This year’s economic forum includes discussion surrounding the fourth industrial revolution and climate change
What is the World Economic Forum?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an annual conference held in Davos, Switzerland where global leaders, CEOs, and experts come together to discuss “global, regional, and industry agendas” to kick off the year. This year, the theme is “Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”; in essence, it deals with how technology such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and facial recognition have an influence on our lives. Because of the government shutdown, Donald Trump will not be attending, and neither will Theresa May, Emmerson Mnangagwa, or Emmanuel Macron. Likewise, their absence has shifted the spotlight to a number of other important activists and speakers.
In a nutshell
The WEF made many accomplishments this year that range from shaping the global agenda to fighting climate change. Here are the highlights:
Oversight of the tech sector: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan pledged to use his country’s G20 Chairmanship to focus on global data governance. He is backed by leaders of South Africa, China, and Germany, who have agreed in pushing for the expansion of the World Trade Organization to include trade in data and create a “common digital market.”
Responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution: In 2017, the Forum launched the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, aiming to help shape policies surrounding emerging technology such as artificial intelligence, drones, and blockchain. This year, it expanded to include Colombia, Israel and the UAE. The C4IR Japan created a campaign striving for the development of sustainable smart cities; this ensures that smart cities are developed on the same principles and contain proper policies. Furthermore, the Forum discussed digital identity and how to increase transparency and privacy.
Diplomacy: Mohammed Ashraf Ghani, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan vowed to make Afghanistan a democracy, while the representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia advanced negotiations of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Addressing Inequality: Continuing the “Closing the Skills Gap Initiative,” which provides training to reskill and upskill workers affected by technological advances.
Battling Climate Change: The Forum started with a prize to Sir David Attenborough for his “contribution to environmentalism.” President Al Gore from New Zealand launched the “Voice for the Planet” campaign, which seeks to allow nature and people to coexist. The Forum also set in motion a $15 million project to build a “formal electronic recycling industry” in Nigeria, in light of statistics that demonstrated the major health and environmental risks correlated with e-waste. Furthermore, Peru pledged to reduce deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon by joining the Tropical Forest Alliance. The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), a body that aims to eliminate plastic waste in Asia’s oceans, began its first partnership with Indonesia and Vietnam. One of the most significant advances was that 25 major businesses partnered with Teracycle to promote reusable packaging. Finally, the Forum ended with 16-year old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg instructing global leaders that climate change was something they should “panic” about.
Amid the US government shutdown and the approach of Brexit, many of the big players were missing from the 2019 Forum. Regardless, the problems of the rapid fourth industrial revolution and the increasingly concerning climate change data remain. Although a plethora of initiatives and campaigns were launched, whether actions will make a difference will be up to how much domestic turmoil gets in the way.
Bradsher, Keith, and Katrin Bennhold. “World Leaders at Davos Call for Global Rules on Tech.” The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2019. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/technology/world-economic-forum-data-controls.html.
“Davos 2019 – Where Is Davos, Will Donald Trump Be There and What Is This Year’s Theme?” The Sun, 27 Jan. 2019, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8031330/when-is-davos-2019-theme-prince-william-david-attenborough/.
“33 Ways Davos 2019 Made an Impact on the World.” World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/shaping-the-future-at-davos-2019/. Accessed 9 Feb. 2019.
Elliott, Larry. “Davos 2019: The Yawning Gap between Rhetoric and Reality | Larry Elliott.” The Guardian, 27 Jan. 2019. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/27/davos-2019-the-yawning-gap-between-rhetoric-and-reality.
Greta Thunberg Un Climate Conference Super.