Did Davos deliver any ‘humane intelligence?’

Did Davos deliver any ‘humane intelligence?’

Earlier this week, I outlined three things Davos had to make progress on: the education emergency, women’s economic empowerment, and backing Africa’s youth boom. Here’s my verdict on what was achieved.


Some important steps were taken on the education emergency and women’s economic empowerment – with encouraging signs of leadership from Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron in particular – but much more must urgently be delivered to tackle inequality, back Africa’s youth boom and increase the quality and quantity of investment into a region that will soon be home to 40% of the world’s youth.

Whilst there was some unsettling speculation in the snow about the impact of artificial intelligence, the reality is the 21st century depends not on AI, but on a more “humane intelligence” that urgently delivers a development finance deal to fight extreme poverty, corruption and inequality.

Challenge 1: The Education Emergency

Important progress was made on the education emergency this week, underlined by Malala’s powerful message on girls’ education, and by Trudeau’s welcome commitment to increase funding for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Other leaders must, however, build on this momentum. At the GPE Summit in Dakar next week, leaders must deliver more and better funding, and ensure tougher accountability measures are in place to tackle an education emergency that has left 500 million women illiterate, 130 million girls out of school, and kills 2,800 of the world’s poorest every day. Davos has helped create some momentum for the Dakar summit, but this must continue throughout 2018 and beyond to truly combat this crisis.

Challenge 2: Women’s Economic Empowerment 

There were encouraging discussions with the G7 host, Canada, and signs that their Minister of Finance and Minister for Women are open to big ideas that could help ensure Prime Minister Trudeau delivers a significant breakthrough for women’s economic empowerment in Africa at the G7 summit in June.

Again, the World Economic Forum played an important role in building momentum for this agenda. In many sessions, innovations around digital financial inclusion, gender-data and gender-budgeting were explored. For real progress to be made, however, we must move on from discussion to action – testing new approaches, and scaling up those we know work. The pressure is on Trudeau.

Challenge 3: Invest in Africa’s Youth Boom

By 2050, the population of Africa will be 2.5 billion and will comprise 40% of the world’s youth. Given the scale of demographic change taking place across the continent, this crucial issue was not sufficiently discussed in Davos. ONE has called for at least a doubling of all forms of development finance for Africa, front-loaded to start delivering for this growing population.

President Macron did talk about the importance of partnering with the Sahel region – and it is extremely important his Sahel Alliance come together soon. This must be underpinned by a strong increase in French aid to 0.55% GNI by 2022, and 0.7% by 2025. Other leaders talked in generalities about cooperation, but without the urgency or specificity needed. Proposals by leaders for cuts to co-operation must be rejected.

Going forward, WEF itself must play a bigger role convening key partners and making a compelling case for public and private investment into the sustainable development infrastructure that Africa and the world so clearly needs. These efforts must be based on bigger, better deals that combine fighting poverty and providing jobs with fighting corruption and averting a new African debt crisis.

Davos in 2019?

As for whether I’ll return to Davos and the WEF, some progress on two out of three probably makes that justified, but the jury is out, and more urgent action is needed from world leaders and the WEF to rise to the urgent challenges ahead of us – above all by galvanising a game-changing development finance deal.


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