Despite the snowfall that blanketed Davos, day 1 at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum remained undeterred and was fruitful in confronting pertinent issues from a global perspective on the fissures that riddle contemporary society. While the range of topics was varied, an important “manel” tied all ends by delineating and recounting the cracks they saw in society, consequently offering insight and hope on their resolution in the session “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”
Chaired by Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and a previous speaker at the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society, the session focused on dealing with the cracks in the contemporary world and creating a future. A report was published yesterday by Oxfam stating that 82% of new wealth went to 1% of the people. Erna Soberg, Prime Minister of Norway, began by highlighting the challenges she recognised in a similar trend by addressing the issues of inclusion and diversity in ensuring that nobody was left behind in economic development in the future. While the world to her had sufficient money, it was fairer redistribution and incorporation of segments of society alongside with the confrontation of corruption controlling that wealth that baffled her. With countries like India where 1% control 73% of the wealth, several segments of society are denied the funds they deserve, fuelling fear and differences in the midst of disparity. Erna Soberg questions the lack of investment by owners into employees and the states the crucial role of the government in providing people with the skills and lifelong education they need to remain relevant in a shifting society, thereby bridging the gap to some extent.
Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM touched upon a similar topic, juxtaposing the opportunities and threats of technology in the displacement and shifting of jobs in the future. Preparing workers with the necessary skills, through retraining and development of the “new collar” becomes essential. Guiding technology into the world with responsibility to her could solve the unsolvable but it was crucial to train people via public private partnerships. To her, companies could hold more power and responsibility globally given their dismissal of boundaries as compared with governments. When juxtaposed with the trust in businesses in countries such as Japan, France and India, the opportunities for growth become endless.
Ginni Rometty continues to stress on introducing tech with purpose and transparency in order to control bias. She also pushes for security and privacy of data, along with controlled access by governments and clarity about ownership of data.
Fabiola Gianotti, Director General at CERN and Chetna Sinha, Founder and Chair of the Mann Deshi Foundation echo the lack of access, and opportunity. While Fabiola Gianotti voices the discrepancy in representation in education, technology, science and research, Chetna Sinha talks of the limited access to finance and banking in India. Fabiola Gianotti creates hope in the universal and unifying nature of science, giving the example of SESAME in bringing together the Arab World in their collaboration in pursuit of a common good. Chetna Sinha also shows how her venture was successful as a consequence of the unity of the women involved to provide solutions to men and women across India and acquire prosperity for all. Both these leaders highlight how simple things can provide breakthrough solutions through collaboration. Isabelle Kocher, CEO of Engie strengthens this argument, explaining that disparity is not sustainable, thereby making it necessary for the world to rebuild a shared vision for “, Anybody making a decision anywhere affects everybody.” Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation reverberates the idea of the absence of change in systemic bias without diversity.
The last concern voiced by the panelists is that of climate change. To Isabelle Kocher, there is affordable and clean technology available that is both sustainable and essential to restore the world. She stresses the need for corporate involvement in civil society, given its construction of the same, and summarises perfectly “there is no winning company on a losing planet.”
The experts thus call for a new social contract, one that restores trust in globalisation, in sustainable growth that is inclusive and beneficial for all. By bringing to the fore economic, social, political and environmental concerns, the co-chairs perfectly sum up what has unfolded and what to expect for the remainder of the Annual Meeting.
 (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East)