World Economic Forum grapples with transition ‘from Cold War to hot peace’ in Dubai

Slowest global economic growth in 10 years and polarisation demand new tools, WEF president says

Dubai, March, 28, 2019: Borge Brende, President, World Economic Forum gestures during the media conference at the opening of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)In Dubai. Satish Kumar/ For the National
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The World Economic Forum’s meeting of its Global Future Councils began on Sunday in Dubai, in “the world’s biggest brainstorm to lay the groundwork for our annual meeting in Davos”, its president said.

The international community must tackle change “from Cold War to a hot peace” as the slowest economic growth in a decade has led to increasing polarisation and a possible global recession looms, Borge Brende said.

What will happen when half of the world starts adopting Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain, while the other half remains light years away?

“We must build the tools to work against such a backdrop and a truly globalised world, where your problems are my problems and vice versa,” Mr Brende said.

More than 600 delegates from government, academia and the private sector are attending the annual meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai.

They will set the agenda for the meeting in Davos in January including themes of geopolitics, artificial intelligence, training and retraining, and mental health.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, said the WEF must answer three questions “for a more stable, safe and happy future”.

“We have a popular saying in our culture: 'The key to knowledge and wisdom is constant questioning',” Mr Al Gergawi said at the Madinat Jumeirah complex.

With more than a billion people still living without electricity and 1 per cent of the world’s population owning more than half of global wealth, the WEF must question if the Fourth Industrial Revolution has contributed to the gap between rich and poor societies.

“What will happen when half of the world starts adopting the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain, while the other half remains light years away from more advanced societies?” Mr Al Gergawi asked.

The data revolution has also underscored “a question of trust. Trust in institutions, media and government". Trust is the foundation of stable societies, he said.

Mr Al Gergawi mentioned protests in France over a rise in fuel taxes, in Chile after a change to metro fares, and in Hong Kong after attempted extradition reform.

The social unrest highlights the challenges for governments in gaining trust from their citizens that they are working in their interests, he said.

“The UAE, in collaboration with the WEF, is trying as much as possible to create this model for a country of the future which will be able to balance technology with social care,” Mr Al Gergawi said.