24 Oct 2014 | Ravi Chaudhry | Resources and Security
The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stone. It ended because we came up with better ideas and implemented those.
The postmodern world today faces an unprecedented set of dilemmas. It is concerned about a potential scarcity of natural resources. It is troubled about irresponsible lifestyles that are unmindful of waste and adverse climate change. It is alarmed about the insatiable greed of a few, oblivious of the resultant gross inequality. It is anxious about a new trajectory of innovation and growth leading to persistent joblessness. And it is conscious that all these quandaries are somehow interrelated. Each is either a cause or the consequence of the other.
Fortunately, the world is not short of ideas; it is short of holistic leadership. It is not short of talent; it is short of talent with purpose. It is not short of meaningful discussion, it is short of meaningful action.
The BMW Global Tables aim to provide a pragmatic analysis of what led to the problems we face and evolve action-solutions to reverse the current surge of policy prescriptions.
The BMW Foundation Global Tables endeavour to bridge the chasm between intent and action. They aim to provide a pragmatic analysis of what led to the problems we face, evolve action-solutions to reverse the current surge of policy prescriptions, and steer the planet towards a new course – anchored on equity and sustainability and a greater congruence of views and approaches between North and South, West and East, and specifically between Europe and the emerging economies.
The 1st Global Table in Hangzhou, China, brought together a group of about thirty individuals, representative of the vast diversity that characterizes our planet. It had the right gender balance and comprised individuals from different geographies, backgrounds, and age groups. Their three-day interaction led to reaffirmation that people all over the world have more that unites them than divides them, and they all cherish a fair and equitable society, living in sync with nature.
At the 1st Global Table, there was an unmistakable consensus that political leaders of key countries must accept shared responsibilities, in a spirit of give-and-take, and should do so with a sense of great urgency. At the same time, the group lamented a lack of consensus and the lack of a sense of urgency, not only at the inter-governmental, but also at the intra-governmental level.
A platform where civil society and business leaders speak with one voice can have a significant influence on steering the policy formulation in the desired direction.
The participants also recommended an appropriate structure of alliances with a few like-minded civil-society groups in different continents to give a critical mass to the proposed action-solutions. It is up for reconsideration whether and how we could align that approach with a simultaneous focus on bringing round corporate CEOs to ally with us.
There was a discernible undercurrent about the historic mistrust between the developed economies and the emerging economies, and a more than occasional pro-Western bias in several global institutions. Maybe it is on the mend, but there has to be a conscious effort to bridge the perception gap.
The participants also acknowledged the considerable diversity and plurality of interests among emerging economies and suggested that the preferred course would be to take up a few issues first, seek consensus, initiate implementation, and then take up the next issues. Prioritizing the issues was a strong recommendation.
Apart from the above, the 1st Global Table also spent considerable time on two significant themes:
- Issues of national resource security such as co-ordinated actions, at both the national and international level, to alleviate the imminent threat of shortages. It was emphasized that the solutions evolved should take cognizance of the enormous work being done at the grassroots level, in a manner that fosters the growth of new business models based on resource efficiency and renewables.
- Specific, focused efforts to give a significant fillip to thousands of projects led by social entrepreneurs and the need to inculcate an environment that supports such initiatives through financial, marketing, and infrastructure support and mentorship.
Throughout the entire dialogue in China, there were three underlying themes that surfaced again and again, in the context of every issue and every recommendation: improve governance, create jobs and reduce inequalities.
In the final analysis, the quality of the outcome of each Global Table is determined by the collective imagination, creativity, and wisdom of the group. With meaningful outcomes, each participant is enriched, and through their collaborative efforts, hopefully the entire planet.