View of Nairobi. Photo Credit Kevin Wabungo

Davos 2017 is now behind us: Next steps for activists

On 20th January 2017, two major events were taking place concurrently. Tucked in the eastern part of Switzerland, were world leaders concluding this year’s annual meeting at Davos. This event, convened annually by the World Economic Forum has over the decades become synonymous with its destination.

Davos brings together world business and political leaders, civil society activists and transnational organizations for a week-long deliberation on the world’s most pressing issues. This year, as has been the case for the last half a decade, inequality prominently featured as part of the agenda.

While Davos 2017 was folding up, in another part of the world, Americans were preparing to witness one of the hallmarks of their democracy; the smooth transition of power from Barack Obama to Donald Trump.

In every sense of the word, these two were very important events. They both inspired the same kind of effect, either to the actual participants (and citizens), or to mere witnesses like the rest of the world, who followed the events keenly from the various news outlets globally. They were events enthused by hope and marred with optimism but not without a lace of fear and uncertainty. The two big questions being; what next after Davos, and what kind of President Donald Trump would be.

But in most parts of the world, life went on as usual. These two major events passed on obliviously to billions of ordinary citizens around the world, a majority of who were busy with something else: a struggle for survival. These events did little to give hope to them that their tomorrow would be much better; Or that their sons and daughters would finally get free or affordable healthcare, finally stay in school, afford clean water, or even have the confidence of living in a safer world. These millions of people do not know what Davos is (it could be a person for all they cared). In fact, I am sure most of them don’t actually care. 

In a world where one in every nine people goes to bed hungry, it is not hard to see why these billions of poor and marginalized groups would never come close to understanding who Donald Trump is, or what Davos aims to achieve.

This is why today, more than ever before, development actors all over the world must aim to awaken a new generation of ordinary citizens who can take charge of driving the call for equality, demand for inclusivity in governance, and advocate for utmost adherence to the initial idea behind the social contract. Across the globe and in most developing nations, civil society space is now shrinking. This demands a shift towards alternatives that can be employed in order to keep the charge for equality alive. One of these is creating awareness amongst ordinary citizens of their rights and freedoms. Only then can they hold their governments to account. Activists across the world must continue raising, through capacity building and mentorship, a critical mass of citizens who are conscious of their places in the meshwork of governance, and give them an opportunity to create their own solutions that will address these ills.

A particularly important sub-set of these is the youths. A report by UNDP released in 2015 proved that Kenya is not just a young nation, but one with a relatively young population too. With a median age of 19years, an alarming rate of unemployment and high rates of non-progressive tax policies, a critical juncture awaits Kenya, as it does many other African states like it. In afew years, an organically-grown critical mass of citizens will eventually rise. These will be young men demanding for food, shelter, security and other basic public goods. They will be young, honest, brilliant and educated women demanding for well-paying jobs that are commensurate to their skillset. They will be young political minds demanding to be included in decision making within organs such as political parties, labour unions, right up to the governments of the day. They will be professionals drawn from various sectors, demanding for a fair remuneration system. And we are already starting to see this crisis sprouting across the globe, with uprisings being reported from Yemen to South Africa; Brazil and now recently Kenya, where doctors and nurses are still on strike; two months later.

For governments that are yet to witness these critical junctures, it is now that they must start responding to these very legitimate calls for more equal systems.

The fight against inequality needs to remain alive and present in our daily battles; with CSOs actively mobilizing citizens to hold their governments to account, until we get to that finishing line when they, ordinary citizens will take over the battle to singularly hold their own governments to account.

It is a fight we cannot lose. Not in this generation, and definitely not in the next.