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A Look Ahead to 2024 – A Chance to Shape the Future

CEO Martin Harper looks ahead to 2024 with hope, optimism and confidence.

2024 is a super year for elections: a chance to shape the future we want and nature needs.

During the holiday season, my son and I went hill climbing in atrocious conditions. Storm Gerrit had hit England, but we were determined to walk and so we did.  The birds had rightly taken cover and so to keep us going, we discussed the essay on which he was working as part of his philosophy course at university: to what extent is the State or the individual responsible for tackling climate change.  The backdrop, other than the blasted fells that we trudged across, were the elections taking place in 2024 in more than 64 countries.

Moral and ethical considerations aside, governments and individuals clearly have the power to affect environmental change in different ways.  Only governments can sign international agreements, make laws, incentivise good or penalise bad behaviour while individuals have a role through consumption and, in free societies, through campaigning and voting.  In fair elections, we end up with the governments and leaders that we, collectively, have chosen.  This is the “power of the people” that democracy (which comes from the Greek words “demos”, meaning people, and “kratos” meaning power) promises.

So, if governments fail to deliver the right global agreement to tackle climate change or if wildlife populations continue to decline, then arguably “we” collectively bear some responsibility.  And if we accept our role in collective action, and if we acknowledge that those of us lucky enough to be living in free societies do have “power”, then don’t we have a responsibility to do something to effect change?

Like others in civil society, the BirdLife partnership chooses to act.  We are united by our love of birds and all nature, by our belief that a healthy natural environment is vital for our own existence.  We choose to express that love and our passion through our deeds.  And, we are committed to work together to make the world a better place for people and nature.  

The stakes are high as we know that to avoid catastrophic climate change and avoid a million species from becoming extinct, we need to transform our food, energy and industrial systems.  For that to happen, we need political leaders and governments that not only acknowledge this but care enough to take the action needed to drive this transformation. 

This is why 2024 feels like such an important year as more than 2 billion people head to the polls to take part in national elections in at least 64 countries (plus the European Union).  The political landscape will be reformed, and the new cohort of political leaders will then have the power (invested in them by us) to make real changes that affect the future of our planet (for good or ill).  They will be responsible for shaping decisions nationally, regionally and also globally with key summits planned for migratory species in February, biodiversity in October and climate change in November. 

2024 is then the year for civil society to be active.  

Let’s be clear, it is not the role of civil society to tell people how to vote, but the BirdLife community believes it is our role to promote the information that we have collated about the state of nature (such as the State of the World’s Birds), it is our role to showcase solutions to conservation challenges through our own practical examples (whether it is financing the protection and restoration of tropical forests, mobilising development bank funding to protect wetlands and migratory birds or tools which encourage businesses to reduce harm on nature through tools such as Avistep or IBAT) and it is our role to encourage people to use their voice for nature and to think about this when they cast their vote.

That’s why, throughout 2024, BirdLife International will do whatever we can to support our Partners by:

  • Continuing to invest in creating and mobilising the best information about the state of wild birds and the places they live
  • Supporting Partners to conceive and deliver large-scale conservation interventions that not only benefit nature and people but also inspires others to act
  • Finding creative ways to help Partners use their voice so that it is desirable for politicians to do the right thing 
  • Sharing the lessons we learn so good ideas fly and so together we become a more effective global force for nature

Throughout the year, we should remain hopeful (because we have an impressive programme of action), optimistic (because we have increasing evidence that we can improve the natural world) and confident (because we know what needs to be done).  Together, we have the power to shape the future that we want and nature needs.