A world of contradictions

rethink sustainability

A world of contradictions

LOcom_AuthorsLO-POD.png   Patrick Odier
Senior Managing Partner

I was a lot younger when I first started coming to the World Economic Forum at Davos, which transforms from a small village into a global centre for a short period every year. Much has changed over the last 30 years. What strikes me most is how much the global context has changed. We find ourselves today in a ‘new normal’ characterised by geopolitical, social, economic and financial market fractures.

When I read the papers, however, I am compelled to ask myself: “How ‘normal’ is this new world order?” The value of Big Tech has never been so high; the EU economy is in a position of great strength; unemployment is less than 4% in Switzerland; and even as some companies are preparing to pay billions of dollars in taxes their stock prices are still going up.

All the lights are green, but I do wonder if we are reaching a tipping point. Potentially, I am being too sceptical and the political, social and economic risks that seem so prevalent today, have always, in fact, existed.  

Just how real are the geopolitical threats? How is the US administration’s policy really affecting investment flows? Is the regime change in the Middle East temporary? Will it be disruptive? What role will China play in developed market economies? What role can Switzerland play in helping China deploy its significant resources? Is Brexit showing signs of resolution without major disruption?

There are also many stark and growing contradictions in the world today. This era is unprecedented in terms of material abundance and scientific creation, for example, but at the same time we have never had so much of the global population deprived of basic human rights and freedoms. The disparity between the best and worst living conditions is huge, and growing as the number of people being left behind continues to increase. How is it that nearly 7,500 women are still being infected with HIV every week?

How can we mobilise the huge concentration of private resources, for example, to address these fundamental problems faced by so many?

These fractures are increasingly visible today and, I hope, will be the subject of serious discussion at Davos.

It is certainly encouraging to see that the delegate list is so strong and diverse this year. I take comfort in the apparent recognition that the world is at risk of becoming more fractured if we fail to come together in the spirit of collaboration and innovation. Perhaps, if we all live up to this expectation, the pot won’t boil over just yet.

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