World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda Gathers Thought Leaders

Beat the heat in these Dubai bus shelters

Last week, I attended the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda, which convened thought leaders from around the world to discuss pressing global issues. The Summit will help to set the stage for organization’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland in January 2013.

Everyone participating in the summit was a speaker or a member of one of the forum’s 88 “Global Agenda Councils,” organized around issue areas or regions. I participated in the Global Agenda Council for Infrastructure, which was established this year. I also attended the Summit’s plenary sessions.

A few key themes from the Summit emerged, including:

  • Jobs. Attendees were concerned about unemployment generally, but they were most concerned about youth unemployment. Some frightening statistics that I heard during the forum: globally, 400 million youth, or 30% of them, are unemployed or underemployed. Some people called the jobs/skills/opportunity mismatch a “ticking time bomb” and a “threat to democracy.” 
  • Technology. Lots of people at the Summit talked about the global technology revolution and the opportunity it brings. But some warned that technology is not necessarily a globalizing force that is tying everyone together—as people can set themselves up to get only the information and they want and viewpoints they agree with, technology can create factions and pull people apart too. Technology is also changing the relationship between the younger generation and their parents.
  • Global governance. Speakers seemed to feel that existing global governance structures aren’t working very well. Some people pointed to the need for new models of exchange and collaboration, like the World Economic Forum, and others said that we should strengthen the institutions that already exist. But others warned that local rules and norms matter too, and can’t be overridden by global ones.
  • Rise of China. There were lots of discussions about the rise of China, and whether it is a threat, a risk, a challenge, or an opportunity. Speakers warned that existing global cooperation frameworks, like the United Nations, may not be adequate for shifting global dynamics. Others said that, although we might think we’ve already witnessed China’s rise, we haven’t seen anything yet.
  • Climate Change and Water. Climate change was a thread that ran through many discussions. The inequitable impacts that climate change will have on the poorest of communities was a commonly raised challenge, as was the need for more adaptation and resilience to environmental threats. Many people discussed water—access to clean water, and the role that the oceans can play in feeding the world.

Other threads that ran through the Summit focused on the empowerment and education of women and girls, the challenges and opportunities of urbanization, population growth, and the implications of the Arab Spring.

See my separate post about the Global Agenda Council for Infrastructure’s discussion.

I Tweeted throughout the Summit, focusing on takeaways from plenary sessions. Did you miss the Tweets? Here’s a roundup:

Global forces that will shape our future: technology, rise of China, climate change – Kevin Rudd #gacfuture

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 13, 2012

Today’s younger generation has had unprecedented experience of introducing parents to technology. This changes things. -Anderson #gacfuture

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 13, 2012

We are completely unprepared for more volatile weather due to climate change. – Lisa Anderson #gacfuture

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 13, 2012

China is playing an essential role in building infrastructure in Africa – Ben Yahia #gacfuture

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 13, 2012

Is rise of China a risk or a challenge? Depend on how we engage #gacfuture

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 13, 2012

World is not working together well on: finance, climate change, stability, millennium goals – Gordon Brown #wef #globalagenda

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

We need high level of international cooperation in order to achieve economic growth. – Gordon Brown #wef #globalagenda

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

The part of global governance system that delivers things works well. Part that delivers rules does not. -Pascal Lamy #wef #globalagenda

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

A new framework for global governance needs to be: strategic, agile, inclusive, continuously demonstrating legitimacy #wef #globalagenda

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

#GACwelcome @wef outlines three main challenges facing our time: world wo clear leadership, technology revolution, search for meaning

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

@wef summit is starting now.

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

@wef summit is about to begin in #Dubai. Looking forward to three days of exploring #infrastructure solutions.

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 12, 2012

#Dubai takes pedestrian overpasses to a new level, with escalators, moving walkways, and retail.

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 11, 2012

Beat the heat in these #Dubai bus shelters! twitter.com/RMacCleery/sta…

— Rachel MacCleery (@RMacCleery) November 11, 2012

Heading to Dubai for @wef agenda council for #infrastructure meeting. Looking forward to discussion!

— ULI_Infra (@ULI_Infra) November 10, 2012

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