• The World Economic Forum had a busy year, beginning with climate activist Greta Thunberg's remarks at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Davos.
  • Klaus Schwab called for a better kind of capitalism with the launch of the Forum’s Davos Manifesto.
  • Other highlights include discussions about the Middle East, extraordinary growth in Bangladesh and how to solve our plastic waste problem.

1. ‘Our house is on fire’

Greta Thunberg, Sweden at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 25, 2019
Greta Thunberg at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos
Image: Mattias Nutt

When Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg spoke about climate change at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January, her message sparked global action. Over the past 12 months, Thunberg has become a household name, appearing at the United Nations and being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

By March 2019, more than 2 million students in 135 countries were attending the school climate protests she started just seven months earlier. In December 2019, Oxford Dictionaries announced “climate emergency” as the word of the year.

2. A vision of change in the Middle East

Impressions during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, Jordan 2019. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Faruk Pinjo
Impressions during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, Jordan 2019. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Faruk Pinjo
Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum/Faruk Pinjo

Delegates gathered by the Dead Sea in Jordan in April for the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa. They spoke about building new platforms for cooperation in order to thrive in an era of globalization – and about the possibility of overcoming some of the Middle East’s most entrenched issues.

“My only option is to live and let live,” said Saeb Erekat, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Palestinian National Authority, of a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis.

3. Young people lead the way on plastic

Bali generates enough plastic every day to fill a 14-story building, with 95% of plastic bags thrown away. Sixteen-year-old Isabel Wisjen, along with her 12-year-old sister, Melati, embarked on a campaign to eradicate plastic waste on her home island.

In June, single-use plastics were banned in Bali. The following month, Wisjen brought her message to the Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China, another one of the year's highlights.

4. Bangladesh’s extraordinary growth story

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh speaking during the Session
Sheikh Hasina at the Forum’s India Economic Summit 2019
Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was one of the co-chairs at the Forum’s India Economic Summit 2019 in New Delhi in October, which focused on the theme, “Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World.”

Once one of the world’s poorest nations, Bangladesh is now the fastest-growing economy in Asia, and could lose its “least developed country” status within five years – in part because of its agile economic approach.

As the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2019 shows, enhancing competitiveness is key to improving living standards. The number of employed workers living below the poverty line in Bangladesh dropped from 73.5% in 2010 to 10.4% in 2018.

5. Looking to the future in Dubai

Experts gathering in Dubai for the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils.
Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum/Jacob Polacsek

Nearly 700 experts from around the world gathered in Dubai in November for the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils. They shared bright ideas on how to build a better future, at a time when urgent progress is needed on sustainable development.

Delegates considered how that progress is playing out when it comes to the rapid transition from fossil-based to zero-carbon economies.

They also discussed the need to prepare for the future of work in the age of autonomy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution – as outlined in the Forum report Policy Pathways for the New Economy.

6. A new Davos Manifesto

As we move towards our next Annual Meeting in Davos, and to mark its 50th anniversary, the World Economic Forum just launched a new Davos Manifesto, calling for the implementation of stakeholder capitalism.

Klaus Schwab Davos Manifesto 2019
The Davos Manifesto for 2019
Image: World Economic Forum

Stakeholder capitalism is about more than just profit. It positions private corporations as trustees of society, and is arguably the best response to today’s social and environmental challenges.

Because if, as Greta Thunberg says, our house is on fire, it’s up to all of us to douse the flames.