The most popular topic in recent months, without the doubt, has been the one about the coronavirus and its impact on our healthcare systems, economies, and everyday lives. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives, hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs, more than a billion children have been shut out of schools, and trillions of dollars of economic activity have disappeared, leaving everyone guessing and wondering what comes next.
Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), gave us an answer on this one: “Many of us are wondering when things will return to normal. The short response is: never. The world as we knew it in the early months of 2020 is no more,“ he noted, adding that while at this early stage there is no way of knowing how things will turn out in the end, there are some things that can be done to navigate the uncertain journey ahead.
A lot has been talked and written, debating on how we should respond to the current crisis, and the World Economic Forum also suggested one way to cope with it: a Great Reset of capitalism. According to WEF, since “it is a crisis unlike any other, it also requires a response like no other — a balanced and inclusive response that makes our economies and societies future-proof. We need a Great Reset, not just a restart or a reboot.“ The idea of the Great Reset was declared at a virtual WEF’s meeting by HRH The Prince of Wales and Professor Schwab, followed by statements by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva just a few months ago, in June 2020, when global leaders from the United Nations, United Kingdom, United States, International Monetary Fund and multinational corporations joined together for yet another discussion. It was announced that the Great Reset will be the main topic of the upcoming World Economic Forum’s event in January 2021, and organizers hope that it would shed some light on the unaddressed problems that leave the world less sustainable, less equal, and more fragile — such as climate change, sustainability, social justice, and, of course, the Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking about the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum took an interesting point of view. Noting that the world will spend trillions of dollars on repairing our economies from this disaster through debt relief programs, income support programs, fiscal stimuli, and other interventions, WEF says that it would be a wasted opportunity to then only focus on a restart, as we have fundamental issues in our society, our economy, and our environment to address as well. In other words, today we should have more ambition than to go back to the pre-pandemic days, and instead of simply restarting, we must find ways to reset and reform our societies.
To be more specific, WEF defines the Great Reset as a “commitment to jointly and urgently build the foundations of an economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable, and resilient future.“ The purpose of it is to use the coronavirus pandemic as a justification — attendees of the discussion repeatedly referred to it as an “opportunity” — to completely overhaul the entire global economy, including the US economy, to make a more “equitable” world and to fight climate change, which was on numerous occasions identified as the world’s next great “crisis.”
Elaborating further, in an article published on the World Economic Forum’s website, Klaus Schwab noted that “The world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism.“ He also added that “This global pandemic has also demonstrated again how interconnected we are. We have to restore a functioning system of smart global cooperation structured to address the challenges of the next 50 years. The Great Reset will require us to integrate all stakeholders of global society into a community of common interest, purpose, and action. We need a change of mindset, moving from short-term to long-term thinking, moving from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder responsibility. Environmental, social and good governance have to be a measured part of corporate and governmental accountability.“
Other members of the WEF had similar opinions: Prince Charles, one of the WEF’s leaders, noted that “We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this Covid-19 crisis. Its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change,” while António Guterres, Secretary-General at United Nations in New York added that “The Great Reset is a welcome recognition that this human tragedy must be a wake-up call. We must build more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global changes we face.“ One of the managing directors at the WEF, Olivier Schwab, also stressed that “With the pandemic, a great opportunity can be seized to put some of the big themes on the table to make the world more sustainable,“ noting that to seize this opportunity, everyone has a role to play, and asking us to join them.
Speaking about joining them, the upcoming 51st WEF summit will be a bit different: it will include both in-person and virtual meetings, connecting key global governmental and business leaders in Davos with a global multistakeholder network in 400 cities around the world for a forward-oriented dialogue driven by the younger generation. WEF wants to ensure that the Great Reset discussion will be pushed beyond the boundaries of traditional thinking, therefore, the summit will interconnect thousands of young people with a powerful virtual hub network to interact with the leaders in Davos. Each of those hubs will have an open house policy to integrate all interested citizens into this dialogue, making the Annual Meeting open to everyone. In addition, global media and social media networks will mobilize millions of people, enabling them to share their input while also providing them with access to the Annual Meeting discussions in Davos.