Authors: Jack Maycock
  • Reading time: 5 min.
  • Posted on: February 19, 2024

As we move into the second month of the New Year, the shadow of 2023 still looms large. Conflict marches on in Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan, with further crises in Armenia, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and across the Sahel. Horrendous scenes of cruelty are taking place in each case, with almost all of the world’s great powers taking contrasting and often hypocritical legal and ethical positions. In this context it’s easy to default into believing the status quo will reign supreme. 

But if there is one thing that can be assured this year, it is change — mostly because there are elections taking place everywhere. 4.1 billion of the world’s population live in countries holding elections this year. This is half of the world’s voting-age adults! Dive deeper as Jack Maycock, Shape History Associate Director for Advocacy and Influence dissects the pivotal changes on the horizon.


With some of the most populated and powerful countries in the world going to the polls, many of the 2024 elections hold global significance. After the recent election in Pakistan continues to be controversial, regional eyes will soon move to India’s election in the coming months, as relations between the countries remain strained over the Kashmir region. Last week, Indonesia went to the polls, with indications showing a similar turnout to the record 80% which saw 158 million people vote in the 2019 Presidential election. Elsewhere, South Africa is one of at least 17 African countries going to the polls, with the potential for significant political shake-up if the ANC loses power for the first time since the end of Apartheid.

In Europe, the EU, Russia, and the UK will all hold elections in 2024. Parliamentary elections in the EU are generally seen as critical to the bloc’s future with far-right and Eurosceptic parties on the rise. But even in the short-term, the results hold significance for international legislation across climate, health, and human rights. In the UK, the potential for a change of governing party after 14 years would have its most significant impact in international aid, and the UK’s international role in climate mitigation.

In November, the Biden vs. Trump US Presidential election will be almost impossible to escape. To underline the significance of these elections, the US is the UN’s largest funder to such an extent that the UN’s World Food Programme sees over 50% of its budget come from the US Government. With the potential for a Donald Trump Presidency, every penny of this funding becomes less secure. A Trump Presidency would also no doubt include the roll back of environmental policies both in the US and internationally, making international events like COP even more redundant in reaching climate targets than its critics claim, while there are further funding implications for Ukraine, and potentially NATO were Trump to win in November.


In periods of change, the most important thing for organisations to do is plan. Without planning, everything you do after the event will — in some sense — be reactive. The sweet spot to aim for is a plan that allows for proactive advocacy, but is flexible enough to adapt to further change. 

To be proactive, we need to think about how certain events will impact the organisation and the work. For example, how will x (event) impact the issue that you’re working on? Will any of your or your partners’ funding be impacted by x (change)? How can these changes be accounted for in your global strategies, be they advocacy or programmatic?

In practice, this means mapping out different scenarios that could impact your work. For example, an organisation working on LGBTQ+ rights across Europe would look at the upcoming elections and assess the potential impact of a far-right ascendancy within the European Parliament. 

The questions they should be asking:

  • How might this affect ongoing LGBTQ+ legislation?
  • Are any LGBTQ+ rights and protections now under greater threat?
  • Have any of our supportive MEPs lost their seats? 
  • How do we adjust our communications with MEPs?
  • Do we need to build more relationships with MEPs that could be supportive? 
  • Has decision-making power shifted as a result of this election? 
  • Do we need to build on relationships with the European Commission? 
  • How should we adjust our messaging to account for these new communications and advocacy priorities? 
  • What organisations may now be more open to collaboration?
  • What further change could stem from this event? 

Of course in some cases these questions might be more existential. Changes around the world will mean that organisations are shut down, have their funding cut, or their operations made impossible. But in many cases, planning ahead could be the difference between finding an alternative funding source or going bust.

Whether the change from elections are positive or negative, preparation and planning are critical. By mapping out these different scenarios in advance, we allow ourselves the time to reevaluate our levers of change, understand any changes in the stakeholders we need to engage, and the types of message framing that will be most appealing. When new governments come to power, there is a long list of individuals and organisations vying for their attention. The more prepared for change we are, the more clarity we can provide new policymakers and governments in their first weeks of power, which only helps to drive effective and impactful advocacy.