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These are the stepping stones towards global cooperation

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Image: UNSPLASH/Chuttersnap

Børge Brende
President, World Economic Forum
This article is part of: The Davos Agenda

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  • As we enter the year 2022, there are two possibilities: greater geopolitical competition or greater global cooperation that lie ahead.
  • The question that needs to be answered is how the global context can be reshaped to promote greater cooperation.
  • Here are the stepping stones needed to promote greater cooperation, especially for challenges such as global inequity and climate change.

As the world enters 2022, we appear to be at a crossroads—with the possibility of greater geopolitical competition or greater global cooperation ahead.

The past two years have shown what each can bring.

The record speed at which safe and effective vaccines were developed during the first year of the pandemic was made possible by coordinated efforts among governments, businesses and research institutions. The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is made up of 280 components from 19 different countries.

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And yet, this achievement of collaborative innovation stands in relief against the inequitable. Here, leaders can focus on advancing practical approaches to addressing mutual interest. Because despite geopolitical frictions, actors can still work in common purpose on specific, shared priorities. And there are signs that this is happening.

For example, the distribution of vaccines that has followed: Just 8% of people in Africa eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are fully inoculated.

Image: Kff

Similarly, the ability of leaders to stave off a global financial crisis in 2020 was due in large measure to coordination among central banks in lowering interest rates and setting up special lending facilities. Yet subsequent economic growth, the International Monetary Fund has warned, is at risk of being uneven across geographies and communities.

The common thread over the course of the pandemic has been that when leaders have coordinated efforts, progress followed. But when companies or countries pursued self interest, global challenges mounted.

Though the necessity of global cooperation to solve shared challenges is known, the practice has often been otherwise. Indeed, the geopolitical fracturing that was underway ahead of the pandemic has continued in many respects. One of the most pronounced manifestations of this has been ongoing trade battles between major economies that has served as a drag on economic growth and has added to inflationary pressures. And, the growing competition to capture the gains of frontier technologies, such as artificial intelligence and 5G, appears to be intensifying, with warnings of a possible decoupling getting louder in some quarters.

Indeed, according to this year’s Global Risks Report, over a third of respondents to the Global Risks Perception Survey feel the world will follow a fractured trajectory in the near term, with divergences growing within societies and between economies. This overall sense that divides are widening speaks to a broader climate in which currents of distrust and competition within many countries are acting as headwinds against cooperation.

Global risks by severity
Global risks by severity Image: World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2022

The question, then, is what can be done to reshape the global context so that it supports rather than hinders cooperation?

When it comes to global warming, the United States and China expressed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021 a “firm commitment to work together” to achieve the aims of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

On economic equity, 136 countries agreed to make taxes fairer by putting in place a common minimum corporate tax rate.

On technology, numerous multilateral and multistakehoder efforts led by the OECD and UN, as well as the World Economic Forum, are charting pathways toward collaboration on frontier technologies.

And governments themselves are creating new mechanisms for both regional and global technology collaboration because scale is critical in advancing resource intensive research and development on opportunities such as AI.

The more these opportunities are pursued, and the more results they yield, the more they will ultimately ladder up and reshape the greater global context toward collaboration.

That cooperative efforts can thrive even within a competitive context is one conclusion of the Global Action Group—a group of approximately 30 leaders from the public and private sectors that met since the outset of the pandemic for quarterly virtual dialogue sessions. Several members presented their perspectives on what this type of collaboration could look like.

According to Mari Elka Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, and Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation, there is an opportunity for stakeholders to work together in taking a Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID) approach to advancing economic growth. By harnessing capital from the private sector, leveraging resources from development banks and coordinating across governments, stakeholders can shape equitable and sustainable economies.

Indeed, coordination among stakeholders is vital for ensuring growth is inclusive, according to Dina Powell McCormick, Global Head of Sustainability and Inclusive Growth at Goldman Sachs, and Vali Nasr, Professor of International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Yet, the challenge is that “there are many public-private partnerships working in isolation”. As a result, they advocate for stakeholders to “create institutional mechanisms to link them together into a global network and direct them toward shared goals.”

Read McCormick and Nasr on public-private partnerships here.

As we set the agenda for the year ahead it our hope that these insights and prescriptions stay not on the page but serve as guidance to leaders seeking to forge partnerships that advance recovery in the near term and resiliency ahead.

This essay is part of a joint collaboration with the World Economic Forum's Global Action Group. Read Mari Elka Pangestu and Samir Saran on building an equitable economy here. Read Dina Powell McCormick and Vali Nasr on scaling public-private partnerships here

The Global Action Group


Børge Brende: President, World Economic Forum


Nicolas Aguzin, Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX)

Yousef Al Otaibab, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, Embassy of the United Arab Emirates to the United States

Ayman Al Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan

Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Minister of Finance, Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia

Mohammed Alardhi, Executive Chairman, Investcorp Holdings

John R. Allen, President, The Brookings Institution

Thomas Bagger, Head, Foreign Policy Division, Office of Presidential Affairs of Germany

Thomas Buberl, Chief Executive Officer, AXA SA

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu,Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey

François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Mathias Cormann, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Ivo Daalder, President, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Michael Froman, Vice-Chairman and President, Strategic Growth, Mastercard

Fu Ying, Former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China

Orit Gadiesh, Chairman, Bain & Company Inc.

Enoch Godongwana, Minister of Finance, Ministry of Finance of South Africa

Jane Harman, Distinguished Fellow and President Emerita, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Bruce Jones, Senior Fellow and Director of the Project on International Order and Strategy, The Brookings Institution

Kono Taro, Member of the House of Representatives, House of Representatives of Japan

Fred Lam, Chief Executive Officer, Airport Authority (Hong Kong)

Ann Linde, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden

Alex Liu, Managing Partner and Chairman, Kearney

Susana Malcorra, Senior Advisor, IE University

Nikhil Meswani, Executive Director, Reliance Industries Limited

Luis Alberto Moreno, Managing Director, Allen & Company

Vali R. Nasr, Professor of International Relations, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Patrick Odier, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Bank Lombard Odier & Co. Ltd

Lubna S. Olayan, Chair of the Executive Committee, Olayan Financing Company

Maxim Oreshkin, Aide to the President, Office of the President of the Russian Federation

Mari Elka Pangestu, Managing Director, Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank Group

Dina Powell McCormick, Global Head, Sustainability and Inclusive Growth; Global Head, Sovereign Business, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC

Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, Member of Parliament, Parliament of India

Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

Benedikt Sobotka, Chief Executive Officer, Eurasian Resources Group Sàrl

Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Kent Walker, President, Global Affairs, Google Inc.

Jeremy Weir, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Trafigura Group Pte Ltd

Yang Jiemian, Chairman, Council of Academic Affairs, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS)

Membership in the Global Action Group does not constitute endorsement of the ideas presented by individual authors in this piece.

Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalEquity, Diversity and InclusionGlobal Cooperation

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