Around the world, people are taking to the streets to protest governments that no longer protect the interests of those they are supposed to represent. These protests have mobilized people of all ages and backgrounds. The power behind these movements, however, has overwhelmingly come from young people fighting for a better future.
That is why we are so thankful for the participation and insight that students from Paris and Doha provided in our “Loss of Trust in Government” debate at the Paris Peace Forum on November 12, 2019. Our debate addressed several questions: What factors have created such distrust in our governing institutions? Can a society be expected to thrive with low levels of trust? Is it our responsibility to find ways to restore that trust or do we need to forge entirely new systems? Students from the International School of Paris, the American University of Paris, HEC Business School and students from Doha’s Education City taking part in our #Doha2Paris program helped us address these monumental questions. In a time when the voices of young people are more important than ever before, their engagement, questions and insight helped drive our debate and make us all think more deeply about what our future holds.
Our student participants did not shy away from asking challenging questions, ranging from the impact of social media on institutions to the limitations of new technologies to how to create systems that marginalized communities can trust. Our first question came from Tasneem, a first year student at Qatar University, and a participant in our #Doha2Paris program. She asked our speaker Toni Lane Casserly, “How can we create a technological system that mitigates harm to people and that actually helps people prosper and has accountability of some kind?” Another student, Ki from the American University of Paris, also asked a question regarding the challenges associated with blockchain, a technology Lane Casserly is a proponent of, and the potential for it to maintain the status of those in power. He wondered, “In a scenario where there is a blockchain form of governance, what is there in place to prevent the powerful from retaking control of that form of governance?”
The best types of institutions to confront modern challenges and to increase trust, especially amongst marginalized communities, was another topic that student participants brought to the conversation. Zoey, a student from the International School of Paris, asked our speaker Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “With trust at such low levels around the world and the refugee and human rights crisis, do you still believe in the value of an organization like the UN?” Vera, a student from the American University of Paris, wondered about how these new institutions may best go about regaining trust from communities that have historically been underrepresented or exploited by their governments. She challenged each of our speakers, asking, “Women are hugely underrepresented in the realm of politics and government. Which model do you think best represents our interests? Which government can we trust?”
“We are a generation that is running out of time, and building trust takes time.”
Beatrice, a student from Northwestern University in Qatar and a participant in our #Doha2Paris program, asked a question that precisely encapsulates the spirit of movements of young people throughout the world fighting for a more equitable future.
She asked, “We are a generation that is running out of time, and building trust takes time. How do we find solutions to gain trust that will work right now? If we change the system, how do we know we can trust the new system?” This is a question that seems to be guiding all modern social movements, especially ones with young people at the forefront.
Young people from around the world weighed in on Twitter to share their thoughts using #DearWorld.
The engaging and thoughtful questions from students at our “Loss of Trust in Government” debate at the Paris Peace Forum pushed us all to question our own conceptions of trust in institutions and think harder about the best solutions to this global challenge. In a time where the participation of young people in political movements worldwide is crucial, hearing directly from young people about their concerns and visions for the future added something invaluable to our debate. So, to the students who participated in our debate, thank you. Your insight and passion for a better future helped drive our debate and help us all to better understand this complex issue.
Watch our live debate on loss of trust: