Climate Change

Global Future Councils: Experts talk AI, climate, jobs and more in Dubai. Here's what to know

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils is taking place in Dubai from 16-18 October 2023.

The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils took place in Dubai from 16-18 October 2023. Image: Shubham Mittal/Unsplash

Spencer Feingold
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Beatrice Di Caro
Social Media and Live Communications Lead, Digital Media, World Economic Forum
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  • The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils took place in Dubai from 16-18 October 2023.
  • The network of experts discussed and debated opportunities for future advancements around several issue areas.
  • Each council was tasked with developing top priorities that have the potential to create transformative change.

Leading experts from across business, academia, government, civil society and media gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils.

Over 450 attendees from more than 80 countries discussed and debated opportunities for future advancements and the numerous issues that continue to hamper economic growth and human development. The gathering marked the first in-person meeting of the council members’ two-year term.

The network of Global Future Councils is one of the world’s foremost multistakeholder and interdisciplinary knowledge networks dedicated to exploring a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. The network's 30 councils, which are embedded in the Forum's 10 centres, focus on topics such as job creation, cybersecurity, international trade, climate and food and water security, among others.

The Dubai meeting kicked off with opening remarks from H.E. Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.

The future of humanity continues to depend on our ability to ask new questions that light up our curiosity and drive us to reach new, convincing answers

H.E. Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs of the UAE

Day one also featured an opening plenary that included several leading participants: Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley; Sally Davies, Master, Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Razan Al Mubarak, United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions; and Masood Ahmed President, Center for Global Development.

Opening RemarksPlenary HallMirek Dušek, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawiat the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2023 in Dubai, United Arab EmiratesMonday, 16 October 2023Madinat Jumeirah Conference Centre©: World Economic Forum / Deepu Das
H.E. Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs, speaks at #GFC23. Image: World Economic Forum

Opportunities for the future

The meeting featured several private gatherings as well as public sessions streamed online with English and Arabic translation.

Day 2: Tuesday, 17 October 2023

This session focused on how long-held assumptions about prosperity and economic growth are increasingly be challenged. The participants explored what economic growth means in the current context, proposed the ideal types of growth and shared ideas on how to create inclusive, sustainable economies.

“We still need growth, but it’s the quality of growth that matters,” said Kumi Kitamori, Deputy Director of the Environment Directorate at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “It needs to be green, and it needs to be inclusive.”

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This session focused on how rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to a paradigm shift in established norms and systems.

The impact of AI is astronomical and we haven't even scratched the surface

Khalfan Belhoul, CEO, Dubai Future Foundation

Panellists also discussed how AI breakthroughs are already transforming the systems in which we operate and how control of AI systems is increasingly becoming a question of power. “[AI] is ultimately the underpinning of the modern 21st century economy,” added Azeem Azhar, CEO of Exponential View.

Have you read?

This session focused on how the global jobs landscape is undergoing rapid transformation brought on by the combination of macrotrends from digitalization to sustainability and a shifting human-machine frontier.

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The participants also discussed what novel approaches are needed to ensure access to adequate job training and human capital development. “We have failed to create a system in which the people who need training in response to new technology are not able to access the training,” said Lee Sangheon, Director of the Employment Policy Department of the International Labour Organization.

Impressions from the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2023 Madinat Jumeirah Conference Centre, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesSunday, 15 October 2023Copyright: World Economic Forum© World Economic Forum / Deepu Das
The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2023 at the Madinat Jumeirah Conference Centre in Dubai. Image: World Economic Forum/Deepu Das

Day 3: Wednesday, 18 October 2023

Latest studies suggest that generative AI could raise global GDP by 7%, a significant effect for any single technology. In this session, participants explored AI's influence on the economy and discussed how AI-powered productivity growth could impact the current economic headwinds.

“I think what generative AI is actually going to do is make us better,” said Mary Cummings, the Director of the Mason Autonomy and Robotics Center at George Mason University.

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This session focused on how the latest advances in quantum computing will transform industry and society. Participants discussed advancements ranging from drug design to generative chemistry, and explored quantum's potential to transform industries and supply chains.

From traceability and transparency to better forecasting and inventory control, technology has the potential to transform global trade in a myriad of ways. In this session, panellists explored how technology can be deployed to foster trade and enhance equity and sustainability.

Participants also discussed the various geopolitical headwinds that continue to hamper trade and technological advancements.

Geopolitics are so intertwined with trade policy that it's not all economic rationale driving the decisions

Mona Haddad, Global Director of Trade, Investment and Competitiveness, World Bank
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The Middle East and North Africa is warming at twice the rate of the global average, which will have a huge impact on water, agriculture and liveability. While the private sector in the region generally lags behind comparable regions in sustainability actions, the necessary conditions are in place to leapfrog the sustainability and energy transition.

In this press conference, leaders in the region outlined the optimal pathways to decarbonization in MENA and deliberate the policy toolkit needed to jumpstart the change.

Emerging tech innovations offer a host of solutions with the potential to get the world closer to its net-zero targets, ranging from direct air carbon capture technologies to sophisticated contamination monitoring tools.

This is session, participants explored these advances and detailed how they can be scaled and commercialized to maximize their impact.

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Drawing connections across agendas

The week's public and private meetings allowed experts to draw connections across agendas and generate insights that can improve decision-making in the coming years.

Attendees were tasked with debating the challenges and solutions within the scope of their council and recommending 1‐3 top priorities that can create transformative change around specific issues areas.

Following the summit, the Forum will publish the councils’ recommendations in a consolidated publication, which can be a tool for global leaders looking for inspiring ideas. The publication will be shared ahead of or shortly after the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2024.

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Related topics:
Climate ChangeJobs and SkillsDavos Agenda
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