Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program Opening Ceremony: On September 15th, 2015, Edison Huynh and Svjetlana Markovic presented the 2015-17 Fellows’ perspective on how the world is changing. The Fellows spoke brilliantly about four inter-related shifts occurring globally: inequality, security, human mobility and climate change. To watch the video of their presentation, click here. Here is their speech in full.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of all the Sauvé Fellows, welcome to our home.

For the past one and a half months, 12 of us from 10 different countries have come together to build our leadership capacity through working on the theme of ‘public leadership in diverse societies’.

Since we’ve arrived, we’ve been challenged in so many different ways – living together, travelling together, and working together. We’ve discussed cultural differences, Canadian politics, Indigenous rights and, of course, the impending Canadian winter! However, one of the biggest discussions that we’ve had has been about how we see the world is changing and the public leadership that this calls for.

We as a group have identified four inter-related shifts occurring globally at this time: inequality, security, human mobility and climate change. We’ve had our debates and this list is not exhaustive but we believe that all four shifts are at particular pivot points in history and demand the urgent attention of public leaders. We will then speak about the type of leadership needed to face head on the challenges of 2015 and beyond.

  1. Inequality

Increasing inequality is eroding all spheres of human society.

By next year, 1 % of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%. Currently, the richest 85 people on the planet have the same wealth as 50% of the world population.

We as a community of Fellows don’t think this is acceptable. Increasing inequality divides us – according to gender, to race, access to education, life expectancy. Inequality limits us all. For example, in 2015, only half of the world’s working-age women are in the labour force – what about the other 50%? What is their potential?

From my perspective, as a young woman for women’s empowerment, I see women waging a daily battle against educational and income inequality, sex discrimination and violence.

  1. Security

Personal safety is under attack; today more than ever before. War against ISIS. Nuclear threats. Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Crisis in Ukraine.

Globally, tens of thousands of people are dying in armed conflicts around the world. The International Institute for Strategic Studies says that despite fewer conventional wars, the number of deaths has tripled since 2008 due to an ‘intensification of violence’.

Today’s wars kill and displace more people than ever before.

Rule-based violence is no longer the norm. With a decline of traditional nation states and the rise of non-conventional global actors like ISIS, citizens of the world can no longer rely on state protection.

In our team, some Fellows have shared first-hand experience with violence whether from extremism in Pakistan or police brutality here in Canada.

We must never forget the individual human impacts at the heart of such issues. A lack of security impacts the very capabilities of people to live the life they would like to live, based on their choices, their human dignity, and their fundamental human rights.

  1. Human mobility

Conflicts also affect patterns of human mobility. Migration is, of course, nothing new in human history. However, the migration patterns we see today are the consequence of a lack of leadership in inequality, human security and climate change – all of which are drivers of human movement.

Unfortunately along with mass migrations, there is a trend of erecting more barriers. Just today, Hungary completed its fence to keep refugees out of Europe.

Of course, calling the phenomenon of mass migrations a ‘crisis’ suggests that the issue of human mobility is temporary, a sudden movement of people which will stop in a few months. Will it? We would argue that the new security landscape, combined with climate change, could make mass migrations the new norm.

  1. Climate change

Climate change. This is not just an environmental issue but a security issue. It poses a risk of planetary proportions and at a timescale which affects us, our children and generations to come.

Whilst studying climate change at university, I remember feeling huge disappointment after COP 15 in Denmark, 2009, where there was a complete absence of global leadership. Since then, climate change seems to have disappeared off the global agenda.

So why is it urgent now you may ask? We’re reaching a tipping point. This year, the journal Science published its review of planetary boundaries – 9 physical and biochemical thresholds which indicate the health of our planet. Out of these 9 thresholds, 4 have now been irreversibly crossed. These have led to devastating impacts across the world with particular destruction felt in developing countries least able to mitigate and least able to adapt to changes.

Several of us in this room have experienced first-hand the effects of climate change. We as a cohort believe that public leaders can no longer ignore this existential threat.

The sense of urgency regarding planetary boundaries must not paralyse but mobilise. The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this December presents an opportunity for global leaders to take this issue seriously and act in the interests of us all.

The Type of Leadership Required

Inequality. Security. Human mobility. Climate change. They all call for a new kind of public leadership. The 2015 Survey from the World Economic Forum showed that 86% of respondents agreed that we have a leadership crisis in the world today. Now why would they say this? We believe that it is because the international community has largely failed to address any major global issue in recent years.

We see a growing democratic deficit. Non-state actors like global corporations have more power than ever before. At the same time, only 22 percent of elected public leaders are women. These factors undermine our democracies and limit the ability of world leaders to address global challenges.

It is our opinion that public leaders need to act from the first principle that the life of every human being is equal and important. Public leaders need to do three things:

One, reach across groups to include diverse perspectives and experiences. Divergent views deepen our conversations and broaden our horizons, allowing meaningful solutions to be discovered, tested and adopted.

Two, leaders across all sectors will need to cooperate and collaborate with communities.  This means shifting vertical power structures to become more horizontal.

And finally three, global leaders need to focus on long term solutions for everyone, not just the select powerful few.

These four pivotal issues – inequality, security, human mobility and climate change – represent many risks for us all but also huge opportunities.

We are at a historic turning point – each and every one of us needs to think about how best to utilise these four pivotal shifts as opportunities for reform. Here in Sauvé House, all 12 of us are honing our skills in order to contribute to a new kind of public leadership; leadership that draws on the diverse perspectives and experiences from across the world. We look forward to working with you all – the mentors, Board of directors, alumni and the wider Sauvé community – in the coming year and beyond.

In ending, we want to share some words from former UN Secretary Kofi Annan. He said, “more than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together”.

Thank you.

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