By DR. FLORANGEL ROSARIO BRAID
This is the theme of Davos 2020, the 50th annual meeting of the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) which usually draws some 3,000 participants. mostly decision makers in government, business, and professional groups from various parts of the world. The theme is supposed to give concrete meaning to “stakeholder capitalism” – that “people are revolting against the economic elite” they believe have betrayed them,” and to assist governments in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
But, although several sessions tackle some of today’s priority concerns such as modern slavery, new technologies (Artificial Intelligence and Satellite Imaging), reskilling the work force, Schools for the Future, Media in promoting SDGs, and even that of refashioning the fashion industry to ensure environmental sustainability, I don’t see a focus on a need identified by some of our more socially aware development specialists. Which is that of critically examining the SDGs or country development goals for the purpose of responding to dissatisfaction with existing development models (GDP).
This concern is shared by an increasing number of planners who are convinced that indeed, the gap between the economic elites and the masses worldwide had widened. Considerably. Among these post-development advocates are Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, both economists and Nobel Laureates, who argue that the current development models have in fact, widened inequalities in our societies.
Growth has not been sustainable because we are measuring the wrong thing, according to Stiglitz who notes that we are unable to fight back against the triple threats of “climate change,” “financial inequality,” and the “crisis of democracy,” because of our obsession with GDP. But the latter does not include resource depletion and environmental degradation. Thus, the need for action not only from the top but also from the bottom; that changes cannot be achieved through market mechanisms but through regulation and policies, e.g., tax justice and climate justice.
“Underdevelopment is due to asymmetrics of power and representation. Development can work better if the strategy focuses on concerns like protection from land-grabbing, protection of seeds, regulation of food commodities, debt cancelling. Democratization of key institutions of global governance so that the Global South may have a stronger voice. A new economic accounting for human happiness and environmental well-being cold change the course of humanity. Giving people more independence and reclaiming economy from a capitalist world market through practices of reciprocity and focus on indigenous and traditional knowledge would be part of this alternative strategy.”
Despite its failure to include what we think should be discussed in a global meet like this, the World Economic Forum’s agenda, however, has been able to respond to some critical demands of our times. Such as the use of AI and satellite technology in mapping forced labor patterns in regions like South Asia where technology has been able to highlight nuances of modern slavery. There are 40 million in slavery due to mispricing of labor where true social costs are not quantified. Forced migration and natural disasters have further increased the risks of human exploitation.
Another topic which should be a priority concern for all, especially developing countries is the need to reskill 1 billion people by 2030. More than 1 billion jobs, almost one-third of which are likely to be transformed by technology in the next decade, will be created to meet the needs of the 4th Industrial Revolution. WEF reports that job growth will come from care, engineering and cloud computing, sales marketing and content, data and AI, green jobs, people and culture, and specialized project managers. In addition to high-tech skills, they will need skills in human and interpersonal relations.
The meet likewise envisions a School for the Future which would have attributes of some of our more progressive schools today – Innovation and Creativity, Problem-based and Collaborative Learning, Self-Paced Learning, and Lifelong Learning.
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