In this episode of Global Conversation, I was delighted to speak to Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but Covid 19 could be the moment when the world has a second chance to get things right. Global injustice has been brutally exposed by the pandemic: the deepening wealth gap, the inequity of health care, job insecurity, the worsening climate crisis as well as unmasking leaders working for themselves rather than their citizens, but it has also shown in an unprecedented way that the world can act together and fast for the greater good, all of which I discussed with Professor Klaus Schwab, who believes a global reset is possible - and he's published a book about just that too.
Looking to the future beyond Covid
I started by asking Professor Schwab when he looks at the state of the world right now, what is the first word that springs to his mind.
"The word "reset" I think is appropriate because we are now still fighting the virus, but we can be rather optimistic after what we have seen with the announcement of vaccines. Now we have to think how to structure, how to design, the post corona era. And here, of course, the word reset comes to my mind because one thing is clear, we cannot come back to the old normal. We have to use this opportunity, as our parents and grandparents have done after World War Two to really reflect on what went wrong and what could we do better," he said.
Professor Schwab on his priorities initiating the reset
I then asked Professor Schwab how he intends to begin the reset and where he will start. He told me there are three dimensions, three priorities.
"The first one is to make the world more resilient because we definitely will have to face other surprises, black swans, as they are called, maybe different kinds of viruses. Second, we have to make the world more inclusive, fairer, because we have seen that we have reached unsustainable degrees, of levels, of people who feel excluded. Finally, we have to make the world much greener. We finally have to put all our energy behind decarbonisation in order to avoid a major catastrophe in the future of which we have the first signs today," he added.
The COVAX mechanism
Moving on to discuss the COVAX mechanism -- an initiative working for global and fair access to coronavirus vaccines -- I asked about his thoughts on how it informs his vision of a more inclusive society.
"It's a bright spot because it reconfirms the effectiveness, which can be achieved by having the right partners to work together. It's a systemic approach. We cannot solve our problems in the world by choosing simple approaches and COVAX integrates the vaccines with the treatment, with testing and the right health policy approaches. So what we need in our world in the future is a much more systemic approach because we know that everything is interdependent. Everything is connected not only on a global level, but if you take social, economic, political issues, they are all interconnected. So we need a systemic approach."
I then discussed with the Professor that if we need this systemic approach, how we've got a bit of a problem, because when it comes to COVAX, for example, while the EU was quick to back this, we have players like the US and Russia that are not onboard.
"I think we may see the US also joining in the future, I think COVAX is also a very important step in order to make sure that the gap between the developed countries and the emerging countries, the least developed countries, is not widening. We have seen that the blow of the virus to those countries is a particularly serious and damaging one. With COVAX we ensure that those people also can enjoy, and also on a European basis with much better cooperation compared to what we have seen in the past, we ensure that we do not increase unfairness in the distribution of all the remedies which we need in order to fight this virus," he said in response.
Future relations under Joe Biden
As a champion of multilateralism, I finally asked the Professor about the departure of Donald Trump and whether a new presidency in the US under Joe Biden will inject new momentum into a multilateral system.
"I think also here we need to reset, we cannot go back to the system of multilateralism, which we have established after World War Two. What we need is a reform of the international system. Just think of the WTO. We have to integrate new dimensions of global trade, like everything which has to do with e-commerce and so on. So definitively, multilateralists will get a boost by the election of President Biden. And I'm very hopeful that we can now create the necessary systems which we need for the 21st century," he said.