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Kristalina Georgieva

WEF charts path to renewed dialogue, collective action

RIYADH, April 30, 2024

Amid rising geopolitical tensions and a deepening North-South divide, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has assembled 1,000 global leaders and experts to chart a collective course towards a more stable, sustainable and inclusive future.
 
The Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development 2024 - held under the patronage of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - brought together key leaders to exchange perspectives, consider new data, and advance high-impact partnerships.
 
“We may end up with this decade being remembered as the Turbulent Twenties or the Tepid Twenties, and what we actually want is Transformational Twenties,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. “Over the next 100 years leaders must aim for the same degree of wealth as that created over the past 100 years, but with much better distribution of the benefits of growth.”
 
Need for dialogue
“In a world fraught with uncertainty, the need for dialogue, understanding and cooperation has never been more important," said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum. “The Special Meeting in Saudi Arabia has served as a crucial platform for leaders to come together, confront our shared challenges, and map a path toward a more stable and prosperous future."
 
The meeting focused on three thematic pillars: inclusive growth, global collaboration and energy for development.
 
A compact for inclusive growth
Participants agreed that efforts to counter global fragmentation must include new ways to measure and kick-start economic growth. The Future of Growth Initiative advanced its two-year campaign to drive higher-quality economic growth, balancing innovation, inclusion, sustainability and resilience, with a meeting of the Future of Growth Consortium on country-level growth pathways as well as global collaboration. 
 
The Saudi Arabia Markets of Tomorrow Accelerator announced the completion of its first phase, identifying priority markets, and started its second phase of action plans to be co-designed with the private sector.
 
Technology’s role in advancing growth and development was central to the meeting. The importance of intelligent economies – where multiple intelligence systems such as AI, 5G and the Internet of Things work together rather than in isolation – was presented as a potential solution to driving greater innovation and prosperity in both the region and beyond.
 
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria, said the world is poised for profound technological change: “From the exponential advances of AI to the rapid development and deployment of vaccines, we could find ourselves at the cusp of a new age – an age that one might call the age of intelligent economies, where diffusion and interaction of different technologies underpinned by artificial intelligence could propel productivity to new heights and can engender a society of shared abundance.”
 
Centre for Space Futures
During the meeting, the Forum signed a collaboration agreement with the Space Agency of Saudi Arabia to establish a new Centre for Space Futures in Riyadh, the first of its kind. The Forum also launched a Strategic Cybersecurity Talent Framework, which outlines four priority areas where organisations can build sustainable talent pipelines and strengthen their cyber resilience in the face of increasingly complex and numerous global cyberthreats. In parallel, a report was published with guiding principles to enhance cyber resilience in manufacturing.
 
Participants agreed that efforts to revive growth and economic cooperation cannot succeed without equivalent investment in jobs, people and equity. A new Forum report from the Education 4.0 Initiative explored how AI could revolutionise education systems and how its responsible application could improve learning outcomes, personalise learning and streamline administrative tasks. The Forum also released a framework for governments or employers to expand a global digital workforce, as a key tool for advancing talent mobility.
 
Participants also discussed how to accelerate economic gender parity and the integration of youth. Noor Ali Alkhulaif, Minister of Sustainable Development of Bahrain, said: “What we're seeing is amazing in terms of recognition by the private sector of the importance of women. You cannot isolate half of society. It's almost easy maths - you add more inputs, you get more output.” 
 
Mae Al Mozaini, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Arab Institute for Women’s Empowerment highlighted the potential of youth to create change: “Young people are the future leaders already creating social innovation in our region and what's needed is partnerships with the public and private sector to make greater impact happen,” she said.
 
Eradication of polio
On health and healthcare, the meeting advanced dialogues and efforts on the eradication of polio. Saudi Arabia and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to work together to help protect 370 million children annually from polio and lift millions out of poverty across 33 countries. 
 
Separately, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said that the world was very close to achieving the goal of fully eradicating polio: “We're very close. We are in the last lap. Of course, the last mile is the hardest, but that's when we need to put in all our energy to cross the finish line.”
 
Revitalising global collaboration
The complex geopolitical backdrop was central to the dialogue at the Special Meeting. “We're at an inflection point. There are fundamental changes taking place in terms of geopolitical competition, but also global challenges that no country can effectively address alone,” said Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State. He stressed that “revitalising, reimagining, and reinvigorating alliances and partnerships around the world” would be the only way out of this period of polycrisis.
 
