Democracy in Action: Why Voting Matters

Called to the polls: putting the transition center stage

With half of the world’s population heading to the polls this year amidst rising global tensions – wars, threats to democracy, climate urgency, growing inequalities – the significance of democratic elections for our future has become increasingly clear. In Europe, the upcoming parliamentary elections will not only affect future European decisions, but also shape each country’s laws.  Projections from the IPCC emphasize the need to place social and environmental policies at the center of our legislation to preserve our populations and ecosystems. These topics deserve more space in political discussions than what they are usually given. ChangeNOW created this space by organizing France’s inaugural televised European Election debate dedicated entirely to social and ecological transition during the summit last March.

Beyond individuals and borders: the impact of elections

Mayada Adil, Young Leader for SDGs at the United Nations

Voting is crucial for accurate representation, and essential for implementing the changes we advocate for. In her fireside chat for the Rethinking Economic Systems Inside the Planetary and Social Boundaries conference at ChangeNOW, Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer asked “Who do we expect to bring the system changes? […] Do we consider ourselves to be only as powerful as we, as an individual, can see, how far we can look, or do we imagine ourselves to be part of a wider collective?” Democracy truly starts with thinking of our societies as a group, and of voting as more than a simple gesture, but a powerful act whose influence extends far and wide. Mayada Adil, a Young Leader for SDGs at the United Nations, highlighted the importance of voting in the Voices for Stronger Democracies panel at ChangeNOW 2024. As someone who never had the chance to vote herself, she urged people to vote in the European elections, keeping in mind the impact they will have on other countries beyond Europe. As her country Sudan has been deeply impacted by Western influence, she also underlined the importance of self-determination, and letting countries, especially in Africa, find the grassroot solutions for themselves, as there is not a unique model of democracy.

Information and democracy: less disinformation and more citizen-driven policies

To make informed voting decisions, access to accurate information is vital. Camille Grenier from the Forum of Information and Democracy advocated for media independence and freedom, calling for the promotion of trustworthy sources and the fight against disinformation. It is through information that we drive more participation, as Hannah Prins, member of the Extinction Rebellion Legal Circle, highlighted during the panel. She called for more citizen assemblies to shape policies that benefit everyone. She also addressed the importance of leaders taking their responsibilities to drive global change rather than leaving it on the shoulders of young changemakers.

Intergenerational dialogue: the importance of learning to listen

This sentiment was shared in the Taking Care of Future Generations conference. 14-year-old Colombian activist Francisco Vera emphasized that climate change is a pressing issue of the present and past, not just the future, and it concerns everyone. He urged immediate action to protect both the youngest and oldest among us and those yet to come. He also called for “eco-hope,” and encouraged cooperation between generations.

Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council, echoed his words and noted that “Governments have to be particularly keen on what the young people are saying. It doesn’t mean that it is always right, but it is always meaningful.” He insisted that governance, civil society and science work hand in hand.

Colombian activist Francisco Vera

Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council

Additional resources to help you better understand this topic:

  • Discover BLOOM’s evaluation of the environmental performance of each European party based on four categories: environmental justice, ocean, climate, and biodiversity. Their work reveals how parties vote on key environmental and human protection issues, beyond their campaign promises.
  • The Movement 9o6’s Vote Anyway campaign encourages people to vote, regardless of their personal opinions, to uphold this fundamental democratic process. Participating companies can join the movement to share this message on social media.