Top quotes and stories from our meeting in Dubai

Participants at the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2016 Image: World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

Ross Chainey
Content Lead, UpLink, World Economic Forum
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The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils - our network of forward-looking thinkers from business, government, civil society and academia - is wrapping up in Dubai. From the aftermath of the US election to the countries millennials most want to work in, here are a few highlights from the meeting.

8 predictions for the world in 2030

We asked experts from our Global Future Councils for their take on the world in 2030, and these are the results: the death of shopping, humans on Mars, the end of US dominance and a global price on carbon. Read the full series here.

Looking to the future, Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future of the United Arab Emirates, announced that his government would implement a six-point plan to harness the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including setting up a network of regional experts.

"We're looking at the UAE as the world's largest innovation lab," he said.

What is a Global Future Council?

Our meeting in Dubai brings together members of all 35 of our Councils – but what are they, and what do they do?

Here’s a handy explainer. “You might call them groups of experts. Experts in lots of things, in fact,” writes Oliver Cann, Head of Media Content at the World Economic Forum.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of in-depth interviews with a member of each of the Councils. What are the main trends we should be looking out for in their area of expertise, how are these shaping our lives, and where are we likely to find ourselves by 2030?

“Artificial intelligence and robotics are coming into our lives more than ever before”, says Duke University’s Mary Cummings in her interview. This process is only going to accelerate, she adds, and AI has the potential to “transform healthcare, transport, manufacturing, even our domestic chores.”

Elsewhere in the series, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross believes that technology has the power to transform our response to humanitarian crises, while Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, argues that the world of work and education is changing so rapidly that, by 2030, we could all be our own boss.

After the election

Reflecting on the “soul-searching” underway following the bitterly contested US election, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said in the opening session (which you can watch again in full here):

“A significant part of the global elite lost the sense of solidarity when it was needed more than ever before. We’re living in a world of transparency and such a world cannot tolerate too much inequality.”

Globalization, which has lifted millions out of people out of poverty in emerging markets, was the wrong target for discontented voters in the West, he added.

“The problem that we have is not globalization. The problem is a lack of global governance, a lack of means to address global issues.”

Striking a hopeful tone, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future for the United Arab Emirates, said: "The future is owned by those who imagine, design, and implement it.

For more on the global implications of Trump's election victory, watch this discussion between experts from the Brookings Institution and the Forum.

The election result, coming on top of Brexit, called the profession of polling into question. In our supposed age of post-truth politics, what should the role of experts be when their predictions don’t appear to ring true? Thomas Hale, Associate Professor in Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, discussed this with our Facebook fans.

The future of leadership

In a session on responsive and responsible leadership, Gemma Mortensen, Chief Global Officer of the citizens' campaigning platform, said that the nature of power was changing.

"It’s a moment where frankly we can't and shouldn't rely on existing leaders. Platforms like and others can empower people who are otherwise disenfranchised from the political system." You can watch the full session below.


Ratna Omidvar, a Canadian Senator who emigrated from India, also spoke of the problems with politics as normal.

"I think political leadership is opportunistic and it has to be, because of the election cycle," she said. However, she said that "as an immigrant, I have three passports in my life, I want to see points of light in all this discourse about difficulties and betrayals."

She praised Angela Merkel’s welcome to refugees as an example of "a leader who stepped up and behaved in a way that was values-based, that served the common good and not just the interest of her political party."

"Leadership is about taking hope from those who are charting a different path. I want to strike a note of optimism rather than complete despair."

Without a doubt, the people who have suffered the most from failings of global leadership are refugees fleeing conflict and finding no safe welcome, let alone a chance to rebuild a dignified life. Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said:

“Trust into leadership evaporates with communities when they see that their problems are not adequately addressed, neither at the national level nor at the international arena.”

Will we still have refugees by 2030?

This was a personal issue for Lorna Solis. In a live interview on our Facebook page, the founder of Blue Rose Compass, an organisation that educates refugees and puts them forward for university scholarships, talked about her experience of fleeing Nicaragua when she was just nine, and what the outcome of the US election means for refugees all over the world.

“The night of the election I had a deluge of emails from students – at Yale, at Princeton – who were scared. That’s not the country that welcomed me so beautifully. That’s a different America. The election is a direct attack on my work.

“It’s fuelled a fire in me that whatever I was doing needs to be scaled up in a big way to help more refugees. I think things are going to get harder for refugees, in terms of mobility, visas and access to employment. Other countries may sway to Trump’s ideology.”


She spoke of her hope for a system which saw refugees as an opportunity rather than a burden by 2030.

Where do millennials most want to work?

While millions are displaced by conflict, economic factors are also leading to a world on the move. Young people who would like to move overseas to get ahead in their careers say China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would be their top emerging market destinations, according to the Forum's Global Shapers survey.

Around 20,000 millennials, aged 18-35, took part. Interestingly, the survey found that millennials still value salary (54%) and career advancement (46%) over a sense of purpose and impact on society (37%) in their jobs. This is the global snapshot, however. Split the results between developed and developing nations, and a different picture emerges.

While a sense of purpose is the top priority among millennials from Western countries, in major emerging economies, such as China and India, salary and career advancement remain the most important job criteria. This is also true in the UAE.

Human boots, Martian soil

It's possible by the 2030s, says NASA's Chief Scientist, Ellen Stofan. She outlines what it will take to put people on the red planet here, while you can catch up with her interview on Facebook below.

Space-age technology, on your daily commute

It takes over an hour to fly from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. But this man wants to cut the trip to 12 minutes with a "hyperloop", a transport system that could propel commuters through underground tunnels at supersonic speed. Marvin Ammori of Hyperloop One told our Facebook audience what it would take to turn this audacious idea into reality.

Keeping the promise of Paris

Despite widening international backing for the landmark Paris climate agreement, the administration of US President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly looking for the quickest way to exit the accord.

Earlier in the year, the joint announcement by China and the US that they would ratify the agreement was heralded as a huge step towards affirmative climate action.

So, with Trump’s shock election victory, what can be done to keep the agreement on track?

Not surprisingly, this issues came up in our session, Keeping the Promise of Paris. Joan Clos, Undersecretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (more commonly known as UN-Habitat), said:

“We will see what is the reaction of the new administration of the United States. But do not expect immediate changes, because the processes of these international negotiations are long.

“I think we all know what we expect to happen… but apart from the US there is a growing legion of more and more member states to the agreement and I am sure that now in Marrakech at COP22 quite a lot of other countries will adhere.”

How important is it that the US, one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, sticks to its promises?

Leonardo Beltran Rodriguez, Deputy Secretary for Planning and Energy Transition, Ministry of Energy of Mexico, said: “It’s both crucial to have coordination, in terms of what each country is trying to accomplish… In Paris, the commitments were made based upon the assumption that you are going to do what’s best for your country… domestic interest that reaches out to the global interest.

“It’s crucial to have as many countries on board, particularly ones as large as China and the US.”

Here's the full session:

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