Blog: World Economic Forum

Blog: World Economic Forum
Mel Young

Gordon Brown may have a low rating in the UK, but at the World Economic Forum’s AGM in Davos he is top of the pops amongst delegates following a question and answer session with Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Not only does he have a clear grasp of the issues which currently challenge the world, but he is also passionate about the way forward. His twin beliefs of creating a world which allows free trade combined with his strong values of fairness and social justice makes complete sense to delegates who are looking to use capitalism to make the world a better place.

The role of consumers and the promotion of fair trade are obviously manifestations of these thoughts. Consumers can become change makers by altering their shopping habits, and in the process support poor farmers in the developing world.

But Brown believes that the global institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the United Nations are so out of date that they need to be reformed completely.

‘These institutions were established in the 1940’s when the world was a completely different place, so these bodies are no longer appropriate to deal with the issues of a world which is connected in a different way.’

 He maintained that these institutions were not in a position to deal with the challenges of 2008 including climate change, failed states, non-state terrorism and the power of the internet. ‘If they don’t reform, they will become irrelevant’, he said.

He suggested that the UN could become a rapid response agency which could not only send troops, but police, administrators, lawyers and specialists in all fields to help countries recover from crises. The IMF could become an economic early-warning system and a world carbon exchange market. The World Bank should take responsibility for financing environmental protection as well as development and poverty issues.

His ideas and contributions were well received by delegates who are examining innovative ways to tackle global problems.

His grand global ideas were brought into personal perspective by Ishmael Beah, an ex-child soldier from Sierra Leone who brilliantly articulated his journey from the horror of war, through his time a child soldier and his rehabilitation. His moving account of his life showed the scale and depth of some of the problems in the world whilst also showing the amazing potential we all have to heal and move on in a constructive way. The potential is huge but we have to build in the right way.

Klaus Schwab described Gordon Brown as ‘the finest example of prime ministership in the global public interest’. Perhaps if there was a vote amongst all global citizens he might become President of the world! The delegates from the UK who I spoke to were all really impressed with his contribution and he seemed in a relaxed and confident mood. His domestic matters are another challenge but as the world really needs to change quickly, Brown certainly understands the issues and is coming out with some very constructive ideas.

Bill Gates’ earlier comments about creative capitalism also chimed in with this mood, but Gates said he was impatient and wanted to get a move on. That’s the real challenge – some fantastic discussions and thoughts now need to be turned into action – immediately.