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Time to stem the tide of fragmentation. Here's how

Greater global cooperation can provide solutions to the current overload of crises.

Greater global cooperation can provide solutions to the current overload of crises. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mirek Dušek
Managing Director, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Greater global cooperation is needed to confront the present rising tide of crises.
  • We must respond to the current shocks while laying the groundwork for a more resilient, sustainable world.
  • Identifying promising innovation and bringing it to scale will be crucial.

In a world beset by complex and interconnected challenges, there is a worrying trend of division. Past years have seen decreasing levels of global collaboration, and the twin triggers of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis have accelerated that trend. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, four in five experts across a diverse international network said they expected consistent volatility over the next two years.

How can we then stem this tide of fragmentation? We must get to work – now.

During the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 in January, more than 2,300 leaders from governments, businesses and civil society will come together to share ideas, outline plans and form partnerships to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. This year, there’s a clear need for a dual vision: First, how do we respond to the immediate crises touching all corners of the globe? And, at the same time, how do we lay the groundwork to create a more sustainable, resilient world by the end of the decade?

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Most critically, we must find meaningful solutions to address the overlapping global resource crises in energy and food, as well as a stark economic outlook. There is an urgent need to go on the front foot and find ways to relaunch growth, trade and investment against these headwinds.

The current energy crisis is unprecedented and poses far-reaching threats to households, businesses, politics and the economy. World leaders are facing difficult decisions to keep people warm and enable factories to keep running in the short-term, while also ensuring a move towards clean energy in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the competitiveness of their economies in the long term. Rising energy prices also risk threatening food security, as the number of people facing acute food insecurity has more than doubled since 2019, reflecting the interconnectedness of our international systems.

At the same time, the world faces an uphill journey on the economy in the coming months, as high inflation, low growth and high debt threaten jobs and businesses. A recent Forum report found that more than two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-sized companies are fighting for survival. At the same time, the rising cost of living crisis is pushing millions of people around the globe into poverty.

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As crises converge, so too must solutions. We must maintain momentum on the energy transition, create sustainable food systems that will respond to our growing population needs and ensure that those most vulnerable to economic shocks are protected. To this end, policy-makers should pursue much-needed policy reform aimed at strengthening economic resilience and sustainability while addressing the systemic weaknesses laid bare by the current crises.

Identifying promising innovations and scaling emerging technologies are critical to these efforts. In recent years, technological advancement has offered hope to address many of the challenges facing our world, but its development and adoption has not kept pace with demand. Communities like the New Champions, Tech Pioneers and UpLink offer blueprints for elevating and advancing such innovation in an collaborative community.

Similarly, up until now, systemic leadership has been a concept easier said than done. Connecting the dots across industries and geographies is a complex challenge, one often faced under intense stress and with conflicting demands. But it is this complexity that necessitates immediate action. We must take an inclusive approach to identify and develop solutions, and create spaces for leaders to share best practices and learn from each other through constructive debate.

One such area is to make a shift to create jobs that support a socially inclusive economy, such as caregivers and healthcare workers, as well as jobs that support a shift to greener economies, such as environmental engineers. At the same time, and as technologies transform industries, there must be a global effort to invest in reskilling workers to take full advantage of new economic opportunities and to fulfil evolving market demand.

Complementing these efforts, we must create and strengthen public-private partnerships. Governments are increasingly looking to businesses for expertise, ideas and initiative that can take big ideas and put them into action quickly and inclusively. For example, the First Movers Coalition, launched in partnership with US President Joe Biden in 2021, unites companies working in seven “hard-to-abate” industries – aluminium, aviation, chemicals, concrete, shipping, steel and trucking – and works to advance and secure low-carbon technologies by 2030.

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Forum InstitutionalGlobal RisksEconomic GrowthGlobal Cooperation
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