As geopolitical volatility, a weak global economy and deepening climate and nature crises stall progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaders at the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Meetings 2023 called for strong, pragmatic and innovative partnerships among governments, businesses and civil society to address the world’s challenges and lay the foundations for sustainable growth in the future.
Public, private and civil sector leaders from more than 60 Forum communities discussed and advanced multistakeholder, innovative, inclusive ways to revive momentum on the 17 SDGs, including reducing poverty, increasing food security, addressing the climate and nature crises, accelerating the energy transition, promoting better health outcomes, harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) for better jobs and supporting the social economy.
“Adversity is the mother of all invention,” said Kenya’s President William Samoei Ruto at a session on improving food security for Africa, making the case for innovative investment in the continent that “not only expands food production capacity but also reduces the carbon footprint that comes with it”, as well as boosting GDP and creating jobs.
Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Ministry of International Cooperation of Egypt, emphasized the urgent need for “just financing” to support development and climate action at a session on building trust in a fragmenting world. She said: “Just financing” ensures “that countries are able to get not just quantities of finance but quality of finance, finance that creates sustainability.”
As the world faces one interconnected challenge after another, responding to crises is not enough, warned US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “We must build resilience to them,” she said. “This will reduce the need for future humanitarian assistance. It will support sustainable economic growth.”
Across more than 60 sessions and workshops, including 12 livestreamed on the website and social media, the Forum and its partners launched or advanced more than 25 initiatives focused on driving immediate and long-term progress, including progress on key initiatives such the First Movers Coalition, the EDISON Alliance and the Reskilling Revolution, ahead of the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
“We must continue to find mechanisms to strengthen international corporation for a more sustainable world,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “Multistakeholder coordination is essential to creating bridges across geographies and industries to overcome the current global challenges and accelerate the achievement of the SDG targets by 2030.”
On cooperation among competition
The meetings emphasized the importance of cooperation – especially among competitors – as essential to advancing the SDGs in a fragmented world. Many of the challenges facing the world “don’t travel with a passport”, said Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum. “We need to find solutions even if there is great competition between nations.”
Discussions showed how “coopetition” – rivals working together to achieve similar objectives – can ensure that everyone affected benefits while also leading to innovation, lower prices and improved public goods.
On human capital and innovation for inclusive growth
According to the Chief Economists Outlook, 60% of economists expect the global economy to weaken in the coming year. But emerging technology such as AI can help accelerate growth and solve global challenges, provided the risks are managed.
Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda, said she is “optimistic about the “ability to democratize access to opportunities” through technology.
Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC, argued that there is more work to be done by governments and companies. He made the case for ensuring individuals aren’t “disadvantaged from learning, from job opportunity and [their] own self-fulfilment and economic stability.”
On climate action, nature protection and the energy transition
Participants shared insights and ideas to accelerate decarbonization, create a more sustainable ocean economy, protect and safeguard nature and enable the energy transition with more sustainable and circular value chains.
Business and government must come together to facilitate innovation, especially in hard-to-abate sectors like mining, said Benedikt Sobotka, Chief Executive Officer, Eurasian Resources Group Sàrl. “Innovation is going to make this industry so much more efficient and so much more capable in expanding and deploying capital in what are increasingly complicated, technically challenging jurisdictions and geographies,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, but it’s a great challenge and a great opportunity.”
“We have to stop thinking about these problems as impossible,” said Vanessa Kerry, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Seed Global Health. “We have to recognize the timelines are long but the urgency to make the right decisions is now. And then we have to realize there is absolutely no such thing as too ambitious for the moment we are in today.”