K. Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum: Multilateralism will get a boost from Biden

PIt may seem like a contradiction, but Covid 19 could be the occasion for the world to have a second chance to get it right.

Global injustice has been brutally exposed by the pandemic: the growing wealth gap, inequality in health care, job insecurity, the worsening climate crisis, the unmasking of politicians who work for themselves rather than for citizens, but it has also been demonstrated in an unprecedented way that the world can act for the common good.

Now the professor Klaus Schwab, founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, believes that a reboot of the entire planet is possible. He has published a book about it and he is with us.

– Isabelle Kumar, Euronews: When you look at the state of the world right now, what is the first word that comes to mind?

– Klaus Schwab: The word “reboot” I think is appropriate because we are still fighting the virus now, but we can be quite optimistic after what we have seen with the announcement of vaccines. Now we have to think about how to structure, how to design, the post coronavirus era. And here, of course, the word reboot comes to mind because one thing is clear, we cannot go back to the old normal. We have to seize this opportunity, as our parents and grandparents have done after WWII, to really reflect on what went wrong and what we could do better.

– Euronews: What is your priority with this reboot?

– KS: There are three dimensions, three priorities. The first is to make the world more resilient because we will definitely have to face other surprises, black swans, they call them, maybe different types of viruses.

Second, we have to make the world more inclusive, fairer, because we have seen that we have reached unsustainable degrees, of people who feel excluded.

Finally, we have to make the world much greener. We have to put all our energy into decarbonisation to avoid a great catastrophe in the future of which today we have the first signs.

– Euronews: Unfortunately, we do. Well, professor, we are going to touch on some of those problems that you have raised, but first I would like to talk about the COVAX mechanism, because in some respects, when we see the gloomy cloud that Covid 19 has covered the whole world with, the COVAX mechanism it is a point of light, because it has shown how the richest nations can take care of those who face the most challenges.

To what extent does the experience of COVAX, which provides equitable access to vaccines to the poorest nations, inform your vision of a more inclusive society?

– KS: It is a point of light because it reconfirms the effectiveness, which can be achieved by having the right partners to work together. It is a systemic approach. We cannot solve our problems in the world by choosing simple approaches, and COVAX integrates vaccines with treatment, with testing, and with correct health policy approaches. So what we will need in our world in the future is a much more systemic approach because we know that everything is interdependent. Everything is connected globally; if you look at social, economic and political issues, they are all interconnected. So we need a systemic approach.

– KS: Well professor, so if we need this systemic approach, we have a little problem. When it comes to COVAX, for example, although the EU was quick to back it, we have players like the United States, Russia, China, who are not on the team.

– KS: I think we can see the United States incorporated in the future, I think that COVAX is also a very important step to ensure that the gap between developed countries and emerging countries, less developed countries, does not widen. We have seen that the hit of the virus in those countries is particularly serious and damaging. With COVAX we make sure that those people can also enjoy themselves, and also at European level with much better cooperation compared to what we have seen in the past; we make sure that we do not increase injustice in the distribution of all the medicines we need to fight this virus.

– Euronews: Yes. You mentioned that the United States could be involved, obviously, with the transition of power there too, with Joe Biden. But he did not mention China. Now, I know that you are in contact with most of the world leaders. Do you have any indication from Beijing that it is willing to join this mechanism?

– KS: Frankly, I don’t know anything about China. Of course, I am aware that China is a very important element in terms of shaping the restart. We need all countries to be integrated. It is not just the virus that connects us. I also think about the other issues: terrorism, poverty, environment. All of these problems require global cooperation. Otherwise, we will not be successful.

– Euronews: You are a champion of multilateralism, in a society of varied and conflicting interests. Do you think that the departure of Donald Trump now injects new impetus into a multilateral system? Will we return to traditional multilateralism or is the world on a new route?

– KS: I believe that here too we have to restart, we cannot return to the system of multilateralism that we established after the Second World War. What we need is a reform of the international system. Think of the WTO. We have to integrate new dimensions of global commerce, like everything that has to do with electronic commerce and so on. So definitely, multilateralists will get a boost with the election of President Biden. And I have high hopes that we can now create the systems we need for the 21st century.