For the past 10 years, the convening of industry leaders and policymakers in the UAE for the annual World Governments Summit has always received wide attention. That is to be expected when heads of state and government, Nobel Prize winners, artists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists – which is to say, some of the brightest, most accomplished minds across diverse fields – gather in one place to talk about the most pressing issues on the global agenda.
As President Sheikh Mohamed said yesterday: “The World Governments Summit is the UAE’s responsible invitation to the whole world, to join the dialogue, share knowledge and invest in new ideas and creative energies.”
The three-day conference, beginning in Dubai today, will once again provide a platform and a meeting place for some of the world's leading thinkers to discuss ideas and insights about what's in the pipeline in fields as varied as AI, education, energy, finance, creativity, transport, smart mobility, and the various challenges and solutions in those fields. Speaking last month about AI, Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and chairman of the World Governments Summit, said that the world economy, researchers and human knowledge will be changed because of AI.
The discussions and ministerial meetings during the course of the summit have more than once touched upon issues that were amplified to then become broader talking points. The forum has, in that sense, frequently been ahead of the curve.
For example, the themes for the 2017 summit included climate change, food security and citizen well-being and happiness. They were prescient topics, with extreme weather events and food shortages proving to be among humanity's greatest challenges in the years since. Similarly, well-being, happiness and mental health are today understood to be vital to people's productivity – and by extension, a nation's workforce and its gross domestic product.
This year's theme, Shaping Future Governments, is apt, not least because of a number of critical national elections being held in 2024, and for what a post-war scenario in Gaza would look like. Today's many challenges require a trusted platform, such as the Dubai summit, for discussion, sharing of best practices and building consensus.
It is significant that this year’s guests of honour include Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last year told the summit he would not forget the international humanitarian response to the destructive earthquake that struck his country and Syria, stressing the role of global partnerships and international solidarity.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, are the other guests of honour, and will be among more than 25 world leaders at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah.
The chief executives of Google, OpenAI and Airbus will also participate, as will several dozen other industry leaders in the private sector. For the public, too, this is a chance to listen to the speakers and learn from the sheer breadth of expertise and domain knowledge that this vast network of participants brings to one place. Several of these talks are recorded and accessible on social media platforms, particularly YouTube, many of which deserve more than one listen.
This also allows ideas to resonate far beyond the conference halls. Multilateralism and joint work to tackle cross-border challenges is at the heart of the World Governments Summit. There will be participants from the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organisation, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Arab League.
As a vehicle to push ideas forward, the World Governments Summit has the capacity to educate people on ideas that can shape future governments, and also the world in the years to come. It takes place at a time when solutions to major challenges – from Gaza to AI regulations – are sorely needed.