Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Climate change, pandemics, rising living costs and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are among the top challenges facing the world today, according to a wide-ranging citizen survey in 22 countries around the world.
The findings come with world leaders gathered in New York for a key United Nations meeting.
The poll revealed a high level of agreement on the key challenges facing the world today – and a shared desire for bold global action in response.
The findings also underscore a lack of confidence in the international community’s ability to work together to address global threats. Pessimism about the direction of the world is most pronounced in Western Europe and the United States.
The survey, conducted in July by Datapraxis, YouGov and local providers in Moldova and Ukraine for the Open Society Foundations, included more than 21,000 people around the world – more than two-thirds of the respondents lived in Africa, Latin America and the North America, the Middle East and Asia — making it one of the most ambitious polls of its kind since Russia launched its “military action” in Ukraine six months ago.
Countries studied included Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States , and Ukraine.
Participants were asked a series of questions ranging from attitudes towards the war in Ukraine; the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic; the need for international climate action; and the current cost of living crisis.
- Respondents in the Global North and Global South have different views on the causes of the invasion of Ukraine. Almost half (49%) of respondents in South Africa, 54% in Nigeria and 56% in India agree that Russia was “right to want more influence over its neighbor Ukraine”, compared with 78% in the UK who disagreed are. along with 53% in Germany and 58% in the US and France;
- Climate change is most frequently ranked as the most important challenge facing the world, with 86% agreeing it is already affecting people’s lives through heat waves, droughts, floods and other extreme weather conditions. It is ranked as one of the world’s top three issues in every country except Egypt – the host of this year’s UN climate change conference COP 27 – and Saudi Arabia. In some European countries, climate change is far more important than the economy – including the UK (where more than 50% of respondents list it as one of the top three issues, while only 13% named the economy), France (50% climate change). versus 12% economy), Germany (44% climate change versus 11% economy) and Serbia (37% climate change versus 4% economy) – results that may have been influenced by the impact of the heatwave that hit the continent in July;
- In low- and middle-income countries, there is great concern about potential food shortages. In the three Latin American countries surveyed (Brazil (69%), Colombia (90%) and Mexico (83%)), 80% of respondents agree that they “often worry about whether my family will go hungry” compared to 77% in the four sub-Saharan countries surveyed. (Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa) and 56% in India. Even in the US (39%), UK (29%) and Western Europe (33%), significant minorities worry that their families may go hungry “to some extent”.
- People are generally pessimistic about the state of their country. Only in Asia do more respondents believe that their country is going in the right direction rather than in the wrong direction: (India 52%, Indonesia 51%, Singapore 51%, with the outlier Japan at 14%.
Commenting on the findings, Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundations said: “During difficult times we tend to focus on what divides us. But this poll shows a healthy sense of context in crises engulfing the world; we are more united than we think.”
He added: “Will world leaders gather again this week for the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York to respond in a concerted, ambitious manner that does justice to this critical moment in human history?
“Citizens are far ahead of politicians in accepting the required level of support and favoring longer-term solutions that address systemic inequality and injustice. Our leaders need to get the program done before it’s too late.”