Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

My summary of Global Economic Syposium 2011

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The Global Economic Symposium – the great undertaking organised by Kiel Institute for the World Economy (Institut für Weltwirtschaft) in collaboration with National Library of Germany (Deutsche Zentralbibliothek für Wirtschaftswissenschaften) and the Bertelsman Foundation has already finished. 400 hundreds guest from all over the world went home. Now it is time to conclude, say what was good, what was bad, and what need to be improved or developed next year.

What was good?

The concept is definitely the strongest side of the whole event. The observation that global problems may be overcome by building global societies was fresh, and it put the discourse on global problems on a new track. Most particularly, new methods of leading such massive, ambitious initiatives as the GES 2011 deserve our special attention. Organizers not only invited experts and put them on to certain panels to discuss different issues, but they forced them, in some way, to provide concrete solutions. It was demanding, but it brought us concrete results. We may agree or disagree with the proposals provided, but we definitely have achieved something, and produced the germ of an idea (sometimes very interesting germs!). The solutions-focus was strongly accentuated by the organizers, and in the end this gave a new standard for the structure of events like the GES.

What was bad?

Business emerged as the main winner of the GES 2011. There would be nothing wrong with this outcome if there were other actors who shared this success. But I feel like all of the attendees were used by the businessmen to deliver and endorse their own admittedly credible plans for greater growth. I noticed this way of thinking as I took part in many different panels over the course of the symposium. At the first panel I attended, those who do business were considering, though in a very non-aggressive way, means of taking ownership of the Internet. And this specific instance of the pursuit of new economic territories was not an isolated example. It appeared in other panels devoted to social enterprises, micro-insurance and the challenges of large infrastructure projects. Maybe the number of representatives from non-business spheres was too modest to balance the dialogue, or maybe I am a pessimist, but definitely something was wrong in the dominance of the business perspective.

What needs to be developed?

As a blogger from Poland, I was stunned by the number of representatives from the region I came from. Among 400 guest, I found only one Lithuanian. The organizers explained this situation as an acknowledged weakness of an event in only the fourth year of its undertaking. But it is the fourth edition of the GES, and it is hard to get rid of the feeling that Eastern Europe is perceived as secondary area of concern. There was no media presence from this region, making it difficult even for Eastern European elites to find out anything about this event. Although one of the organizers argued otherwise, similar efforts take place in Eastern Europe often. I can easily call to mind at least three undertakings similar to Mr Snower’s initiatives: the Wrocław Global Forum, a young and fast-growing event focused mainly on Euro-Atlantic issues that has been quite successful in attracting interesting guests; the European Forum of New Ideas in Sopot, attended by half of Europe’s leaders this year, and, finally; the pearl of high-level international meetings in Eastern Europe – the 21 st edition of Economic Forum in Krynica, called ‘little Davos’, with its 2500 guests. If we want to build the best atmosphere to solve problems of our times it is necessary to reach out more concertedly to one another. Despite its indisputable achievements, the GES 2011 still looked as though it took place in the Cold War era.