Today, the Network of Global Agenda Councils is launching its fourth annual report, which showcases new ideas and policy recommendations to tackle urgent challenges on the global agenda. We ask Martina Gmür, Senior Director and Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, why this year’s annual report is more important, and timely, than ever.

What is the Global Agenda Councils’ annual report?
The annual report of the Global Agenda Councils provides an overview of the main ideas and recommendations that our network of over 1,000 global experts has developed in the past year to help solve the world’s most urgent challenges. The aim is to tell the story of each Council and share the main milestones and findings in a short narrative, while making more detailed reports, papers and action plans available for anyone who is interested in learning more.

What you will find when reading through the report is that one of the main goals and achievements of the Global Agenda Councils is breaking the silo thinking in each of their fields by collaborating across the whole network. This has successfully been achieved on a variety of issues, ranging from ageing to neuroscience and education to China. Given that the Network’s members include some of the world’s brightest minds from business, government, academia, civil society and international organizations, we believe the Councils are ideally placed to provide new thinking and innovative pathways to transform global, regional and industry agendas.

Can you give us some examples of ideas developed by Councils that have been adopted in their respective industries or spheres?
The report is filled with novel ideas and recommendations that deal with global problems, but in the interest of brevity, I will focus on three particular highlights of the past year.

One of the most important societal developments of past century has been the increase of life expectancy by 30 years, which has led to a spike in ageing populations in certain countries and regions. This demographic shift has enormous implications, but what should be done? The Global Agenda Council on Ageing wrote a book highlighting the opportunities associated with ageing and providing concrete solutions for healthy living, not just for the elderly but for all generations. The book has been endorsed by Margaret Chan, Secretary-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), who has taken the book’s recommendations and has shared them with WHO offices around the world.

Another issue critical to the global agenda is youth unemployment. To tackle this challenge, the Global Agenda Councils on Youth Unemployment and Emerging Multinationals have developed a joint project – Ten Youth. The objective of the project is to create employment opportunities for unemployed young people by providing them with a training and mentorship programme in leading multinationals. To kick off the project, over 30 companies signed up to this initiative in Davos in 2012, including Infosys and Manpower, each committing to hire, train and mentor 10 young people per year.

Economic development and population growth has put enormous strains on the world’s resources. One key area of increasing international exposure is that of fish stock depletion. With 85% of global stocks now fished up to their biological limits or beyond, the worldwide problem of overfishing is recognized as one of the key challenges of the 21st century. One high priority that is identified by the Global Agenda Council on Oceans is the need to dramatically improve the transparency and traceability of seafood supply chains. Today, consumers, distributors and even many seafood processors commonly lack basic information on the sources from which seafood products originate. In general, they cannot know whether the fisheries are overfished or well-managed. They cannot even be assured that the fish were caught legally – a major concern when current evidence suggests illegal fishing provides between 12% and 29% of the wild-caught seafood that reaches global markets.

Some Councils have issues which are in the limelight, such as fiscal crises, but there are a total of 78 Councils in the report. Could you give an example of a critical issue which is underestimated on the global stage?
The world is more complex, hyperconnected and volatile than ever before. This new global reality is further underscored by major trends, including the emergence of new economic and geopolitical powers, demographic shifts, fiscal imbalances, resource constraints and youth unemployment.

We are seeing a new set of growth models emerging and we do not yet know what that means, nor in terms of the future of democracy and capitalism. The lack of trust in current governance systems and global leadership is heard across the world and therefore we need to explore new governance models that can reverse this trend.

Councils have also raised the issue of population growth, rapid urbanization, migration and youth unemployment and the consequent impact on natural resources as critical to the global agenda, especially since even today we use 50% more resources than the world can provide. Finally, the implications of increased income inequality remain one of the key underestimated trends, not only within countries but between them.

These underestimated trends, uncovered by the Councils, are very much linked to Councils which were created for the 2011-2012 term. They are New Models of Leadership, which looks at governance aspects; Advanced Manufacturing, which considers new growth models; Fostering Entrepreneurship; and Robotics and Smart Devices, which are exploring exciting new possibilities through the new frontiers of science and technology.

How does the report set the scene for the Summit on the Global Agenda in November? What can you tell us about this year’s Summit?
The work of the Global Agenda Councils continues throughout the year, and the report provides an important input into one of the key highlights of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, the annual Summit on the Global Agenda. This three-day global brainstorming, which is held in partnership with the Government of the United Arab Emirates, is the world’s largest and most diverse “global ideas lab”. What I find most exciting about its format is that experts have time not only to consider their own issue, but also to have conversations across different issues, which give rise to genuine, original, interdisciplinary thoughts.

Conversations from the Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai on November 12-14 also feed into the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January and continue to provide a framework for the virtual meetings throughout the year. In this way, we are able to provide a stable platform for each Council to develop its ideas from one year to the next.

Author: Martina Gmür is the Senior Director, Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, World Economic Forum

Image: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi