Meeting global challenges means revamping governance systems: Summit on the Global Agenda 2015

ABU DHABI, 27th October 2015 (WAM) — The world is ill-equipped to address complex global challenges that require collaboration at a time of rapid and profound technological changes, warned experts on leadership, governance and technology during the closing session of the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2015, currently being held in Abu Dhabi.
“Are we investing enough in institutions that enable the platforms [to accommodate] different perspectives?” asked Diana Farrell, Chief Executive Officer and President of JPMorgan Chase Institute in the US. “We need a common platform to connect the dots. But we are so far away from that.” Governments can take a long time to produce legislation and implement major programmes, and once they do, the policies may already be obsolete, Farrell said. Politics can get in the way too, she noted. “We have a disconnect between people who are trying to address real problems and the political show. Having closer accountability and judging politicians on their jobs rather than random political narratives would help a lot.”
Attempts to recast governance systems for the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution so that they are more responsive and responsible in addressing the major global challenges, may not work if attention is not paid to what the end result should be. “As you build technologies that go vertically deep, you have to think about the whole ecosystem,” Sara Menker, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gro Intelligence in Kenya, remarked. “What is the world we want to see and, from there, we have to seek and design actively the world we want. If we are constantly trying to get ready for what is coming, we will never be ready for anything,” Menker observed. “It is really about balancing between addressing immediate needs and thinking about the future.”
But amid the volatility and continuous transformation, is it even possible to determine the world that we do want? “People’s attitudes move faster than social norms,” said Eldar Shafir, William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University in the US. Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford in the UK, saw the challenge in generational terms. “We have got to think in a more millennial way about the institutions we are designing. If new technologies are going to embed norms, then we need fantastic global processes for generating those norms. It really ups the change.”
Despite all the changes going on in the world, “we have institutions that give us that moment of stillness with which we can build trust with one another,” Woods explained. “Let’s remember that we do need that stillness of institutions to build trust and develop this process of norm-setting.” Values, too, are crucial. “We see values as helping get the direction we want and as crucial in providing the motor and means to get there,” said Stewart Wallis, Executive Director of the New Economics Foundation in the UK and the Vice-Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Values, speaking from the floor. “Having the values discussion is essential for our goals and how to get there. Otherwise we won’t make it.”
Later, in closing remarks, Philipp Rosler, Head of the Centre for Regional Strategies at the Forum, told participants that the summit had demonstrated how important it is to bring to the table the Forum’s brain trust. “We are convinced that we can only deal with all the global challenges with a public-private mindset,” he said.
Summit Co-Chair, Ali Majed Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, acknowledged that it may take time for ideas and proposals to become actions that have impact. Fellow Co-Chair, Sultan Saeed Nasser AlMansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, said, “We are working together for one agenda – a better world that we want to have. There is no more critical time to have this exchange of ideas.”
The 8th Summit on the Global Agenda, the third to be held in Abu Dhabi, brought together over 900 thought leaders and experts from academia, government, business, civil society and the media – the members of the World Economic Forum’s network of 86 Global Agenda Councils. The goal of what is the world’s largest global brainstorming exercise is to formulate crosscutting solutions to, and actions on, some of the world’s toughest challenges. Many of these ideas and proposals will inform the deliberations and debates at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2016, in Davos-Klosters.