How can we rebuild trust? Key quotes from 8 leaders at Davos

Global leaders gathered together at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos to rebuild trust and foster global solidarity.
Global leaders gathered together at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos to rebuild trust and foster global solidarity.
Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum.
  • Global leaders gathered together at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos to rebuild trust and foster global solidarity.
  • Amidst ongoing economic and geopolitical turmoil, the core theme of the meeting was 'Rebuilding Trust'.
  • Here are some of the key quotes from Davos on how we can rebuild trust.

Technology. Government. Economics. Science. Trust in our institutions and innovations is wavering.

As we head into a record election year globally, misinformation and disinformation are considered the biggest short-term risk, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2024.

Societal polarization is third. As distrust of information, as well as media and governments as sources, grows, it will deepen polarized views, the report finds.

Davos Global Risks Repot 2024
The top 10 risks by global impact.
Image: Global Risks Report 2024

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2024, launched at Davos, finds government is seen as less ethical and competent than business, while trust for innovation is waning as respondents don't trust governments to regulate effectively.

So how can we rebuild trust?

Leaders from politics, business and civil society gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting under the theme Rebuilding Trust.

Here are some of their suggestions...

Antonio Guterres

"When global norms collapse, so does trust. I am personally shocked by the systematic undermining of principles and standards we used to take for granted.

"I am outraged that so many countries and companies are pursuing their own narrow interests without any consideration for our shared future or the common good.

"And I am certain that unless we take action, we can expect much, much worse.

"So let’s be clear: Rebuilding Trust is not a slogan or a PR campaign. It requires deep reforms to global governance to manage geopolitical tensions during a new era of multipolarity.

"And it is essential to building a safer, more stable, more prosperous world."

Rebuilding trust will not happen overnight – but I am convinced that it’s both essential, and possible.

—Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations

Ursula von der Leyen

"Our companies thrive on freedom, on freedom to innovate and to invest and to compete," said the President of the European Commission.

"But freedom in businesses relies on the freedom of our political systems — and this is why I believe strengthening our democracy and protecting it from the risks and interference it faces is our common and enduring duty.

"We need to build trust more than ever, and Europe is prepared to play a key role."

Li Qiang

The Chinese Premier said trust had enabled huge progress in economic globalization over the past decades and its erosion was aggravating risks to global growth and peaceful development.

Whether it is to overcome current difficulties, or to create a better future, it is essential that we discard prejudice, bridge differences and work as one to tackle the trust deficit.

—Li Qiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

Trust comes from "our shared aspiration for a better future for humanity and from our common will to work together for that vision", he said, listing five ways to rebuild trust and enhance economic cooperation:

1. "Strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination to build greater synergy for global growth."

2. "Strengthening international industrial specialization and collaboration to keep global industrial and supply chains stable and smooth."

3. "Strengthening international exchanges and cooperation on science and technology to better benefit humanity with technological advances."

4. "Strengthening cooperation on green development to actively tackle climate change."

5. Strengthening North-South and South-South cooperation to build a universally beneficial and inclusive world economy."

"The best way to earn trust is to be a better version of oneself. Only when all sides treat each other with sincerity and work in the same direction can there be a stronger foundation of trust and more fruits of cooperation."

Professor Klaus Schwab

"Open, transparent conversations can restore mutual trust between individuals and nations who, out of fear for their own future, prioritize their own interests," said the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

"The resulting dynamics diminish hope in a brighter future. To steer away from crisis-driven dynamics and foster cooperation, trust and a shared vision for a brighter future, we must create a positive narrative that unlocks the opportunities presented by this historic turning point."

Bettina Stark-Watzinger

Education and communication are key to rebuilding trust in science, said Germany's Federal Minister of Education and Research.

"What we see in Germany is that if education goes down, lack of trust goes up. Basic education is so important to build trust in science and probably in institutions overall because you have people who understand the world around them who are self-confident - and you need that knowledge for the rest of your lifetime. That's a huge task for all countries because we see the knowledge base go down.

"We also need to understand why it is important for us what science is doing... People might not really understand why are [scientists] are doing this research... and the relevance of why it is important for us. So we need good communicators in science."

Alex Liu

Speaking in a session on Good Growth: Lessons From the Field, Liu, Managing Partner and Chairman at Kearney, said trust was about an economy that measured more than GDP growth:

"In order to have trust, you have to believe that the people in power are authentically committed to actual dialogue and solving these problems, providing these tools, providing the mobility, providing the technology, providing the safety net and sharing the joy, measuring the happiness and the sense of belonging."

Luc Triangle

Trust is crucial to ensuring a just transition, said the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, in a session on Building Equitable Transitions: Green and Fair.

"It's clear that the developed countries have to assist in the financing of climate action in the developing countries, because if we don't do that, inequality will only grow and you will have winners and you will have losers. And this is not the world that creates trust or a world where people feel that they are taken on board.

"Rebuilding trust cannot be limited to only a number of countries. It has to include the whole world. We need to take everybody on board.

"Let's help those developing countries that don't have the financial resources to indeed also invest in an industrial policy that can create new jobs in a climate friendly way."

Jagan Chapagain


The Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General of the IFRC met with the World Economic Content team for a special conversation on his goals and lessons learned. When asked what leaders should prioritise in the coming year, at a time swirling with risk and conflict, he stressed the importance of this year's Annual Meeting Theme: building trust.

"A lot of the crisis we are facing around the world, the underlying issue has been the lack of trust. And with the technology growing -- and of course the AI we are talking about also here -- is of course the technology brings a lot of positives, but also if it is not used, it can also contribute in eroding the trust."

And that's where I think it's extremely, extremely important that the leaders job is focused on the positive and build or contribute to building the trust.

Now, building the trust means do what do you say and say what you mean. And if enough leaders do that, that starts recreating the trust in the world. And without that, a lot of the other solutions would would not produce the result we are all looking for.

Key Davos sessions on trust to catch up on

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