Global Health

5 top global priorities for 2022, according to women leaders at Davos

United Nations Security Council met to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine with Russia, in New York City.

It is important to prioritize the right things in 2022. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Global Health

  • 8 March is International Women’s Day.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, women leaders across the globe have been associated with faster action and fewer deaths.
  • At Davos Agenda Week in January, some of the world’s women leaders shared their thoughts on how to tackle crises including climate change and inequality.

Gender equality in leadership propagates gender equality in wider society through fairer hiring practices and policy-making.

The COVID-19 pandemic has set back gender parity, but research shows that in countries with female leaders, there was faster action in managing the crisis response, leading to fewer deaths.

At the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda Week back in January, some of the world’s highest-profile women leaders shared their thoughts on the biggest challenges facing us today – and how to tackle them.

As these thoughts came before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they don't reflect the new reality of the world's geopolitical challenges and all that they involve. You can read more about this on Agenda.

1. Rebuilding trust

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

“This year, like never before, trust is the most valuable currency when we speak about the state of the world. Trust in science and vaccines can make a difference between life and death. Trust among countries can tilt the balance of international affairs towards cooperation instead of conflict. Trust in functioning societies based on the rule of law channels higher levels of long-term private investment, giving these societies an edge over competitors – and this trust is also essential to all of Europe’s main ambitions.”

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation

“The pandemic has shown that if one person is at risk through unvaccination or unjust development or lack of social protection for resilience, then we’re all at risk. We need a new social contract and it needs to be inclusive and it needs to recognize that the inequality and the integration of the crisis with climate started before the pandemic. This has simply laid out a much deeper crater. The big challenge is to rebuild trust because what’s at risk here is the very democracies and the trust in democracies that can put in place that social contract.”

Restoring trust is key to societal stability.
Rebuilding trust is one of the key priorities for 2022. Image: Edelman Trust Barometer

2. Inclusion and equity

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization

“What is the good of trade if it doesn’t speak to the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people? It’s not about the elite or those making people rich, but we need to look at how it benefits poor people within rich countries and poor countries within the world – and how we include them and integrate them into the global trading system.”

Janet Yellen, Secretary of the United States Treasury

“The gains from expanded telework will raise US productivity by 2.7%, yet those gains are not likely to be equally shared … Increased online learning is another pandemic-induced technological shift that is likely to widen the educational achievement and productivity gap between upper-income children relative to those who are lower-income and minority. The Biden administration aims to boost labour productivity in ways that will help to address the disparities in wage growth. The focus is on enhancing the skills of workers and those with low incomes to be able to take advantage of new technologies.”

3. Sustainable economic growth

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

“What do we anticipate for 2022? On the good news side, we anticipate that the recovery will continue, but it is losing some momentum and is faced with the renewal of infections, much more persistent than anticipated inflation and, on top of this, record high debt levels.”

“It was diagnosed correctly at the beginning of the pandemic as both supply and demand shock. In a highly coordinated manner, both central banks and finance authorities have responded in a way that prevented the world from falling into yet another Great Depression. We have to be data-driven and flexible.”

Janet Yellen, Secretary of the United States Treasury

“We as policy-makers and business leaders recognize we must respond to the demands of our citizens to use this recovery to make our economies and the world a more sustainable, fairer place. I’m optimistic about the US economic recovery … I’m confident we can beat this pandemic and move decisively down the path towards a more prosperous future.

“We aren’t just focused on a high top-line growth number that is unsustainable, we are instead aiming for growth that is inclusive and green.”


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

4. Tackling climate change

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

“Today, we know much more about the climate imperative and we have the technologies we need to make the transition from a fossil fuel system to a clean energy system. In the short term, we have to address the very real impact this gas crisis is having on households and businesses … Today’s gas crisis must serve to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

“People need to trust that the transition will support the most vulnerable, businesses need to trust that the transition will improve their competitiveness, and investors need to trust that we will stay the course whenever there are bumps on the road. There will never be a linear shift from a fossil fuel-based system to a clean energy system … but the direction is clear and so is our commitment.”

Julie Sweet, CEO Accenture

“The trillion dollar question is how do you operate sustainably and make money? Those companies that operate sustainably are more profitable, they have a higher total return to shareholders.”

5. Connectivity and access to technology

Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, Rwanda

“Many governments, similar to Rwanda, are thinking about recovery in the year ahead and we’re looking at what the challenges are that have been highlighted by the pandemic. Access, adoption and affordability are the kind of common challenges we’re all grappling with.”

Sarah Al-Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology, United Arab Emirates

“If the only countries that get access to data from space are those that own a satellite, we deprive a large portion of the world of the ability to get the necessary knowledge and evidence to action policy-making across the board, to get better crop yields, to get a better understanding on how to sustain production processes.”

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Related topics:
Global HealthDiversity and InclusionClimate Change
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