By Jola Chudy
Mirek Dusek, deputy head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs and member of the World Economic Forum's Executive Committee, shines a spotlight on this not-for-profit global game changer
The World Economic Forum has since 1971, been the leading independent international organisation for private and public cooperation.
It brings together leaders from business, politics and society to shape global agendas.
Ahead of the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai, Mirek Dusek, deputy head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs and member of the World Economic Forum's Executive Committee, shines a spotlight on this not-for-profit global game changer
What is the mandate of the WEF?
The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, committed to improving the state of the world. It does this by bringing together the most relevant leaders from across the world and all sectors of society to trigger the systemic changes needed to address common challenges such as the sustainability and climate imperatives, trade and geopolitical tensions, and cybercrime.
How does the Global Future Councils connect with WEF?
The Global Future Councils is the world’s foremost interdisplinary knowledge network that acts as an advisory board for the World Economic Forum. Over 700 of the world’s leading experts have the unique opportunity to advance innovative thinking and to seek solutions to the challenges that will shape the future, from governance of new technologies to protection of the environment to the healing of divisions within and between societies. At the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, experts can tackle mounting global challenges with fresh thinking and collaborative solutions across business, government and civil society, marking the beginning of their contribution to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters as well as the forum’s regional and industry events.
Who are some of the notable members?
Our Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils in 2018 brought together many high-level experts including:
How can UAE companies join or get involved? What are the criteria?
For us, it’s important to work with experts in companies that can share their knowledge on different topics such as future of biotechnologies and the future of virtual and augmented realities. They know the trends and have a vision for broader topics on which the forum also works including AI and sustainability. One example is the cities and urbanisation council which identified 25 solutions and projects for smart cities.
Why was Dubai chosen as the venue for the annual meeting of the GFC?
The World Economic Forum and the United Arab Emirates enjoy long-standing relations that range from the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils to the Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator to reskilling and upskilling the UAE’s workforce.
One of our main joint milestones is the establishment of the UAE C4IR Affiliate Centre that aims to advance public-private cooperation on the governance of emerging technologies and to shape the development of national and regional Fourth Industrial Revolution strategies. The Affiliate Centre focuses on Blockchain and distributed ledger, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and precision medicine.
Increasingly since the 1970s, businesses are entering a sphere previously the preserve of governments. Why and how has this happened. Is it a positive or negative thing?
In 1973, participants at the Annual Meeting created the “Davos Manifesto” based on Klaus Schwab’s stakeholder concept. At its core was the idea that companies are not just responsible to their shareholders but also have a responsibility to serve society. This benefits society at large and serves the interest of businesses. This still holds true today and the recent backlash over our current economic system is a reminder that companies must not lose touch with their stake-holders.
Sustainability is a megatrend of our times – do you feel that Professor Klaus Schwab foretold the issues facing the planet today?
The challenge of marrying targets for protecting the Earth with ones for growth and boosting economies has been at the heart of conversations at the World Economic Forum since the early days of the organization. The findings of the landmark Limits of Growth Study commissioned by the Club of Rome were presented in Davos and conservationist Jacques Cousteau attended in 1973. More recently, the Global Risks Report, which assesses the risks landscapes and identifies priority areas for action, has seen environmental threats topping the list for several years in a row. This in turn has informed much of our impact-driven work around the environment and laid the foundations for leading conservationists like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough to focus minds in Davos.
What is more, as the most water-stressed region in the world, the Middle East and North Africa is acutely vulnerable to climate change and faces chronic waste and pollution problems. To counter these threats and accelerate circular economy transition through emerging technologies, we have set up the Scale 360 project on which governments and business leaders from the UAE and the region will collaborate.
What are some notable achievements that are a direct result of WEF / GFC networking?
There are many examples of how different councils made advances in their specific topics over the last year, like for instance the Global Future Council on Space Technologies which has begun work with MIT on Space Sustainability Rating, the Financial Literacy Innovation Challenge launched by the Financial and Monetary Systems GFC to improve financial literacy (this year’s winner does so in Ghana and South Africa with a AI chatbot), and the GFC on Mobility’s Corporate Mobility Transport Challenge which highlights the role of the private sector in adopting more sustainable ways of moving around. But the Annual Meeting is also an opportunity for attendees to discover forum knowledge as was the case last year with the Future Frontier Survey for instance, a report which explores areas of scientific research that have the most potential and cause the greatest concern for humankind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
What are the key objectives and challenges that the GFC aims to solve?
By bringing together experts on all the topics covered in various councils, the forum aims to have an inclusive and future-oriented approach to key global challenges. Scoping trends and developments, identifying global and regional shifts, understanding what drives and enables the Fourth Industrial Revolution are all some of the objectives of the GFC. The GFCs have also the role to inform the World Economic Forum’s strategic initiatives by providing feedback on the direction of existing projects as well as new areas of focus.
At the Dubai event in November, what topics will be covered?
There will be 41 councils focusing on topics such as mobility, trade, cybersecurity, mental health but working together to co-create and accelerate a sustainable future for all will be the main conversation starter at this year’s meeting. This is also closely linked to the Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters 2019 theme which will be Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.
Who can attend Global Future Councils?
The Global Future Councils are by invitation but the sessions are available to the general public at wef.ch/amgfc19. We also have transformation maps, publicly available knowledge tools about key issues on the global agenda, which are used in preparation of the meeting and during the sessions. They are published at intelligence.weforum.org.
The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2019 will take place from 3-4 November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates