The scale and breadth of challenges that leaders face today has never been greater. Yet at the same time, never has their ability to break out of crisis mode to devise and implement long-term solutions been more limited.
This is the reality of our modern world, and it represents the scale of the challenge before us if we are to collectively address looming crises, such as climate change and resource scarcity, youth unemployment, income inequality and geopolitical tension.
Overcoming this paradox will be essential, and there are two key factors to doing so. First, we need to rethink how we address global governance. Existing institutions, created in the twentieth century for the twentieth century, cannot address these issues alone. Rather, a more visionary, long-term, horizontal approach to global decision-making is needed – one that draws upon the collaboration of all stakeholders, from all sectors of business to civil society.
Only this way will it be possible to gather the know-how, resources and energy to bring about lasting, sustainable change.
Second, we need to harness the massive wave of technological advancement the world is going through. We are entering a fourth industrial revolution that is fundamentally transforming systems as we know them, and could change – quietly, yet irreversibly – what it means to be human. This transformation has much to offer – in terms of clean energy; better, more responsive government; and economic opportunity in emerging industries such as neuroscience and space exploration.
Yet it also poses risks. As machines become capable of fulfilling the tasks of humans, the imperative to invest in human capital – people – becomes greater. The critical emphasis on education, skills and entrepreneurship throughout the working life not only provides protection from robotisation and disintermediation of tasks, but also lays the groundwork for more sustainable, inclusive growth.
These are the challenges that will be discussed this week in Abu Dhabi.
The Network of Global Agenda Councils fills the governance gap that the world so badly needs, and in partnership with the leadership of the UAE, provides a platform for invention and innovation to focus on solutions for addressing many of our global challenges.
Klaus Schwab is the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
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