Published on March 28, 2024

Are You Voting for the Global Goals in 2024?

This year a whopping 64 countries plus the European Union are scheduled to hold elections. That means that countries which are home to approximately half the world’s population – four billion people – will open the polls to their citizens. Countries in all regions, including Russia, India, the USA, South Africa, Mexico and the UK, will see elections this year. So, in 2024, more people than ever before will have the opportunity to cast their vote at the ballot box. But what does that mean for the Global Goals?

As the climate crisis intensifies, war and instability rage across different parts of the world, and poorer families in particular continue to bear the brunt of inflated global food and energy prices, elections become crucial mechanisms to stand up for sustainable development and call for real progress for people and the planet. 

And it’s clear that issues related to the Global Goals are on people’s minds. Across the globe, seven in ten people anticipate climate change will have a “severe effect” in their area within the next ten years, and six in ten say their government is not working hard enough to tackle climate change, presenting a convincing call for decision-makers to step up on ambition when it comes to Goal 13.

Meanwhile, 70% of people expect both inflation and interest rates in their country to be higher this year than they were in 2023, showing how the cost of living is a major concern worldwide, and serving as a rallying cry for politicians to step up on ensuring decent work and economic growth, while reducing inequalities. 

But while these shifts in public opinion present huge potential for positive change during this mammoth election year, they do not necessarily mean a win for democracy. In fact, eight of the ten most populous countries in the world will send their citizens to the polls in 2024, but at least half of these will be neither free nor fair. From authoritarian regimes, where despite elections there is almost certainly no chance of a change of regime, to countries where a lack of confidence in the system means extremely low voter turn-out, this epic year for elections does not by definition mean an epic year for democracy.  

It is amid this scene of political polarisation and increasing disintegration of trust between citizens and their leaders that a number of initiatives are working hard to strengthen democracy. The UN is encouraging citizen participation through their support of Citizens Assemblies around the world, which are creating safe spaces for diverse groups of people to come together and have conversations that can feed into government actions. Many local and national governments have also responded to this need. In addition, the OECD has mapped hundreds of recent innovations to strengthen democracy, including citizens assemblies, participatory budgeting and digital democracy tools.

In the words of Greta Ríos, Co-Executive Director at People Powered, a global hub for participatory democracy:

“Democracy is not only having the right to vote and compete in free elections. We exercise democracy when we include everyone in decision-making, and when we come up with collective solutions to our biggest challenges.”

So, despite the challenges, what is clear is that this year – perhaps more than ever before – has the potential to seed real, lasting change for people and the planet. And we need you to help make that happen. So, when you cast your vote this year, will it be in support of the Global Goals?