Dubai: Thought leaders, ministers, decision-makers and captains of the industry gave their insights on how to build a better and more robust future for the world post the COVID-19 pandemic, at the two-day World Government Summit Dialogues that began in Dubai on Tuesday.
The World Government Summit Dialogues was earlier launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as a platform to “design future directions and trends, that will affect human lives and that will reflect societies’ hopes and dreams”. Sheikh Mohammed said early this week: “The future of human life is the fundamental pillar in our plans. We must review the challenges we face and think of innovative solutions to create resilient societies and agile governments. The world is facing historical challenges that require us to rethink and redevelop economic and social systems that will better serve people. And the comprehensive dialogue is the basis of humanity’s success in designing a promising future.”
Building a more robust future
The first day of the event focused on the megatrends that will shape the next decade. World leaders, senior officials and decision-makers shared their experiences and ideas that would contribute to the development of future governments — including decentralising finance, digital currencies and better decision-making in times of crisis.
Mohammad Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of the World Government Summit Organisation, set the tone of the summit with his opening address, wherein he said that the focus in a post-COVID world should not only be about recovery, but building a better and more robust future. He said: “A new chapter has begun and the time for business-as-usual is over. The past year was also a milestone — people faced challenges, but also found opportunities. How 2021 and the next decade will unfold will depend on how people will stand strong and united after experiencing one of humanity’s roughest years.”
He added pandemics are not new, but the world was undeniably unprepared. He also noted that according to World Bank, 150 million more people were plunged into extreme poverty. More than 40 per cent, or 3.3 billion, of the world’s population now lives below the poverty line. At least nine out ten of those who belong to Gen Z have experienced one form of physical or mental stress or the other and the generation that will come out of the pandemic will be similar to those that out of the Second World War.
Al Gergawi, however, remained hopeful and optimistic that 2021 promised a better future as people need to face a big challenge and leaders will have crucial decisions to make. He also noted that one inspiring outcome of COVID-19 was the creation of vaccines in a very short time. He also cautioned that no meaningful recovery will be possible unless everyone is safe from the virus. Therefore, global vaccination rollout is the priority.
Al Gergawi also underlined: “Getting the economy back on track and getting people back into proactive jobs are our top priorities.” The economy of the future needs to be different, more resilient, more inclusive, mindful of ecology and sustainable, he added.
Building public trust
In another session, the discussion revolved around having greater transparency and authenticity in delivering messages from leaders to build public trust. Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, emphasised that governments must usher in a new era of cooperation and transparency with the media and citizens. He explained: “The big issue today is competence, delivering new promises and ensuring fairness and a good outcome. In this sense, the governments in the Middle East have done well as they have seen greater success in managing COVID-19, delivery of vaccines and getting people back to work. Confidence in the government has been low in the West, in Europe and the US, where governments were unable to deliver public health, and are in a bit of a mess in the quality of information they have provided, competence in dealing with the pandemic and ethical behaviour.”
Building Africa’s future
The summit also looked into the future of the African region. Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings, United Bank of Africa, Transcorp and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, discussed the changes that have swept across Africa and where the region is headed. Elumelu noted that people don’t want to rely on government handouts: “People are hard-working and enterprising — they want to go out and fend for themselves and their families. It’s no longer about being locked down, it’s about living with this pandemic — changing our lifestyle and the way we do things.”
Finding peace within a crisis
The summit also looked into how the region has been moving beyond the pandemic. In the Middle East, the hope of peace and coexistence, prosperity and economic developments are materialising from new partnerships and agreements in areas of finance and investment, civil aviation, innovation, technology and education that will have lasting effects on the region.
During one of the virtual sessions with Nechemia Peres, chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and Maurice Levy, chairman of Publicis Groupe, the discussion was about how peaceful coexistence with Israel can unleash a new wave of innovative talent in Middle East, following the signing of the Abraham Accords.
Peres said: “Following a long era of wars and armed conflicts, the world is now entering a new phase packed with challenges, with the pandemic being foremost among them. The pandemic served as a catalyst for many societies to pursue unifying global efforts. We are now transitioning from a world of wars to an era where we collaborate to address global threats.
“In the new world, swords are giving way to computers, science, technology, and innovation. We will use the values of innovation to make the world better. UAE’s commitment to innovation and building a culture of entrepreneurship is proof enough of a strong resolve to build a Middle East of Innovation,” he added.
Peres praised the UAE’s role in fostering and promoting peace. He said: “The UAE looks to the future with a positive outlook that embraces peace and innovation. We can transform this region — where the largest segment of the population is made up of youth under the age of 30 — into a prosperous region that relies on innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Levy, for his part, added that the Arab world has a deeply rooted history in advanced science and mathematics and can continue along this path in the future if the requisite enablers are present. He said: “In a world without physical borders, innovation will be the key to ensure peace and a common future.”