candidate for the UN Secretary-General position, and a co-founder of Atlas, a ‘global political party’, Colombe Cahen-Salvador, and the founder of Atlas, an aspirant for MEP representing Italy, Andrea Venzon. The officials of the Kenyan chapter of the Young World Federalists, Kennedy Karanja, Ian Mose Abuki and Diljot Dhindsa, made several interventions that reverberated with the energetic crowd, including radical proposals for solving the debt crisis facing many African and developing countries.


Atlas is a global political movement spanning 134 countries and boasting over 25,000 supporters. Since 2020, when it became operational, Atlas has sponsored a former head of state to become a candidate for the UN Secretary-General, a campaign that was contested at the UN General Assembly; launched several activism campaigns in favour of democracy, vaccine equality, women’s rights and climate action; reached millions across the globe through social media and being covered by global media platforms such as New York Times, BBC, Vice, The Economist, Al Jazeera, The Independent, Euronews, among others; and recruited over 20,000 supporters and mobilised a coalition of leaders across the major world regions.


Young World Federalists is a global movement to unite humanity by the creation of a democratic world federation. Young World Federalists has chapters in all the major world regions, with hubs in Nairobi, New Delhi, Tokyo, Budapest, New York, among others; that are driven by a volunteer corps of passionate young people. It is a member of the Global Democracy Initiative, World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy. Young World Federalists has partnered with similar-minded organisations such as the Citizens for Global Solutions, Democracy Without Borders, World Constitution Institute, which are the major partners.


Young World Federalists are keen to abolish war; protect humanity from poverty, exploitative economic conditions, neocolonialism and discrimination; save Earth from pollution, fossil fuel dependency and extractivist development; make the world democratic and promote a world where progress in technology and information benefits all. Atlas is actively pursuing a vision of a world that is tackling climate change, eradicating poverty, averting the next pandemic, controlling Artificial Intelligence, stopping wars and resisting dictatorships. Given the similarities and complementarities between the Young World Federalists and the Atlas Movement, close cooperation between the two movements will be mutually beneficial - Atlas is looking to achieve politically what the Young World Federalists are looking to attain through the civil society approach.


The Survivals Sundays event was kicked off by a panel discussion with Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, a member of the Atlas Advisory Council and the founder of Siasa Place, a hub for budding politicians; Boniface Mwangi, a political activist in Kenya; and, Stella Nderitu, a feminist and founder of Dada Power KE. The moderator of the session was Colombe Cahen-Salvador. The discussions revolved around the ineffectiveness of the UN in solving the problems of the common person, including its domination by the big powers, who can veto any resolution or action of the UN, that contravenes their national interests. This set the stage for the discussions that followed, as all the panel members agreed that the world has transnational issues such as climate change, that need multilateralism and international cooperation to resolve. However, the UN system is too compromised by the parochial interests of the permanent members to be truly effective. In the words of Boniface Mwangi, the UN is a ‘toothless dog that is all bark and no bite’ and ‘a lapdog of the United States.’


The second session was a brainstorming workshop where participants worked in small groups to select the big three challenges that the United Nations should prioritize. Several suggestions were made, such as debt, poverty, climate change and the structural problems of the United Nations that constrain the meaningful participation of small powers and developing countries. In coming up with the big three issues, the matter was put to a vote, with each member exercising three votes. The key issues that carried the day were poverty, debt and climate change.


The small groups went into a deep dive into these three issues, to come up with solutions that will be presented in the upcoming UN Civil Society Conference taking place at the UN headquarters in Nairobi on May 9th and 10th. The officials of YWF Kenya put forward proposals to solve the debt problem, such as debt swaps for development aid (for example, the UN can act directly in the case of the World Bank or act as an intermediary in the case of bilateral debt, for a small percentage of interest payments made to service debts to be redirected to implementing a Sustainable Development Goal, such as financing free primary education), debt extensions and debt forgiveness – the UN can use its good offices to reduce the debt burden of developing countries, which is choking their economic growth.


Additionally, the UN can influence reforms in the global financial systems to ensure that all countries receive debt from international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank at the same or similar interest rates, compared to the status quo, where poor and developing countries procure debt at double the interest rate that industrialised countries get.


The issue of poverty was a major area of concern, with participants recognizing that the UN has a major gap to fill, especially in resolving economic inequalities between the Global North and Global South, which are underpinned by exploitative trade relations. Participants called for UN peacekeepers to safeguard freedom and lives, rather than harbouring pilferage and illegal extraction of resources, in conflict zones such as the resource-rich Democratic Republic of Congo. Ian Abuki from the Young World Federalists proposed that, in light of the small fragmented African economies that are easily dominated by larger economies and struggle to find returns to scale for their local firms, the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa should fast track the political and economic unification of the African continent. He proposed a model a la the European Union, where the regional trading blocs on the continent will form political federations, such as the Federation of East African States in the place of the East African Community.


Overall, the event was a great step forward in uniting forward-thinking, pro-humanity and peace and prosperity-loving global citizens. The Kenyan Chapter of the Young World Federalists was honoured to be invited to the event be participate and contribute ideas to this pre-UN Civil Society Conference, and we are looking forward to more collaborations in the future.


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