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How Davos Agenda 2021 paved the way for global cooperation




  • Leaders stressed the importance of placing humans at the heart of global cooperative efforts.
  • Democracies must reach out, understand and collaborate with nations that do not share their values.
  • Strong calls have been made to build a multilateral framework that works for all.

This January, leaders of businesses, governments and civil society came together to tackle the most pressing issues for 2021 and beyond. As discussions focused on the response of these groups to the COVID-19 crisis, key themes emerged on how to implement genuine international cooperation.

It would indeed be foolish to think that these ideas alone can bring world peace. However, listening to the overlap between the rhetoric of perceived rivals, there are opportunities to achieve equal vaccine distribution, sustainable economic growth, and achievable climate action.

As with any negotiation or debate, leaders need to find common ground to develop a long-term deal and strategy. Vaccine deployment has yet to stop the global pandemic, and climate change projections could make COVID-19 a minor incident. Leaders can begin to find the common ground needed to build meaningful global cooperation by taking the following steps.

1. Embrace humility, inclusiveness and transparency

Finding common ground between Xi Jinping, Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin may seem impossible, however, each of them stressed the importance of placing people at the heart of global cooperation efforts.

President Xi advocated for mutual respect and for finding common ground for civilization to thrive. President Macron highlighted the critical steps countries are taking to put human lives above the global economy in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. And President Putin stressed that the economy should no longer see people as a means to an end but place them at the center of our responses.

To implement this response, inclusiveness has emerged as a crucial element for every citizen to feel as part of the solution. In the United States, this forces the new administration to return to the negotiating tables with humility John Kerry highlighted in his new role as Presidential Envoy for the climate. For King Abdullah II of Jordan and korean President Moon Jae-in, only an inclusive approach, leaving no one behind, can strengthen the multilateral system enough to lift the billions of people who have been economically affected by COVID-19.

Without openness, disinformation and mistrust continue to increase, threatening to keep us in today’s post-truth climate, according to Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Transparency was crucial in his government’s response to COVID-19 through sharing of information by scientists, which ensured an adequate response. For Lysa John Berna, General Secretary of Civicus, we are entering a decade of impatience. Twenty-five percent of people are unable to exercise their freedoms, creating crowds that could be approached by transparent governments eager to engage in meaningful dialogue. Despite very different national discourses, openness and humility resonated as the fundamental principles for achieving global cooperation.

Why equitable distribution of vaccines is important.

Image: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

2. Balance collaboration and competition

From the rise of trade wars to continued techno-nationalism, healthy competition seems impossible in the current political climate. And yet President Xi has said that the difference in itself is not a cause for alarm, but what sounds the alarm bells is arrogance, prejudice and hatred. This was echoed by Minister Kang, who said being a liberal democracy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work with countries that don’t share the same values. This does not mean that democracies should ignore principles such as human rights and freedom of expression for any action, but cooperate, reach out, understand and collaborate.

Private-public cooperation will play a major role in ensuring collaboration. Minister François-Phillippe Champagne said governments can do great things, but with the private sector they can do great things quickly. President Moon also pointed out that through this kind of collaboration, Korea was able to quickly produce diagnostic kits and vaccines and avoid discrimination based on age, health or nationality. Through conscious collaboration and competition, partners can come together voluntarily and ensure a cooperative response.

Linked to this collaboration is the healthy competition necessary to encourage cooperation. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud stressed that competition is healthy in a business environment, but not when conducting strategic policies. This was imposed by Chancellor Angela Merkels, stressing that issues such as international taxation and competition are necessary because acting alone will not be enough for innovation.

However, global competition needs to be properly balanced by all governments, with leaders in Argentina, South Africa and Singapore raising fears of vaccine nationalism. The fear of abandonment already creates a significant risk of losing the confidence and energy necessary for collaboration.

3. Reinvigorate, reform and empower existing institutions

To ensure balanced competition and collaboration, calls have been made to reflect on existing frameworks and institutions and rebuild a multilateral framework that works for all.

Chancellor Merkel noted that institutions such as the World Trade Organization are essential for the world and that in order to thrive, revisions are needed with common standards that reflect current working conditions, the environment and responses regarding labor. digitization of the economy.

President Macron and United Nations Secretary General Antnio Guterres stressed the importance of ensuring a fair framework. President Macron has declared the need for a capitalist system that lifts everyone out of poverty and prevents an increase in inequality. Secretary-General Guterres suggested a new social contract between governments, peoples, civil society and businesses that allows all members of society to live with dignity.

King Abdullah II and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the importance of re-globalization and the establishment of a system for sustainable and equitable recovery. Prime Minister Lee has made no secret that recalibration will be required from China and the United States, with China facing greater responsibility for delivering global public goods and the United States avoiding to see China only as a threat.

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread around the world at unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died from the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the longer-term economic, trade, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just starting to become visible.

To help all stakeholder communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-up effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group has launched its COVID-19 Risk Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and Its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, drawing on the forums’ annual report on global risks.

The report finds that the economic impact of COVID-19 dominates business risk perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the work of the forums to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across all sectors to shape a better future. Read the whole COVID-19 Risk Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and Its Implications Report Here, and our impact story with further information.

By recalibrating existing institutions to reflect the political realities that impact the lives of people, leaders can build a sustainable system of global governance. While the degree of change may differ, the world stands at a critical crossroads where humility, collaboration, and institutional reform can ensure genuine and lasting global cooperation.

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