The World Economic Forum is holding a global brain-storming meeting in Dubai, just days after a surprise win for Donald Trump in the US election sealed a bitterly divisive campaign.
Reflecting on the “soul-searching” underway, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said:
“A significant part of the global elite lost the sense of solidarity when it was needed more than ever before. We’re living in a world of transparency and such a world cannot tolerate too much inequality.”
This makes the Forum’s mission – entrepreneurship in the global public interest – more important than ever, he said.
“There is no simple response, no grand ideology. What we need are pragmatic, future-orientated and systemic efforts, in exploring the new and exploiting the lessons of the past. Trust in the system will not come back very fast. All our efforts have to be inclusive, integrating all stakeholders.”
Globalization, which has lifted millions of people out of poverty in emerging markets, was the wrong target for discontented voters in the West, he said.
“The problem that we have is not globalization. The problem is a lack of global governance, a lack of means to address global issues.”
For Lorna Solis, a former refugee who grew up in the United States, this is a deeply personal issue.
“I became a refugee when I was nine. I fled Nicaragua. My parents lost everything,” she said. After a career in finance, she now runs Blue Rose Compass, an organisation that educates refugees and puts them forward for university scholarships.
“The night of the election I had a deluge of emails from students – at Yale, at Princeton – who were scared. That’s not the country that welcomed me so beautifully. That’s a different America. The election is a direct attack on my work.”
“It’s fuelled a fire in me that whatever I was doing needs to be scaled up in a big way to help more refugees. I think things are going to get harder for refugees, in terms of mobility, visas and access to employment. Other countries may sway to Trump’s ideology.”
Douglas Rediker, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, focused on how a Trump administration would govern. In terms of pulling off plans to boost infrastructure spending, Rediker said:
“You could see more of how Congress used to work, some Democrats, some Republicans working on shared goals… Ironically, Trump, who was a divisive figure, could be a catalyst for breaking down partisan lines.”
Suzanne Nora Johnson, Vice-Chair at Brookings, summarised 2016’s surge of populist anger:
“No question whether you look at Brexit or the US, what we’ve seen is a wholesale rejection of the elite, of people, power, influence and institutions. Institutions failed people during the financial crisis, people have seen almost every single institution fail to deliver, they’re going through the most profound change in industrial history. Having people buy into the process that creates their destiny is critical. A coalition of old folks in the establishment won’t cut it.”
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The impact of the election result on climate change will take centre stage in the coming months, following Donald Trump’s pledge to pull America out of the Paris agreement to curb emissions. J. Carl Ganter, Managing Director at environmental reporting organisation Circle of Blue, said:
“Will the new administration move into the 21st century where the risks are being internalized and markets are responding – or will they push back against the force of this momentum, all in the face of science that shows we are reaching planetary boundaries?”