The Platform

Sanna Marin, the former Prime Minister of Finland, speaking at the World Economic Forum. (Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary/World Economic Forum)

This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting laid the groundwork for actionable global initiatives focused on the restoration of trust.

As dusk fell on January 19, it bore witness to one of the most significant global gatherings of key strategists and changemakers who drive nation-building, economic development, and our collective international framework. This vital convergence is known as the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The 2024 WEF Annual Meeting unfolded in the picturesque locale of Davos, Switzerland. Amid a bustling town, innovators with exceptional intellectual prowess engaged in robust debates, circling back to the pressing issues of our time. During these crucial debates, viable solutions are being sought.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, conveyed a powerful message: “We have a responsibility to be stewards of our beautiful small planet’s future. There is something that leaders need to embrace, and it is the responsibility to act even if it’s not popular.”

Davos, nestled in Switzerland, is often described as an outdoor lover’s paradise. With its white snow-clad Alps and quaint houses perched on mountain tops, it presents a picture of tranquility and bliss. The town, despite the freezing temperatures, was alive with discussions on AI, climate change, shifting geopolitical landscapes, an unstable economic order, healthcare, and other pressing matters that challenge the global order.

The fervor for positive change in our shared global fabric was palpably higher than ever, in stark contrast to the cold. When the world appears to be parting ways on economic and political fronts, the 2024 forum served as a platform for creating dialogue, synergy, and action-oriented partnerships.

In a press briefing, a term was coined by World Economic Forum Managing Director Saadia Zahidi, “Polycrisis.” It’s a thought-provoking word that encapsulates the convergence of multiple global challenges, including geopolitical ramifications, climate change, energy shortage, inflation, job crisis, and the lingering impacts of the pandemic on economies. These issues have eroded the trust between nations and their people. Hence, ‘Rebuilding Trust’ was aptly chosen as the theme for WEF 2024. Throughout the 450+ sessions, the phrase “Rebuilding Trust” was a recurring motif, underlining its critical importance.

The significance of rebuilding trust stems from the erosion of trust in recent times. Present geopolitical tensions prevalent in Europe, and the Middle East, social polarization, and a myriad of scandals that have engulfed numerous heads of state and prominent changemakers from various nations have all contributed to this erosion. Consequently, there is a depleted trust among global citizens, a fact supported by the pre-meeting survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, which stated that less than one-quarter of the global population trusts their country’s leaders. Moreover, the veiled control exerted over the media by certain predominant factors and the constant oscillation between the lines of professionalism and realism have led to an exponential increase in geopolitical distrust. Barack Obama once highlighted the essential need for trust, saying, “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.”

This distrust is further deepened by the constraints of a weakened economy and a war-torn global landscape. The world is emerging from a health pandemic that has shattered many facets of life. As we take small strides towards a new normalcy, we must acknowledge that we are at a prenatal stage of global reconstruction. The duty to rebuild rests upon us. Although this era is marred by significant crises, it is our resilience, partnership, action-oriented policymaking, and the trust of global citizens in governance institutions that will enable us to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. This is our moment to win back trust and build a world prepared to face the global polycrisis. With many parts of the world heading towards electoral tests this year, 2024 is truly the year for rebuilding trust and crafting policies aimed at fostering brotherhood, sustainability, equity, economic growth, and trust. The Indian maxim “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” meaning the “whole world is one (my) family,” seems utterly relevant for the times ahead.

The World Economic Forum’s 2024 conclave in Davos did more than put the spotlight on the world’s pressing issues—it laid the groundwork for actionable global initiatives focused on the restoration of trust. Key among the outcomes was the selection by UpLink of twelve social ventures poised to forge connections and foster cooperative environments. The sessions also grappled with ethical concerns and the complexities of data governance, culminating in a proposal to establish an independent entity dedicated to combating media misinformation and enhancing literacy, alongside international standards, and regulations for ethical data use.

This year’s Forum was marked not by grandiloquent declarations or heated debates, but by a tangible call to action. It served as a clarion call for global stakeholders to unite in collective effort. The essence of rebuilding trust was reframed—not as a top-down mandate but as a joint, cyclical process of innovation, demanding solidarity and mutual effort.

On January 19, the assembly—over 3,000 strong, hailing from more than 100 nations and representing statesmen, magnates, economists, policymakers, civil society, social innovators, and the media—dispersed with a shared commitment: to reconvene in 2025, having devoted significant efforts to the global family. They left with a pledge to forge measurable progress in building trust and enacting policies that prioritize people, the planet, sustainability, solidarity, and equitable economic growth.

Emblematic of this spirit was the message from French President Emmanuel Macron, who advised his fellow leaders to balance realism with optimism. Tackling the intricate web of global challenges, he asserted, “I truly believe that the decisions that can change things are within our hands.”

Dr. Neetika Lal's expertise includes public policy research, writing, and management consulting. Neetika holds a Global Diplomacy certification from the esteemed SOAS University of London, a Master's degree in Political Science, a Master of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Public Policy, specializing in Center-State Relations. Neetika recently completed a certification program from the International Monetary Fund Institute for Capacity Building in Washington. Neetika is a passionate advocate for positive change. Through her international blogging efforts, she has actively contributed to the global discourse on public policy, bringing attention to critical issues and proposing innovative solutions. Her extensive experience coupled with an impressive educational background, and an unwavering commitment to making a difference has become the driving force for her.