Nine ways WEF says it's helping to build a 'shared future'

Key Points
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) is often criticized for being not much more than a talking shop but it begs to differ.
  • The Forum has put together a list of nine ways it believes it is helping to build a "shared future."
An attendee in the audience takes a photograph on a smartphone device during a special session at the World Economic Forum (WEF), in this photograph taken with a tilt-shift lens, in Davos, Switzerland, on Thur
Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2018 is centered on the theme "Creating a shared future in a fractured world."

This year's aim is to tie together some of the organization's previous themes and ongoing topics of discussion, including the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution', climate change and tackling the productivity crisis in labor markets.

The Forum is often criticized for being not much more than a talking shop for politicians, policymakers and businessmen and women. But it begs to differ, saying its work brings "key stakeholders" together in one place to discuss the world's problems and find shared solutions to these.

WEF has put together a list of nine ways it believes it is helping to build a "shared future." Here they are in the Forum's own words:

1) Re-defining growth: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has long been used as the principal yardstick for economic growth. In the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, climate change and rising income inequality, however, its veracity as a measure of national economic accomplishment is increasingly called into question. The Forum's System Initiative on the Future of Economic Progress is helping redefine notions and the measurement of growth around inclusiveness and sustainability.

2) Skilling up for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Emerging technologies are inevitably going to cause widespread job displacement, which adds to the urgency to future-proof our current and future workforces' skillsets. The Forum's Education, Gender and Work team will brief leaders on the most valuable and most vulnerable skills and update on efforts to foster a massive worldwide re-skilling program.

3) Beating the productivity crisis: Historically low productivity means lower living standards and less money to invest in the future. Through its Future of Production system initiative, the Forum is engaged in a major collaboration with countries and businesses of all sizes across sectors to transform manufacturing and production systems in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

4) Meeting the Climate Challenge: Two years on from the Paris Climate Agreement, a new generation of business leaders is leading from the front when it comes to meeting commitments to limit global warming.

5) Planning for the future: The global pension time bomb is the financial equivalent of climate change. Through longer living and poor planning, the savings gap in the world's largest pension systems will dwarf the global economy by 2050. The annual meeting will continue efforts to discover ways we can live until 100 without financially crippling future generations.

6) Broadening the benefits of trade: Despite the absence of landmark multilateral trade treaties, the focus in 2018 will be on finding ways for trade to benefit more people. Leaders in Davos will be looking to support active initiatives including the WTO/eWTP/Forum initiative Enabling Ecommerce, which aims to help SMEs and entrepreneurs better use international ecommerce, and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation.

7) Making ends meet: The rate at which we are using our world's scarce resources is unsustainable. The annual meeting will drive forward a number of initiatives aimed at reducing our reliance on them, from promoting a circular economy based on re-use and recycling to pioneering new alternatives to meat, tackling human rights abuses in mining and addressing the health risks of ewaste.

8) Governing the Fourth Industrial Revolution: If we plan correctly, the next great shift in human history could be the first that humanity has successfully predicted, planned and prepared for. Central to putting humans at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be equipping leaders with the knowledge, tools and structure to navigate the change, the subject of a major book to be launched at the annual meeting.

9) Shaping policy for emerging technologies: Formally opened in March 2017, the Forum's Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco brings together governments, businesses, start-ups, civil society, academia and international organizations to co-design innovative governance protocols and policy frameworks for emerging technologies. The center already has eight projects under way and has signed three government partners and 20 business partners. The annual meeting will see further announcements around the international network of government and business partners as well as the work of the center.

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