There is a rising tide of nationalism and protectionism sweeping across the world today. From the US-China trade war to Brexit, global leaders are starting to look inwards after decades of globalisation. Against this backdrop, an international organisation was formed to look for a new approach to global cooperation.

French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Paris Peace Forum on the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice in 2018. “Peace is the ultimate goal of what we’re doing,” says the Forum’s General Director, Justin Vaisse. “How do we organise the planet better, so as to decrease tensions and causes of war?”

In the midst of his travels through Asia, Vaisse sat down with GovInsider to talk about his hopes for the Paris Peace Forum, and how the next big global solution can come from it.

Setting the agenda from ground-up

Climate change, data governance, and artificial intelligence are three areas the forum is looking to tackle. Vaisse says this is a reflection of the borderless nature of global challenges. “As soon as you start tackling issues that are really important for people, like cybersecurity in your smartphone, or the climate outside or sports indeed, or things like that, then you get into the territory of international cooperation,” Vaisse

“As soon as you start tackling issues that are really important for people, like cybersecurity in your smartphone, or the climate outside…then you get into the territory of international cooperation.”

An example is the Antarctica 2020 project, which wants to preserve the biodiversity in the area by creating 7 million square kilometres of a protected marine sanctuary. “Whole foodchains of the Southern Earth really rests on a certain number of pillars in cold water,” he explains, and overfishing will destroy this balance. The preservation is currently blocked by China and Russia, and the forum wants to bring state actors together to preserve Antarctica and its biodiversity.

Data governance is another broad theme that has emerged. It has a Ranking Digital Rights project to rank corporations, and the way they handle consumer data. Vaisse points out how certain companies “sell all of your data without you knowing it” and this project wants to employ a “name and shame mechanism by which these companies are scrutinized.“

With the growing use of AI in governments and companies, a human-centric AI framework from Singapore will be presented at the forum this year. The framework is a living document, according to its creators, that will evolve as more people read it, but outlines the ethical and governance challenges from using AI, while not limiting its growth.

Going beyond dialogue

There are many international dialogues every year, from the World Economic Forum in Davao to the Shangri-la defence dialogue in Singapore. The Paris Peace Forum wants to stand out by “starting the discussion where generally conferences end, that is on solutions, on projects, on initiatives, and have a discussion around these issues,” Vaisse says.

The forum functions as a platform where projects can be scaled up by providing a platform for networking. It selects ten projects from across the world each year, and helps these “initiatives move forward, or get realized and get scaled up. Vaisse hopes that “At the end of the two days [the forum], you will be at a much further, advanced points than you were when you arrived.”

Inclusive multilateralism

Vaisse wants to work with leaders in Asia to build a global platform for solutions. “It’s where most people on Earth live. And second, it sort of encapsulates many of the challenges that we face,” he adds.

“We are starting to diversify into the second year,” he says. “That’s why I’m here in Singapore, that’s why I’m travelling to India, to the Gulf, to Japan, to China and other places,” because we want the participants to reflect this commitment, Vaisse elaborates. These are places where international institutions, like the United Nations “were created before they were influential,” and it is important they have a stake in the world’s future.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his idea for an International Coalition for Resilient Infrastructure at the G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan. Especially in India, where floods destroy buildings and lives, infrastructure resilient to more extreme climate patterns will be critical. Vaisse reveals there is a “good chance” it will be launched at the forum, “thereby appropriating the forum”.

There are strong headwinds away from international cooperation, especially in the Western part of the world. But Vaisse believes “International cooperation is better than international competition,” and it is in that spirit, that he is spearheading this action-driven organisation to do good globally.

The second edition of the Paris Peace Forum will be held from 11 – 13 November 2019 at the Grande Halle de La Villette, Paris.