Global Cooperation

6 steps to build a more cooperative world

Steps must be taken to increase global cooperation.

Steps must be taken to increase global cooperation. Image: Unsplash/Samson

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Global Cooperation

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The world is at an inflection point for global cooperation, according to the World Economic Forum and McKinsey’s Global Cooperation Barometer 2024.
  • Since 2020, global cooperation has dipped slightly – by 2% – having risen for most of the past decade, according to the barometer.
  • It recommends six steps to revitalize cooperation in order to advance resilience, growth and security.

Over the past decade, the state of global cooperation has remained “surprisingly robust”, according to the World Economic Forum and McKinsey’s Global Cooperation Barometer 2024.

Since 2020, however, global cooperation has dipped slightly – by 2% – due to increased conflict and competition.

The barometer measures global cooperation between 2012 and 2022 across five pillars: trade and capital; innovation and technology; climate and natural capital; health and wellness; and peace and security.

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While cooperation has slowed since 2020 in some areas, and even reversed in the peace and security pillar, in other areas, including climate and natural capital, cooperation has increased, as the outcome of COP28 proved.

What the barometer shows is that cooperation on many issues is possible, even in the midst of competition and confrontation,” says Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum. “In other words, leaders can work together despite not seeing eye-to-eye on everything.”

Cooperation trends by pillar
Cooperation has increased in the climate and nature sector. Image: McKinsey/WEF

“We’ve seen progress in collaboration across multiple areas, with special cause for optimism on climate and nature and breakthroughs in frontier technologies that draw on global contributions to innovation,” adds Bob Sternfels, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company.

The aim of the report is to help business and government stakeholders better understand the nature of cooperation to enable them to shape a healthier and more prosperous and sustainable world. It outlines six steps to do this…

1. Embrace “coopetition”

In a time of heightened geopolitical tension, it is important to remember that competition does not preclude cooperation. Just because cooperation may decline in one area does not mean it is impossible elsewhere. Instead, parties should strive to find ways to advance shared interests even in the midst of competition. This can be achieved through the practice of "coopetition", which is commonly used in the private sector.

2. Use cooperation to create more cooperation

Cooperation can coexist with competition, but it can also increase trust, the core theme of the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, and reduce rivalry or conflict. Existing examples of cooperation can be used as an opportunity to explore other potential areas of alignment and to deepen trust between parties.

3. Raise the capabilities of management

All companies, even the largest ones, will be affected by globalization and global trade flows. Cooperation needs to be strengthened to enable it to handle geopolitical shocks. Multinational C-suite executives should possess a core competency in understanding global connections and geopolitical realities, and their implications for the business. This requires more than just knowledge of current events, but a deep understanding of nuances, context and potential business implications.

4. Evaluate board expertise and engagement

Boards must enhance their capabilities to discuss and decide on global cooperation topics. They should determine their organization's appropriate role in supporting global cooperation in specific areas or outcomes. This requires understanding the complexities and nuances of these issues, using the latest research. Boards should invite global experts for regular sessions to discuss developments, scenarios and implications for the organization.

5. Build dynamic strategic options

The old model of globalization relied on businesses taking the lead. Now, governments are taking over again, and this will be a crucial shift for every multinational. Start by analyzing each firm's interconnectedness and assess the risks of potential weaknesses. Use this understanding to plan different scenarios, including resilient supply chain alternatives, and develop new strategies that consider global events.

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6. Think diversifying, not decoupling

Managing concentrated exposures can enhance resilience and facilitate better recovery from supply disruptions. Evidence suggests that companies and countries that take thoughtful measures in this regard are already experiencing the benefits. Diversification not only strengthens resilience but also has the potential to promote inclusivity and a more robust trading system and economy. The link between trade and wealth creation is robust, and embracing diversification can enable more countries to fully participate and reap the benefits.

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