Reflections on the Global Solutions Summit 2019
“The crisis of the liberal world order arises from a misalignment of our social, economic and political domains of activity.” With these words, Dennis J Snower, president of the Global Solutions Initiative, launched the Global Solutions Summit 2019.
The Global Solutions Summit is an annual international conference, also known as the World Policy Forum, held in Berlin. The Summit is organised by the Global Solutions Initiative Foundation, a global think tank which contributes to greater continuity and impact within G20 policy arenas. With Japan assuming the G20 presidency this year, Japanese think tanks are taking the lead in discussing this year’s ideas, and policy briefs, around the overarching theme of the Summit: ‘Recoupling Social and Economic Progress Towards a Global Paradigm Change’.
I was invited to attend the Summit, to discuss the role of business and infrastructure in the sustainable agenda, after applying to be a Young Global Changer. I was among more than 3500 people to apply for a place and my application was selected as one of the best received.
All the sessions I attended were thought-provoking and looked at practical and sustainable solutions. The sessions included:
- Building Social Cohesion by Fighting Inequality: a panel exploring the root causes of the perpetuation of inequality (including the role of development corporations in maintaining inequalities, and the issues with universalising values)
- Financing Climate Futures: Rethinking Infrastructure: an OECD panel exploring what public and private actors should do to support the radical transformation needed to align financial flows in infrastructure for low-emission and resilient development
- The Role of Business in Paradigm Shifts: a lunch event, hosted by PwC, where participants explored how economies, and business, can deliver sustainable outcomes for society
- Overcoming Aging Population Challenges with Digital Technologies: where speakers discussed the role of new technologies in the silver economy, and how technological change should be made more accessible
- A keynote speech by German Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in which she advocated for effective cooperation and an orderly Brexit…
Among the many brilliant sessions, one highlight for me was attending a panel discussion and participating in a meeting of the T20 Task Force 4 on the Economic Effects of Infrastructure Investment and its Financing. These included a policy brief by Naoyuki Yoshino, Chair of T20 Japan, and Dean & CEO of the Asian Development Bank, and an introduction to the issue by Amar Bhattacharya, Senior Fellow for Global Economy and Development Program, at the Brookings Institution.
With the challenges posed by aging populations, and growing cities, along with the scarcity of resources and the growing need for mobility and connectivity, it’s clear that the sustainable infrastructure agenda is key to meeting the Sustainability Development Goals.
Nearly 75% of the estimated infrastructure needed by 2050 (servicing areas such as mobility, digital and water management) is yet to be built, and all at a time when countries, and cities, are pledging to reduce carbon emissions.
The delivery of high-quality, sustainable and inclusive infrastructure should be supported by mechanisms that encompass sustainable return on investment, to attract further private investment and bring along social benefits for the people they are built for, without undermining the natural capital.
I work on transport infrastructure projects, on a daily basis, and I know the deep implications they have on communities, local economies and the environment. However, these are not always taken into account and the key focus seems to be on constructing infrastructure, rather than the impacts on the people it is built for. Infrastructure connect places, people and resources, and these relationships should always be the main driver for their construction.
The challenges are unprecedented and require solid international cooperation as well as strong leaders and civil societies.
For me, attending this Summit provided a great opportunity to understand multilateral governance within the G20 platform, and to see how climate change and sustainable development issues are integrated into its processes. Participating in these discussions was an amazing experience and has motivated me to do even more in my daily life, and at work, to mitigate and facilitate the change I want to see in the world.
I came away inspired by the high calibre of discussions held, the enthusiasm and engagement of attendees, and the deep desire to address the root causes of the challenges we face worldwide – most notably the inherent costs of not addressing the environment and social equity in measurements of growth and economic prosperity.
Today recoupling is a dream, but tomorrow it can be reality!