Such matters will be discussed from January 25 thru 29 in Davos, Switzerland at The World Economic Forum, which is bringing together the captains of government, academia, and industry. This year's theme is “The Creative Imperative.” The event will involve 2,300+ participants and includes heads of state/government, cabinet ministers, religious leaders, union leaders and heads of non-governmental entities. Half of them will be representing from the world’s largest corporations. Ostensibly these participants are committed to improving the state of the world.
An independent international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation, the Forum has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It has grown in significance since it commenced in 1971, but it still fails to benefit from the media coverage it so richly deserves. Constraints of time and space and a focus on celebrity pregnancies and political scandals so often crowd out newsworthy coverage of what is impacting our economic and social well-being. But... where there is a need, there will be an answer. The 2006 forum will feature a never-before-seen level of blogging, podcasting, and webcasting online directly from Davos. Will this herald a new age of public access?
The discussions will be far-reaching, because decision-making models of the past are no longer adequate. Economic growth and employment opportunities in the future will be more a function of information flow and technology, as assembly lines continue to morph to the regions with the cheapest work forces that receive few, if any, compensated benefits. Knowledge and instant access to data/information is/will be the new key to power, wealth, prosperity, and growth.
Five topics make up the central themes of this year’s forum. They are: the continued emergence of China and India, the changing economic landscape, new mindsets and changing attitudes, creating future jobs, and regional identities and struggles. Three subsidiary (and related) issues building trust in public and private institutions, effective leadership in managing global risks, and innovation/creativity/design strategy—complete the mix.
It is no accident that the continued emergence of China and India heads the list. As more and more jobs are outsourced there, and the trade imbalances continue to shift in their favor from the West, these two giant nations will have more money to spend and invest. Their needs for already scarce global natural resources will increase, and competition for such critical commodities will rise throughout the global community. Will their growing energy demands (and the construction of politically controversial pipelines compounded by new oil-related alliances and alignments), “fuel” further tensions in the Middle East and raise oil prices above current records?
Identifying the problems is a step in the right direction, but coming up with workable solutions is what really matters. The “hot button” central issue that permeated Davos 2005 involved Uncle $ugar’s growing twin deficits—the budget deficit and the trade deficit. Unfortunately for US/us and the world’s central bankers, not much has changed for the good on that front. (The musician Bono rallied last year’s participants to act globally on behalf of those in dire need, and some progress was made in that regard. His efforts earned him a spot on the cover of Time Magazine with Bill and Melinda Gates as “person of the year.")
In 2006, we shall see a continuation of the transitions begun in recent years. The pace of change will continue to accelerate and will impact us all in ways yet unimagined.
We can only hope and pray that solutions will come peacefully through mutual cooperation.
I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
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This story was published on January 23, 2006.