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One million people share hopes and fears for future with the UN

No matter where they came from, their background, age or gender, participants in the exercise were, the UN has said, “remarkably unified” in their vision of the future. 

Here are five key findings from the report published by the UN

UNICEF/Geoffrey Buta
A young girl in Ghana washes her hands before returning to class after recess.

1) Better basic services

The whole world remains gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the immediate priority of most people who took part in the survey, which has been continuing throughout the global lockdown caused by the pandemic, is improved access to basic services; these include healthcare, water and sanitation as well as education. Many believe that access to education and women’s rights will ultimately improve.

Here’s what one respondent in Mexico had to say: “The virus has taken away jobs, interactions, education and peace. Fear is everywhere, and people are not responding well to it”.

2) More international cooperation

The COVID-19 pandemic has, according to the United Nations, underlined the need for international cooperation in order to develop, produce and distribute a vaccine so all countries, rich and poor benefit.

It’s part of the importance the UN places on multilateralism; countries working collaboratively and productively in the common good.

And it seems many of the one million respondents agree that is a good thing; a significant 87 per cent of people believe that international cooperation is vital to deal with global challenges and that COVID-19 has made international solidarity even more urgent.

One respondent from Albania underlines the importance of shared social responsibility; “It is of paramount importance that the recovery must be built upon the spirit of humanity. The lesson we learnt from the pandemic is that literally no one is safe unless everyone is safe”.

Some facts and stats about the UN survey

  • People have responded from all of the UN’s 193 Member States
  • Men and women participated in equal numbers
    51% of those surveyed were under 30 years old.
  • 30% or respondents came from central and southern Asia
  • The next most engaged geographical area with 23.5% was Sub-Saharan Africa with Europe not too far behind at 15%.

UNDP Afghanistan
A health centre in Afghanistan is using renewable energy reducing the reliance on fossil fuels which are contributing to climate change.

3) Climate action

The apparent inability of humankind to slow down the warming of the planet, prevent irreversible climate change and the resulting destruction of the natural environment is the overwhelming medium- and long-term concern of the people who were surveyed. Other long-term concerns include an increase in poverty, government corruption, community violence and unemployment.

A young person from China says everyone is affected by climate change: “Current global climate change as a result of environmental pollution is putting individuals and whole populations at increased risk”.

© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF has continued to delivered water to conflict-affected areas of Syria during the pandemic.

4) More UN engagement

Looking to the past, six in ten respondents believe the UN has made the world a better place and 74 per cent say that the UN is “essential” if global challenges are to be effectively tackled. However, over half of all people who answered the survey still don’t know much about the UN and consider it as “remote” from their lives.

Many recommended establishing a youth council to advise senior UN officials and one respondent from Brazil suggested more engagement at a regional and local level: “The UN could act by making greater engagements with regional and local actors, investing in the future by providing means that foster the development of the autonomy of social actors.”

5) Belief in a better future

When it comes to the future, younger participants and those in many developing countries tend to be more optimistic than those who are older or living in developed countries. People in central and southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa tend to be more optimistic than those living in Europe and North America.

“No one is powerless.” says a 17-year-old high school student from Japan.

How one million voices were heard

People were asked their opinions in a number of ways.

  • The one-minute UN75 survey (www.un75.online) was key to hearing from as many people as possible. The survey is still available and in 64 languages.
  • To ensure that those not connected through the internet were heard, the survey was adapted for offline data gathering via a mobile application, and through integration with SMS and other tools. 
  • Participants were also asked their opinion through telephone/in-person polling.

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