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Africa Is the Future of Multilateralism

A comprehensive new study of global public opinion shows that people worldwide still have faith in democracy but expect it to yield better results. Nowhere is this truer than in Africa, whose residents are far more likely to support bold measures to reduce inequality and combat climate change.

NEW YORK – “We do not seem to have any common values on which we can all agree, nor common goals to which we all aspire.” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo hit the nail on the head when he made this observation during his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week. At a time when interlocking crises are escalating, the international order appears increasingly fractured, and there is profound uncertainty about the role of the UN itself. Where can we find the impetus and direction needed to restore multilateralism?

Answering that question requires a deeper understanding of the attitudes, concerns, and hopes of people around the world. To this end, Open Society Foundations, the philanthropic organization I lead, recently ran one of the largest studies of global public opinion ever conducted. Our Open Society Barometer surveyed more than 36,000 people from a diverse group of 30 countries that represent roughly two-thirds of the world’s population.

The responses shed some light on the unifying values and goals that are conspicuously absent from today’s global governance system. They show that people around the world still have faith in democracy, but in an age of crisis and inequality, they want it to deliver tangible improvements in their own lives.