Global leaders call for collaborative steps as curtain drops

Written by Sourav Majumdar | Davos, Jan 27 | Updated: Jan 29 2008, 04:15am hrs
The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008 closed on Sunday with a call by business, government and civil society leaders for a new brand of collaborative and innovative leadership to address the challenges of globalisation, particularly the pressing problems of conflict especially in the Middle East, terrorism, climate change and water conservation.

Globalisation is forcing changes in how people collaborate in a fundamental way, said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and one of the co-chairs of the Annual Meeting 2008, at the closing plenary session.

You need stronger and stronger collaborative political leadership. Concluded Blair, If we are interconnected and the world is interconnected, the only way for the world to work is to have a set of common values. We have no option but to work together.

Other panellists agreed, arguing that the biggest challenge for the world is to determine the values that underpin globalisation.

Globalisation is not going to go away the question is what kind of globalisation do we have, said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA). According to PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra K Nooyi, who is also an annual meeting co-chair, companies today have to be engaged in society, particularly on environmental issues. It is critical to running a business. You cannot hold on to your employees emotionally unless you have good environmental programmes. Companies really do believe we should be good corporate citizens, asserted another co-chair, James Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

This is true even in emerging economies such as India, Dimons fellow co-chair KV Kamath, MD and CEO of ICICI Bank, observed. More and more companies are living up to their environmental responsibilities, particularly in developing affordable, yet eco-friendly products and services. Thats the only way. Theres a new path, and that path needs to be explored.

Panellists also expressed hope that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be reached by 2008-end. I am confident that we will have a resolution this year, said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who is a professor at Boston University. This is a 60-year old war; both sides are tired. Enough funerals, enough tears, enough sorrow. Fellow Annual Meeting co-chair Wang Jianzhou, chairman and chief executive of China Mobile Communications Corporation, called on participants to embrace the ideals expressed by the motto of the 2008 Olympic Games to be held in Beijing: One world, one dream. Said Wang, All countries, industries and companies should contribute to a peaceful and harmonious world.

We have tremendous challenges ahead, said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, summing up the Annual Meeting 2008.

Key announcements and achievements

* British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Irish musician Bono, HM Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, Nigerian President Umaru Musa YarAdua, and Cisco Systems chairman and CEO John T Chambers issued a joint statement vowing to make 2008 a turning point in the fight against poverty. The world is facing a "development emergency, they said, pledging to work together to help the world get back on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals."

* Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda unveiled a five-year, $10 billion fund to support efforts in developing countries to combat global warming a move to ensure that top priority is given to climate change at this years G8 Summit in Hokkaido. Also, Japan aims to create a new multilateral fund with the US and the UK to mitigate changes in the earths climate as a result of global warming.

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $306 million package of agricultural development grants designed to boost the yields and incomes of millions of small farmers in Africa and other parts of the developing world so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty.

* The World Economic Forum launched a landmark report on the interfaith dialogue between Muslim and Western societies. Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue was the result of in-depth research and polling in more than 40 countries. The report is intended to be an annual global reference on the state of dialogue among faiths that will elevate the visibility of dialogue around the world and strengthen efforts to advance greater understanding.

* The Forum conducted an experiment with the online video website YouTube, asking people from around the world to answer The Davos QuestionWhat one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008 More than 2 million people took part, and business, government and civil society leaders from the Annual Meeting posted replies. Among those submitting video responses: President Shimon Peres of Israel; President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal; President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan; former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger; and rock star Bono.

* The World Economic Forum released the first part of the most comprehensive investigations into private equity: The Globalisation of Alternative Investments Working Papers Volume 1: The Global Economic Impact of Private Equity Report 2008. The study focuses on the demography of global private equity deals, the willingness of private equity-backed firms to make long-term investments globally, and the impact of private equity investments on the employment levels of firms in the US and corporate governance in the UK.

* Mayors, regional governors and the private sector launched the World Economic Forums SlimCity Initiative, an exchange programme between cities and the private sector to support action on resource efficiency in urban areas, focusing on energy, water, waste, mobility, planning, health and climate change.

* Fourteen global CEOs and company chairmen, representing a range of industries and regions, issued a call to their peers to join collaborative efforts to strengthen public governance frameworks and institutions as a core element of their approach to corporate citizenship.