The Forum on the World Economic Order (WEO) hosted its first alumni conference from September 6-9 in Washington, DC. 34 experts representing 23 countries gathered in Washington to discuss issues pertinent to the global economy, drawing on the themes of previous Forum WEO programming. Over the course of four days the participants took part in five panel discussions, a case study challenge on governance and had opportunities to network with experts representing a wide geographical and professional range.
The conference began with a keynote speech from Professor Dr. Thomas Straubhaar, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which set a framework for the challenges facing the world economic “disorder.” Professor Straubhaar asserted that the ideological standoff of the 21st century has become a question of Big Business vs. Big Brother, with the United States and China residing at opposite poles. As post-war multilateralism and the power of law seems to be regressing into a law of power, the world will see battles for dominance play out in new fora, most notably cyberspace. In order to not be consumed by much larger global players, he maintained that smaller countries must band together and focus on shared values and upholding a rules-based order.
The conference also consisted of five panels, focusing on free trade and multilateralism, entrepreneurship and innovation, the digital economy and the future of work, economic and social inclusion, and the developing world, respectively. Many of the themes discussed in Professor Straubhaar’s opening speech were echoed on the panels, such the efficacy of multilateralism in trade, and the role of technology as a tool that can either positively impact or harm individuals. Other areas of focus included how to drive innovation, and what it means to build a global economy that is inclusive and accessible. Finally, the panels finished with a discussion on how best to support developing economies by empowering them to solve their own issues in their own context, rather than imposing outside solutions.
A recurring theme of the conference was the role of good governance, and many participants pointed out areas that governments could improve to better support their citizens. In between the sessions, the participants were split into groups according to their individual expertise and tasked with creating their own country, focusing on several key challenges such as migration, trade, digitalization, security, and geography. This exercise gave participants an opportunity to develop some of the theories posited in the panels, as well as network amongst themselves and work on shared problem solving.
By bringing together alumni to exchange ideas and look at the broader definition of the world economic order, the conference was able to further build on the Forum WEO’s foundation of expertise across diverse themes. The Forum will continue to identify key issues of the global economy and engage them through its growing network of experts, with an overarching focus on developing nuanced solutions to shared challenges.
By Courtney Flynn, Senior Program Associate, FNF North America