The venue of the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland (XINHUA)
The 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting was held in Davos, Switzerland on January 22-25, with Globalization 4.0 as its theme, as risks hang over global growth from rising nationalism, protectionism and political uncertainties emanating from some developed countries. World political and business elites concluded their brainstorming sessions on the future of a new wave of globalization. The following is an edited excerpt of a Xinhua News Agency report on the meeting:
The 2019 WEF Annual Meeting wrapped up on January 25 in the snow-covered town of Davos, Switzerland after four days of packed sessions. Attended by hundreds of world leaders from all walks of life, the meeting discussed topics such as current global challenges, the future of Europe, saving the world's oceans and setting rules for the artificial intelligence (AI) race.
This year's theme was Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, what may have impressed the world most may have been these four key words: cooperation, inclusion, AI and reskilling.
Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, explained that since the challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) are coinciding with the rapid emergence of many problems concerning global governance, a new era of globalization needs to be shaped, Globalization 4.0.
For many major problems, Globalization 4.0 represents both the outcomes and solutions. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lists these issues as: global politics and geopolitical tensions, the slowdown of the global economy, climate change, immigration and digitalization.
In a special address to the meeting, Guterres said that in order to achieve a better world, there is no other way to deal with global challenges than with global responses, organized in a multilateral way.
"If I had to choose one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated and the responses are more and more fragmented. And if this is not reversed, it's a recipe for disaster," he noted.
"It needs to be a multilateralism in which not only states are part of the system, but the business community, civil society and academia are all part of analyzing the problems, so as to define strategies and policies and then implement them," he added.
Against the backdrop of 4IR, Guterres highlighted digital cooperation, saying, "We need to find a minimum consensus in the world on how to integrate these new technologies into existing rules."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also presented a strong defense for the collaborative development of a new global architecture. In her address, she said all major problems, including the future of AI, will require global cooperation and engagement through a collective architecture.
"I stand here before you as someone who believes fully in the international order," she said.
The 4IR was, of course, one of the core concepts behind all of the discussions during this year's WEF meeting. It is creating huge economic opportunities while also raising concerns about the many changes it will bring.
According to the latest WEF figures, the 4IR is projected to unlock $3.7 trillion in economic value by 2025, and digital flows now exert a larger impact on GDP growth than merchandise trade, making it easier for companies to globalize with less capital-intensive business models.
For IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, one of the major negative effects of the 4IR is that it could leave many people disenfranchised and left behind.
The question is: How can we ensure the full use of digital globalization but at the same time avoid its negative effects? The answer is inclusion.
"There is always a moment in every industrial revolution where inequality grows. We then have to create a social revolution. Without it the industrial revolution keeps misfiring," Hilary Cottam, author and entrepreneur, told the forum.
This does not happen by accident, she stressed, "It happens by design." And the state has a critical role to play in creating the new architecture.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said at the meeting that according to a study by the organization, extreme economic inequality is out of control and at present, 10,000 people die every day because they can't access public healthcare.
Even with technological changes, she added, we now have a global economy that is rigged in such a way that a few are better off while most others are not. "We have to implore governments to get behind managing economies better," she said.
According to Subramanian Rangan, professor of strategy and management at the INSEAD Europe Campus, since Nordic countries have less inequality and are the highest technology adopters, technology is not the problem, but the way people use it, he said.
"We need moral capital to complement this cyber capital. If you are not willing to sacrifice things, there will be no trust," he argued.
For e-commerce giant Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the reason some people don't believe in globalization is because it is not inclusive. His answer is to include many more people in the process.
"In the last 20 years, globalization was controlled by 60,000 companies worldwide, imagine if we could expand that to 60 million businesses," Ma said.
AI was the most popular subject of discussion at Davos this year. According to the latest WEF figures, AI is projected to manage $1 trillion in assets by 2020, transform the world in dramatic ways and be the fastest growing trend in business during the 4IR.
AI is ensuring efficient operating systems for merchants, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said, adding that he found all the excitement around AI amusing, given that Alibaba has been using the technology for years.
Amitabh Kant, CEO of the National Institution for Transforming India, said that the objective of AI should be transformation for the benefit of all to ensure AI doesn't remain elitist.
According to Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman of Siemens, the most important thing is that AI should be used to enhance human capability, not just to replace it.
Another hot topic at this year's Davos was reskilling, or learning today for tomorrow's jobs. According to a WEF report released just ahead of the meeting, a total of 1.4 million U.S. workers may lose their jobs as a result of the 4IR, with other structural changes to come in the next decade.
The report also found it is possible to transition 95 percent of at-risk workers into positions that have similar skill levels and higher wages through reskilling.
Figures released by the WEF showed that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will graduate into jobs that do not yet exist, implying that a new learning and reskilling revolution will be necessary to prepare workers and societies for the soon-to-be future.
Even in the educationally advanced U.S., some panelists at the meeting said, as many as 43 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed in their first job out of college.
Bill Thomas, Global Chairman of KPMG, said that since the pace of change is increasing, the commitment to lifelong learning is going to become a competitive advantage if companies want to attract new generations.
"Today access to capital is easier than access to skills," said Muriel Penicaud, France's Minister of Labor, who also outlined her reskilling proposal which includes giving employees 500 euros ($569) a year to choose their own training program.
"Many of our citizens think they are victims of globalization and technology. When you are not in the driver's seat, change is always a threat. You need to be in the driver's seat, you need to be able to choose your future," she said.
According to Julie Gebauer, head of Human Capital and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson, there are a whole set of human skills that are going to be important in the future such as the ability to interact with clients, global skills, the ability to use digital technology, complex problem-solving abilities and agile thinking.
"I don't think computers are going to take that away any time soon," she said.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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