Davos 2012: The year for collective action?

Mabel van Oranje
Chair, Girls Not Brides
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Every year there is a prevailing ‘mood’ at Davos. Given the ongoing economic turmoil, I suspect that this year people will be feeling pretty grim.

What I expect however, or rather what I hope, is that we will not just discuss how to get ourselves out of the economic mess we are in, but that we will think about the bigger picture; about the need for a broader measure of the health and wealth of the world in which we live.

If members of the World Economic Forum want to live up to their commitment to improve the state of our world, we need to take into account the environmental and social issues that affect millions of people with whom we share it. In Davos Archbishop Tutu, Chair of The Elders, will call on global leaders to rise to the challenge of building a fairer and more equitable world, to close the gap between the haves and have-nots.

But we are not going to make that possible if we only speak to, and listen to, the same people we do every year. The World Economic Forum has made reat progress in bringing together a broader spectrum of thinkers and leaders to Davos, but all too often they move in different circles. The politicians, bankers and business leaders go to sessions tailored to them, the non-profit representatives and faith leaders go to others.

This year, if we are to make real progress, we need to break out of our silos. For me, the challenge will be to see how we can feed into sessions that concentrate on renewing economic growth and broaden the debate to how to ensure the benefits of that growth are felt by the wider global community.

I hope that participants at Davos 2012 attend discussions beyond their typical sphere of interaction, where the link to their daily work may not be immediately obvious and where they meet people they wouldn’t have thought of as partners for change and reform. I also hope to see women play a more prominent role in the proceedings. That is not to say that women are not part of the Davos agenda – there are definitely female participants – but they are still significantly under-represented.

The challenges that humanity is facing are greater in scope and scale than ever before. Finding solutions will require us to move out of our comfort zones – to challenge our own thinking and be open to fresh ideas and new perspectives. Will Davos 2012 be the moment that we really come together and collectively come up with solutions?

Mabel van Oranje is CEO of The Elders and a member of the Young Global Leaders alumni @MabelvanOranje

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