What first comes to your mind when you hear or read the word “development”? I personally visualize women’s empowerment projects, vaccination campaigns, school feeding programmes, microfinance initiatives, and not to mention humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction, responsibility to protect, cluster approach … I could go on. What I mean is that when I think about development, my brain automatically associates it with aid.
What’s the new context for development? This year at Davos, the answer – at least the one I made for myself digesting all those insights I collected – was clear: if you’re looking for something new you will be disappointed.
Inequalities have grown. They have kept growing. During several sessions, including the one on Haiti’s reconstruction with President Martelly, panellists have again underlined the message that we need to move from aid to growth. And when they say “growth”, they mean a sustainable, inclusive one. How many times will this message be repeated until action is taken so that panels no longer sound like broken records? And at the same time, this appetite for action can be dangerous. As Emerson said, “manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste.”
The development-related activities of the World Economic Forum illustrate how much time is needed as a true, equitable and fruitful multistakeholder dialogue cannot be built in a day. There was this session in particular on leading under pressure from which came three takeaways: pay attention to symbolism; keep a cool head; and as rushing won’t help, try to gain some time. And that’s exactly what came to my mind yesterday, while listening to the Open Forum session on Remodelling Capitalism. We will certainly not remodel anything in one-and-a-half hours, nor find a new, transformative, one-size-fits-all, ready-to.use new model after a five-day meeting, even in Davos.
To set up a model and a plan to turn it into reality, we need time. We need also stakeholders who take responsibility for developing this model, no matter what their political colour is, no matter what the election calendar is. Just as Tunisia will soon start rewriting its constitution, we need each country to come with a renewed social contract, which reflects a long-term vision. This will happen through a coordinated and inclusive approach.
Coordination saves lives, as the motto of a humanitarian organization says. Coordination also takes time. So, while we are defining what the new models are, and taking some time that we do not really have in those periods of exacerbated inequalities and tensions, I like to remind myself that values are not only necessary but will prevent us from mass craziness.
In my opinion, one value is particularly needed from now on to avoid chaos – solidarity – because as Elfriede Jelinek said, “Eroding solidarity paradoxically makes a society more susceptible to the construction of substitute collectives and fascisms of all kinds.”
Olivia Bessat, Senior Manager, Global Agenda Council Team, World Economic Forum
Pictured: Hands in Solidarity, Hands of Freedom mural on the side of the United Electrical Workers trade union building on West Monroe Street at Ashland Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, flickr