Davos turns its attention to those left behind by globalization: Interview with Mirek Dusek, WEF director

Mirek Dusek, senior WEF director, spoke to Arab News on the eve of the summit to reveal what will be on the agenda at the conference. (Supplied/WEF)
Updated 22 January 2019

Davos turns its attention to those left behind by globalization: Interview with Mirek Dusek, WEF director

DAVOS: Mirek Dusek, senior WEF director, spoke to Arab News on the eve of the summit to reveal what will be on the agenda.

Q: What are the big themes of Davos 2019?
A: The theme of this year’s event is divided into two parts. One is globalization 4.0 and the other is about creating a new architecture for international cooperation. We believe that the world is entering quickly a new wave of “globalization.”
We have had different waves of globalization in our history and as a result, we have become integrated in terms of economies. We have lifted many people from around the world from poverty, which has led to immense economic growth driven increasingly by trade. But we have missed something, which is really that the rewards of this have not been shared equitably within nations in particular. So many people point to real incomes in the US, for example.
The rewards for the average American from globalization stopped back in the 1980s and 1990s. So while we realize that globalization is the reality around us, we believe we are entering a new wave that is driven by technological advancement.
We see the fourth industrial revolution all around us, so we believe we are gathered at a really important time to think through how we fix some of the shortcomings we have had in the past. The other part is how we can make sure that we equip the institutional framework to deal with this reality. What do we need to tweak around trade? What is needed in terms of consultation around climate change?
How do we make sure we have a functioning system of helping refugees around the world? These are the things high on the agenda that are quite hard to answer, but that does not mean we should ignore them.

Q: Not many Davos attendees are on zero-hour contracts. Given all the inequality we see in developed and emerging economies, is there more cynicism about the practical usefulness of events like these?
A: Back in the 1990s, Professor Schwab had a lot of foresight in publishing a piece exactly about this.
How do you make sure despite all the excitement about that wave of globalization that you do not leave people behind.
We all see that within nations, and they can be very diverse, from developed to emerging markets, there is a sense that some people have been left behind and that is a clear challenge for decision makers to face.
This meeting and the organization overall is really around providing a platform to accelerate positive change. If you take health for example, we’ve been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
We see our role as a platform for action by not only political leaders where they provide a policy framework, but also by a lot of the development institutions and business to come together and address some of the deficiencies in the system — like when we identified the deficiency around vaccination.

Q: To what extent is the rise in populism we have witnessed worldwide related to the fourth industrial revolution?
A: There have been other industrial revolutions, eras in which we saw rapid technological change — changing the way people organized themselves or how economies were structured — and so there has always been a level of uncertainty over what this change might bring. We have established a network of centers for technology governance. The sole purpose of that is to be on the front foot and enable governments to catch up with the tremendous development of these technologies. We are also looking at the trends in automation and what it may mean for the jobs of the future. We have a whole piece of work looking at the future of jobs. Nobody knows exactly what it will look like but if we look at past industrial revolutions, the adaptation has been quite remarkable.
Humanity has always found ways to cope with the change and you could argue the upside prevailed. But it is important we don’t underestimate this challenge, particularly in policymaking because if governments don’t have the capacity to react or think through these implications, we could be arriving at a reality that is given to us by random developments.

Q: Davos has always been good at presenting the big questions facing humanity, but what about providing measurable answers?
A: The fourth industrial revolution is an area in which we look for outcomes. I don’t want to pre-empt the announcements, but we are launching partnerships with governments to help them with specific issues. We have already worked in Rwanda with a team that does drone regulation — given how important drones are in that country for the delivery of blood, for example. Of course, we have collaboration with governments and businesses on cyber.
The final thing is around our work with peace and reconciliation. We have a track record for providing a platform here for actors who at least want to explore ideas of how to overcome certain fault lines from conflicts around the world.
This year, we are holding a record number of these meetings that we call Davos diplomacy dialogues. For the conflict in Syria, we are having the UN special envoy for Syria come here and hold a meeting. We are also doing dialogues on Venezuela, the Western Balkans and between Russia and Europe.


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 23 August 2019

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

FASTFACT

Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.