The World Economic Forum 2014

Publié: 5 février 2014 9:42 CET

Bekele Geleta, is the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The opening speakers at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland set the tone beautifully for what was to follow during the session on ‘Reshaping the world through entrepreneurship, education and employment’ – the first of three major themes to emerge from the meetings.

President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stressed that unless the world finds a solution to youth unemployment, the consequences for society, politics and business are likely to be civil upheaval, political instability and economic disruption across the globe. I believe that we are already starting to see this unfold in the parts of Europe hardest hit by the economic crisis and in Latin America, as increased urbanization compounds the issue.

President Sirleaf also said that large corporations which have been able to obtain concessions in developing countries should be prepared to address the unemployment problem through training, social benefits to communities, and improvement in local infrastructure. This is one model for corporate-community engagement but other, more creative solutions will also be needed so that true value is created and shared by both businesses and communities.

But perhaps one of the speakers who made the greatest impression on me was the first female President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-Hye, who also spoke in the opening session and who urged the world to join Korea’s journey towards the development of a creative economy. 

She reminded us that innovation and creativity are not solely the domain of young people. That, I agree, is too simplistic an assumption. A little like the assumption that social media is a space that only young people can use effectively. Untrue: and if I had any doubts they certainly would have evaporated in the cloud of activity emanating from the multitude of devices that were constant companions to ‘more senior’ participants in Davos.

In fact, during the four days I followed the theme of youth unemployment and entrepreneurship closely. I met with Jamie McAuliffe, CEO of Education for Employment and Chair of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment. We believe that volunteering curricula can enhance opportunities for employment and job market training, that the Red Cross Red Crescent online learning platform may be enhanced to prepare young people for the job market and that – ultimately – our Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies may also be both a training ground and a landing spot for young people trained through the Education for Employment organisation.

The second of the three major themes to emerge is economic value creation and shared value at the heart of corporate community partnerships. The challenge to business is making vulnerable people part and parcel of the economy; part of the market. Because once they are able to participate they become part of the market. This is economic value creation and it is value shared. 

The IFRC’s relationship with Zurich Insurance Group was highlighted in Davos and, I am proud to say, is held up as best practice of a relationship based on shared value. Our partnership focuses on flood resilience as floods affect more people globally than any other disaster, and they amount to some of the largest economic, social, humanitarian and insurance losses – shared concerns that have resulted in one of the sector’s most innovative partnerships.

The last of the three themes was, unsurprisingly, technology. The High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke on the contribution technology could make to the protection of human rights. Many others discussed ways in which technology can enhance economies and, as I stated in a panel discussion on Technology For Humanity, has the potential to turn the traditional top down model of aid on its head.

The cash transfer system is a great example of something that brings donors and recipients together and gives the latter more of a say in their own recovery. But how do we ensure good donorship and how do we ensure the recipients’ rights and dignity are respected?

We place our Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in the middle.

Increasingly our societies have a role to play in introducing new technologies to disaster response and development, and their relevance will only continue to grow in coming decades.

So, upon reflection, was Davos a ‘talkfest’? Yes it probably was, depending on your definition. In truth, I hope that dialogue between the leaders of governments; business and organizations like mine never end. They will always require time and space. And from time to time, as they did in Davos, they will transform introductions and conversations into fruitful partnerships and solutions.

Related links

Can technology turn traditional aid on its head?
World Economic Forum blog by Bekele Geleta

World Disasters Report 2013
Technology and the Future of Humanitarian Action