Over the years we have been struck by the fervent desire of Young Global Leaders to work together to make a positive impact in the world. They’re creative in how they go about driving change and if their idea gets blocked at the first impasse, it doesn’t stop them from seeking a different path. At Davos this year I participated in a dinner entitled, A New Ocean Economy, which embodies how the Forum of Young Global Leaders aims to make an impact.

In a cosy room set atop the Swiss Alps, three Young Global Leaders, Kristin Rechberger of Dynamic Planet, Marco Fiorese of The Monaco-Asia Society, and Enric Sala of National Geographic introduced a room full of leaders to Mel, a fictional fish living in a marine reserve. Mel represents their vision for a new ocean economy – one with more biodiversity and established marine reserves as well as a vibrant fishing and eco-tourism economy around those reserves.

Along with the heads of state of Monaco, Iceland, and Costa Rica, Kristin, Marco, and Enric gathered CEOs from the insurance, tourism, investment, restaurant industries along with heads of UN organizations, the World Bank, professors of top universities, and NGO leaders to go on a journey to learn about the major benefits of protecting vast areas of the world’s oceans. The idea was best summed up through a 4-minute video in which Mel shares these main benefits:

  1. Marine Reserves protect the biodiversity of the oceans
  2. Within the reserves, the average biomass of fish increases by 450%
  3. The fishing industry benefits as the spillover of fish carries well beyond the borders of the marine reserve. Pilot projects have shown a doubling of the incomes of fishermen as they fish around the borders of the reserves.
  4. An added bonus from these reserves has also been an increase in the tourism, particularly diving and snorkelling, in these reserves.

As I looked around and saw the YGLs sprinkled around the room alongside the Presidents and CEOs of major corporations and international organizations, I could sense the two main ways in which YGLs are making an impact. Firstly, they’re helping one another achieve more – Enric has been working for years an Explorer-in-Residence at National Georgraphic to create the world’s largest pristine ocean reserves through a project entitled Pristine Seas. This dinner left an indelible impression on policy makers and executives who can be at the forefront of encouraging more governments to engage in the Pristine Seas project to protect 20% of the world’s oceans by 2020.

Secondly, it showed how the YGL community has been able to rally around new ideas that have surfaced from their discussions during YGL gatherings. This YGL initiative, Fish Banks, surfaced through discussions between Kristin, Marco, and Enric about how a bottom-up approach could compliment the Pristine Seas efforts. This initiative has grown by working with fellow YGLs from the investment and insurance industries to develop the business case to encourage hotel chains, coastal municipalities, and small island governments to invest in the creation of marine reserves. A number of pilot projects in East Timor, Turkey, The Philippines and the Seychelles, have emerged and they are now hoping to see this idea take hold around the world.  This is an as initiative that creates jobs, protects ocean biodiversity, and teaches the next generation of citizens in coastal communities how to preserve their natural environment.

Like many of the participants that evening, I left inspired to see how I can support Fish Banks and convinced that this and other YGL Initiatives will have a very positive impact around the world.

Author: John Dutton is an Associate Director at the World Economic Forum and Deputy Head of the Forum of Young Global Leaders. 

Image: Flocks of shoreline birds are seen in Raccoon Island REUTERS/Sean Gardner