Opening plenary: Listen to the world: Promoting social well-being within planetary boundaries

Summit 2022

The world continues to face great upheaval wrought by the pandemic and recently Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Our many global threats — from climate change to pandemic vulnerability, from financial instability to cyber insecurity, from biodiversity loss to food insecurity – remain, but they require a radical reevaluation in the new geopolitical and geoeconomic circumstances.

While it remains clear that the world community has no choice but to address global problems multilaterally, the practice and institutions of our current form of multilateralism have been called into question. New avenues for tackling the urgent global problems need to be explored?

Our point of departure is a simple proposition underlying all our global problem-solving efforts — one that sounds obvious, but is honored more in the breach than in the observance. It is the proposition that global forums such as the G20 and G7 must focus exclusively on human flourishing, now and in the future. Such flourishing involves the universal pursuit of social prosperity, based on individual wellbeing in thriving societies and a thriving natural world.

Indeed, the global challenges we face are symptomatic of a deeper root cause: we cannot assume that economic activity will automatically serve the needs of our societies or of our planet. The existing economic system has been designed to focus on efficiency and promoting economic growth per se, rather than promoting the wellbeing of people and the sustainability of our planet. Likewise, businesses are expected to prioritise shareholder value and financial performance rather than meeting broader stakeholder needs. If we wish to ensure that our economic and business activities address the major challenges we now face, we must start by acknowledging that we have a system design problem. This design problem contributes to the challenges we are experiencing rather than addresses them. The time has come to consider how our economic, business, political and social systems can be reoriented to achieve inclusive, sustainable and resilient prosperity.

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