In November 2013, the Philippines was struck by typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful ever recorded and a devastating event that immediately captured the world’s attention.

While natural disasters tend to dominate the headlines, there is also another story to be told about the Philippines. The country recorded GDP growth of 7.2% last year, compared with 4.7% in other emerging countries, and 6.5% in Asian nations. The economy has become more robust, diverse and resilient over recent years – a process that was tied to domestic and foreign demand, as well as a solid and balanced manufacturing industry and service sector. In step with the rest of East Asia, the Philippines is becoming more dynamic every day.

Today, Asia is the engine of the world’s economic growth. The region’s GDP accounts for 30% of global GDP (and could reach as much as 50% towards 2050) and it is no overstatement to say that growth in Asia means growth for the world. A generation ago, Asia was a marginal region; now it’s at the centre of the global economy.

As Asia steps further into the limelight, it is clear to me that its politicians and people alike must take on more responsibilities. Once content to follow, Asia must now take the lead. That is why I believe the World Economic Forum on East Asia is taking place at a key moment in time.

Participants will consider how best to secure long-term economic growth, responsible business expansion, political and social development, as well as how the people of the region can enjoy better lives.

This is made all the more pressing by our current situation. In the 21st century, we face what I see as a ‘trilemma’, three pressing issues that must be solved simultaneously if we are to secure a workable, sustainable future; securing economic growth and accommodating population expansion; working with increasingly limited resources; and raising environmental awareness in order to deal with devastating weather events linked to climate change.

This must be done at a time when the pace of social and political change has never been faster, and economic uncertainties and risk have never been greater; a time when “leveraging growth for equitable progress” – the theme of the Forum’s event in East Asia – is a vital concept for the business sector to embrace and cultivate.

Over the course of the meeting, I hope to see participants from government, businesses, academia and independent organizations come together to identify the key challenges of our shared future, and to work towards securing sustainable growth in East Asia, and the wider world.

Of course, no single meeting can be expected to deliver all the solutions. I believe that to resolve our trilemma and secure fair, sustainable growth, we must boost innovation and productivity. And by we, I mean both governments and (most of all) private enterprises.

Having said that, I also believe that collaboration across all sectors of society will play a significant role in the region’s development.

We are all familiar with the concept of networking and the potential of cloud computing. I tend to see these meetings as the coming together of a human cloud that draws on the power and reach of a global network. I have every confidence that the interaction of this cloud will enlighten us as to how to achieve equitable progress for today’s world and the generations yet to come.

Author: Atsutoshi Nishida is Chairman of the Board, Toshiba Corporation, Japan, and a co-chair of the 2014 World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Image: A man walks towards a flooded pavilion an an overflowing lake in Hangzhou, China, October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Lang Lan