WEF founder Klaus Schwab talks to Globe Asia
In your view what are the three trends that will shape the global economic landscape over the next decade?
In my mind, the three global trends which will shape the global agenda – and not just the economic landscape – are increased complexity, a retreat from globalism and demographics. On the first point, we live in a world characterized by global risks and disruptions such as resource scarcity, natural catastrophes and growing income inequality. The world has never faced so many challenges simultaneously, but increased globalization means we are ever more interconnected and face these challenges as a global community.
The second trend is worrisome given that we find ourselves exactly at a time where these complex global challenges require global thinking and solutions. However, in the next 2 years alone, many G20 economies will have elections meaning that national interests take priority over international issues. This will make it difficult in the near term to find international consensus on pressing issues such as global trade agreement or commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
Finally, we must remind ourselves that this interconnected world is a younger and dynamic one – one in which 50% of the global population is under the age of 27, increasingly urban and also more and more expectant of positive change. Therefore, new global players – in particular non-state actors – are emerging at an unforseen pace. The defining trend that will characterize the next decade is how we as a global community address these challenges collectively within this new fluid global power structure. Clearly, we need new models of collaboration and coopera- tion to address these issues.
How has the agenda of the World Economic Forum changed over the past decade? What do these changes reflect?
Naturally, as the global social and economic landscape is constantly evolving, the World Economic Forum’s agenda is not only adapting to but even anticipat- ing these rapid changes. The Forum has always been and continues to be the world’s only platform convening decision-makers from all walks of life – not just business and governments, but also from civil society, academia and other international organizations.
In today’s new reality, the Forum has undertaken two significant initiatives. Firstly, we have established the world’s first Risk Response Network, which not only responds to an urgent need of the global community for an insurance based approach to problems, and not simply issue based reactions.
Secondly, the Forum has strength- ened its integration into the global gov- ernance system through the creation of a Policy Coordination Board, which will allow us to shape our initiatives and activities in better coordination with other international organizations and to make sure that we are really re- spond to strategic needs in meeting the challenges on the global agenda. The World Economic Forum is also mobilizing its business community to help tackle global challenges through the G20 process.
The rise of Asia has been widely discussed at the World Economic Forum over the past few years. Did you foresee this a decade ago?
The World Economic Forum has always had very deep relationships in Asia. For example, we have had relations with China for well over 30 years now: the Forum was the first non- government institution to partner with China’s economic development commissions. We have also been engaged in India for nearly 30 years.
This June we will host our 20th anniversary World Economic Forum on East Asia meeting in Jakarta mark- ing the first time we host this event in Indonesia after having been held in Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and Singapore. So, in a way you can say that Asia has always been a major part of the World Economic Forum.
Should Asia follow a different development model than that of the West? If yes, what should this model look like?
No, because there is no one single “Western model” of development just as much as Asia has grown over the past decades through a variety of different economic models. One must be mindful of the Asia’s particular geographic, cultural and political diversity, and Asian economies are also at vary- ing stages economic development.
Therefore, it is not useful to discuss Western vs Asian models of develop- ment, but rather to look at sustainable models of development, regardless in which part of the world we are. It is clear that we need to transition to a low-carbon economy if we are to avert the most damaging effects of climate change. For this, we need to integrate ecological costs into business models and support investments in clean en- ergy industries.
I mentioned growing resource scarcity earlier: with a booming world population, meeting our future food, water and energy needs presents a very real and urgent growth conundrum. But the potential for creating a wholly transformed resource-efficient economy offers tremendous opportunities for sustainable growth. So development models today are neither “Asian” or “Western” – the need to be “green” and “sustainable” models.