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, agreed: “Climate, demography, technology – everything requires more cooperation, and yet today we have less cooperation and trust.” He added that innovative and collaborative efforts would be the only way to effectively navigate the challenges facing the world.
 
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, delivered special remarks: “The first thing we ask for is a ceasefire. And secondly, we want the humanitarian aid to be able to reach the Palestinian people who are in dire need of it in all of Gaza. And third, we will not accept in any case, the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza or from the West Bank outside their country.”
 
"The world should unite in bringing about a sustained cease fire and ensures the continuous and sustained flow of humanitarian assistance and goods into Gaza," said Bisher Hani Al Khasawneh, Prime Minister of Jordan. Meanwhile, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli also called for the immediate creation of a Palestinian state. “Now, not tomorrow, the whole world should gather to recognise the right of Palestinians to have their own state,” he said.
 
“International trade and globalisation are the main driver for economic growth, and the main driver for inclusive growth. What developing and middle-income countries need is more transfer of technology, more foreign direct investment and more capacity building for their people in order to become more resilient and to become more agile to any external shocks." Hala H El Said Younes Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Egypt.
 
In response to increasing fragmentation, leaders reaffirmed the critical importance of international investment collaboration and public-private collaboration.
 
“The key thing for investors, in my opinion, is transparency, rule of law and the rules applied to everyone equally,” said Lubna Olayan, Chair of the Executive Committee, Olayan Financial Company, Olayan Group. Lawrence Fink, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BlackRock added that while there are many trends causing concern, there is also a great deal of optimism. “We're at a period of time [of] just incredible innovation and creativity.”
 
“With the geopolitical and socio-technological churn, companies are being asked to fill the void on social and other issues that policy has not dealt with,” said Peter Orszag, Chief Executive Officer of Lazard. He called for better policy-making that would account for the social challenges and the economic twists in the energy transition. “It is going to be expensive and it is going to be hard.”
 
The Forum welcomed two new countries, Oman and Cyprus, to the Digital FDI Initiative, which brings together government and business to create digital-friendly investment climates across various countries. And, in response to the Forum’s call for inclusive access to AI at the Annual Meeting 2024, Saudi Arabia will work with the Forum’s AI Governance Alliance on Inclusive AI for Growth and Development. The collaboration will identify challenges and solutions pertaining to global AI access.
 
Catalysing action on energy for development
The Special Meeting convened leaders and energy experts to strengthen the business and economic case for the energy transition by addressing financial viability, accelerating investment in clean energy especially in emerging markets, and ensuring the strength of energy transition supply chains. Many participants warned about the gravity of the climate crisis and stressed the importance of an equitable energy transition that underpins sustainable development.
 
“Climate change and sustainability is a global issue. It cannot be attended to in regional scopes. It has to be a global response,” stressed Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia.
 
The Forum is supporting the global community to reach Paris Agreement targets, while encouraging more investment in solutions that create systemic value including economic development, job creation, reduced emissions, cleaner air, and affordable energy.
 
Global Future Council
For example, new insight from the Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Energy Transition published a report on the geopolitical, environmental and economic consequences of big shifts in dependencies – away from oil and other fossil fuels and towards a raft of critical minerals such as lithium and copper. In addition, a collection of good practice examples was launched from both the public and private sectors aimed at integrating economic equity into the green transition.
 
“The importance is to do it in a way that's responsible for this generation and the next generation, and make sure that people that want to grow and countries that want to grow their economy have the same rights that the richer countries have all along,” said Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Minister of State for Energy Affairs of the State of Qatar.
 
"We must continue to increase our international co-operation on energy. We are advocating to set up a high-level platform around the globe in order to co-ordinate global policy and to encourage global technology [and] innovation,” said Li Zhenguo President, LONGi Green Energy Technology Co, Ltd. “Last but not least, we need the developed countries to deliver their commitments from the Paris Agreement to support the developing countries."
 
Numerous initiatives and reports were launched during the meeting to support and scale climate and sustainability solutions. UpLink, the Forum’s open innovation platform, launched a new Circular Carbon Economy Initiative, to source cutting-edge carbon-capture innovations globally. In parallel, UpLink launched the Sustainable Mining and Ocean Economy Challenges to identify and scale innovations to advance sustainable global mining industry and combat ocean degradation.--TradeArabia News Service
 



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