It took me a while to define what I felt about the Global Economic Symposium 2011. While in there, I was immersed in the energy of the speakers, in the enthusiasm of the Global Economic Fellows, in the diversity of topics covered – from resource governance to migration to cyber-security – and I admired the intense networking that was taking place between participants. In a way, it reminded me of the Aspen Institute events that I had the privilege of attending both in Romania and in the United States – in the sense of the intense, candid “peer” dialogue between business, civil society, political and academic leaders. Consequently, I felt things were indeed given a push. As my fellow blogger covering the event Craig Willy said, such an exchange of ideas can have immense ramifications, whose consequences for the everyday life of policy-making will be seen years later.
What I totally liked about the GES2011 was its focus on solutions. True, challenges oftentimes seem more daunting than the solutions advanced seem promising. Skepticism might seem a natural reaction, as my colleague Aniko Meszaros openly expressed. Before the event kicked off, I asked GES2011 Director Alessio Brown whether they’ve followed up on any of the solutions proposed at previous editions of the symposium. I was pleasantly surprised when I was told that indeed such follow-up takes place and that, although claiming ownership for ideas is often just vanity, the GES seems to have given birth to some ideas that were implemented in practice: agreements for circular migration, coco bonds, and debt rules are just some of them (for further info, read pages 127 – 135 of GES Magazine Thrive).
In the meantime, 1 billion people still live in poverty, 1 billion don’t have access to water and 2 billion don’t have access to sanitation. We are exploiting our planet’s finite resources and the gap between the rich and poor is growing. Normally, you’d think radical transformations are desirable and needed. Unfortunately, we are still struggling with empty signifiers like “sustainability” and “globalization”. We don’t know what we mean by “sustainable finance” or by “proper market regulation”. It would be an interesting thought experiment to put something else in place of global capitalism. But it’s utopian to think we can. Instead, we’ll continue to meet at GES-like events and we’ll find incremental solutions. We’ll implement some of them, in some form or another. We’ll socialize into being better global capitalists. But we won’t escape the era of muddling through.