Leaders set to discuss the path to a new global order at FII
May you live in interesting times,” goes the famous curse. Certainly, it’s hard to watch the news without wondering if the times we live in might not have become too interesting lately.
Rampant inflation in almost all the world’s major economies and war in Europe that refuses to abate are just two of the concerns that now reside in the minds of the planet’s adult population.
Accompanying them are complex questions about how our lives and jobs will be affected by rapidly developing digital technologies and automation. What can be done about climate issues seems overwhelmingly huge. How can individuals and societies tackle problems caused by the inequality around them?
For these reasons and many others like them, the gathering of the planet’s most influential political, business, investment, academic and cultural leaders in Riyadh next week for the sixth edition of the Future Investment Initiative could hardly be better timed.
Themed “Investing in Humanity: Enabling a New Global Order,” the event and delegates will make sense of the economic and social issues in the aftermath of COVID-19 and chart a way to restore long-term confidence and advance humanity’s interests.
It’s far from a straightforward challenge. However, I believe success will depend on a clear understanding of what still unites fragmented societies and using that knowledge as the platform for consensus and then progress.
That way, we can transform the challenges of our age to become the opportunities upon which the new global order could be founded.
To this end, the FII Institute recently conducted one of the most extensive social research studies ever undertaken: A survey of 130,000 people in 13 countries, including the US, China, India, Brazil and the UK, to discover how individual priorities differ across demographics of gender, age and geography.
We presented the research at our priority event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. The results were as fascinating as they were stark. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they felt the world was headed in the wrong direction.
The No. 1 priority of those surveyed was the cost of living, followed closely by real concerns about poverty and social inequality. Worries about unemployment were the third most widely held.
Other priorities many respondents voiced included crime, global warming, geopolitical tensions and immigration concerns.
It would be easy to read the survey results and feel depressed. However, one statistic stood out as a cause for great optimism. Although respondents, overall, may have been pessimistic about the direction of global events, the picture was somewhat different when describing how they perceived their circumstances.
When questioned, “would you say things in your own life are generally headed in the right direction?” about 77 percent responded they would.
This answer, indeed, is an unequivocal affirmation of the power of modern economies and businesses to transform lives by improving citizens’ circumstances.
According to the World Bank, global poverty was reduced by half between 1990 and 2010 alone. It doesn’t mean that our trade systems cannot be improved like any human-made system. It instead points out that we must never forget it is business and the billions of opportunities are created daily through the simple act of buying and selling, that is among humanity’s most potent means for enabling people to lead fulfilling lives.
Another startling result of the survey was that only 30 percent of interviewed people in African countries had a positive outlook about life in their country getting better in the future. In contrast, 70 percent of people in emerging Asian countries, including China, India and Saudi Arabia, were optimistic. In Saudi Arabia, 61 percent were optimistic and 39 percent were pessimistic.
Given this optimism of Saudi society demonstrated by the survey and the winds of positive social and economic change, it’s highly appropriate that the sixth edition of the FII is taking place here in Riyadh hosted by the FII Institute, which grew out of the annual event and became a full-fledged, independent global nonprofit foundation in 2019.
vWe have a single mission: A positive impact on humanity. With this in mind, we look forward to welcoming FII delegates to meet the challenge of our age, which is to become architects of a new global order by re-thinking the global marketplace of the 21st century, so that all people in every country are better able to harness their full potential and ensure their energies are distributed more equitably.
We will do this by learning from past economic and geopolitical mistakes and coming together to envision new social and commercial frameworks that address people’s concerns about health and wealth inequality, the environment and the cost of living, to name a few.
Only by establishing a new global order can humankind emerge from the cycle of social and economic crises over the last century and chart a new course to a future of our imagining.
FII marks the start of that journey that is humanity’s greatest chance to unlock the opportunities that always accompany crises and to maximize them for everyone, now and for generations to come.
If we can do that, living in interesting times is not so bad.
• Richard Attias is CEO of FII Institute.