Global Cooperation

Davos 2024: Rebuilding trust in the future

"Rebuilding Trust" is the theme of the World Economic Forum's 2024 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

"Rebuilding Trust" is the theme of the World Economic Forum's 2024 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Image: World Economic Forum/Pascal Bitz

Klaus Schwab
Founder, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Increasing division, heightened hostility and a surge in conflicts are creating a challenging global landscape.
  • Humanity is grappling with multiple issues simultaneously, including how to reinvigorate economies, respond to the threat of climate change and ensure AI is used as a force for good.
  • Open, transparent conversations can restore mutual trust between individuals and nations, and bring hope of a brighter future.

Increasing division, heightened hostility and a surge in conflicts are defining the current global landscape. The perpetual need for crisis management is depleting the crucial human energy that could otherwise be channelled into shaping a more optimistic future.

Despite facing serious crises in the past, the current wave of pessimism is unprecedented. And unlike the past, the power and presence of global media and communications technology today means that every challenge and setback is amplified, further magnifying the sense of doom and gloom.

After an era that lifted a billion people out of poverty and improved living standards everywhere, the anxiety about losing control over what lies ahead is pushing people towards embracing extreme ideologies and the leaders who champion them.

Rebuilding trust in our future is paramount. The question is where to start, given today’s complex circumstances.

Similar to a medical diagnosis, we must first identify and address the root causes of our malaise. We’re at a pivotal moment in history, yet we still cling to outdated solutions. Complicating matters is the fact that we're grappling with many issues simultaneously, all of which are deeply interconnected and mutually reinforcing. There's no quick fix or one-size-fits-all remedy. It's about addressing all the symptoms in a holistic manner.

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First, we no longer have a narrative for how to reinvigorate our economies, which today are burdened by unsustainable levels of debt and inflation, eroding the purchasing power of individuals. Traditional monetary and fiscal policies have run out of steam, and supply side policies are further exacerbating the debt burden. What’s crucially needed now is a new approach – one which leverages the transition to a green, digital and inclusive economy as a great opportunity for job creation, increased purchasing power and ultimately sustained economic growth.

Second, climate change is a clear threat to current and especially future generations. We must respond to this challenge by increasing energy affordability, security and sustainability, all the while reducing geoeconomic and geopolitical dependencies. With technological progress, cheaper renewable energy is readily available and can substantially contribute to a more equitable world, with far-reaching impacts on the environment, life quality and longevity.

Third, we are living in an era of exponential technological development, particularly with the advent of artificial intelligence. These technologies can be enormously disruptive forces if not well governed, but they can also serve as catalysts for a renaissance of humanity, unlocking new dimensions of human creativity and fostering unprecedented collaboration and understanding.

We’re at a pivotal moment in history, yet we still cling to outdated solutions.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

These holistic narratives require global, national and local cooperation – especially in a world that's becoming more competitive and multipolar, marked by growing societal divides and pervasive uncertainty.

Open, transparent conversations can restore mutual trust between individuals and nations who, out of fear for their own future, prioritize their own interests. 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.

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