Alexis Vincent Gomès: An advocate for civil society’s role in protecting global democracy

As high-stakes elections around the world unfold over the course of 2024, authoritarianism’s growing threat to global democracy has rightly come under increased scrutiny. With the global political landscape approaching a decisive crossroads for democratic values and institutions, the outcome of the elections held over the coming months will either bolster democratic resilience or further entrench autocratic tendencies.

In this turbulent climate, NGOs and international service organisations such as the Lions Clubs International (LCI) have an indispensable role to play in promoting democracy. Crucially, these organisations help restore public faith in democracy by addressing citizens’ needs and upholding moral integrity as the cornerstones of effective public service.

Placing virtue at heart of public service: introducing Alexis Vincent Gomès:

Throughout his life of leadership and service with LCI, Alexis Vincent Gomès has held the deep conviction that positive change in the world must rest on a strong foundation of fundamental virtues. In Gomès’s own words, the values of “selflessness, charity, listening, respect for differences, world peace, education for awakening consciousness, civic integrity and respect for all principles that restore human dignity and humanity,” have guided his four decades of LCI engagement.

Currently running for Third International Vice President at the organisation’s elections taking place in Melbourne, Australia between 22 and 25 June, Gomès further asserts that if elected, he would “apply these values by promoting initiatives that reinforce these principles in all of LCI’s actions.” We need only look to his robust background within the organisation to get a glimpse of what this virtue-fueled, democratic vision would look like in practice.

As an active member of the Eucalyptus Lions Club in his native Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville and through his various LCI leadership roles—ranging from Club President and District Governor to Council Chairperson, International Director and Board Trustee of the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF)—Gomès has helped deliver a wide range of community development initiatives to expand access to education, healthcare and critical infrastructure within underprivileged communities. 

Uniting all of these initiatives is a self-described “profound sense of spiritual duty and a desire to give back to others” which has defined his engagement with LCI, and more fundamentally, has “given true meaning ” to his life.

Spotlight on career-defining LCI projects:

Looking back on his 40 years as a proud Lion, several projects have left a particularly strong mark on Gomès, informing his broader vision of international development efforts and the approach needed to accelerate progress.  

For example, Gomès talks with great passion about the work LCI has done in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Lebanon, Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville, where the organisation has supported remote communities by funding hospitals and donating state-of-the-art ambulances, dramatically enhancing healthcare access in these regions.

Furthermore, Gomès has led projects to install wells and advanced water drilling systems in numerous African villages, ensuring these communities’ reliable access to clean water. To champion literacy and education—which Gomès has long considered to be the essential foundation of inclusive, sustainable development and a healthy democracy —the LCI has also established rural libraries and funded multiple preschools, giving future generations the tools they need to succeed. 

Beyond material support, Gomès’s LCI engagement has equally addressed communities’ spiritual and cultural aspirations. Under his leadership, the organisation has built churches and senior centers, creating essential gathering and support spaces for the elderly within their communities, in addition to empowering artists in France and Africa by offering painters and musicians platforms to showcase their talents, fostering a vibrant cultural exchange. 

Bold democratic vision for LCI’s future:

According to Gomès, the holistic approach to community development reflected by these LCI projects is crucial to protecting global democracy from the rising menace of authoritarianism, whose populist leaders seize on underdevelopment entrenched by government corruption and neglect to ascend to power.

By providing critical services that meet communities’ basic needs while empowering them with the means to achieve their long-term growth aspirations, Gomès posits that international service organisations like LCI foster a democratic culture that helps keep governments on track, thereby diminishing the false appeal of autocratic regimes.

Given the fast-growing youth populations in Africa and South Asia, Gomès’s vision for LCI’s future as an International Vice President is focused on engaging with young people and women in these regions, using social inclusion projects that integrate them into the organisation as a launchpad for broader success in social and economic life—whether within their communities or abroad.

By focusing on these regions, he aims to harness their potential and ensure that LCI continues to play a pivotal role in fostering inclusive, democratic societies, with the promotion of democracy complementing youth development as a core pillar of his electoral campaign.

Unlocking potential in developing world:

With a robust democratic foundation in place, Gomès sees massive potential for inclusive growth across Africa and South Asia. Indeed, beyond his work within LCI, his four decades of experience as a distinguished lawyer and entrepreneur on the African continent in vital economic sectors including mining, energy and infrastructure development have given him invaluable insight into how these industries can act as channels for sustainable growth if managed fairly and democratically.

Speaking of the LCI’s crucial role in this undertaking, Gomès emphasises that if we “respect and promote democracy in all our actions,” and work with governments to help them “avoid the pressure of money,” while “preserving the moral integrity and independence of the Lions by preventing excessive financial influence,” there is  virtually no limit to what this public-civil society collaboration can achieve. 

As a candidate for Third International Vice President of LCI, Gomès is poised to further this ambitious vision on the global stage, where he aims to use his position to help build  inclusive, prosperous communities—the grassroots pillars of thriving democratic societies. Whatever the outcomes of the decisive elections held over the course of 2024, the future of global democracy will rely on a strong civil society to deliver on citizens’ priorities and act as a reliable government partner.