Dear Davos: time to declare an emergency opportunity for people and planet

Davos

Davos, Switzerland. (Damian Markutt, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jamie C. Drummond, Co-Founder at ONE.org & Strategist, TheGlobalGoals.org,


  • 2020 is an emergency year for our global sustainable goals.
  • Corporations, countries and communities must pull together on a world-wide Marshall Plan for the planet.

This letter will get more friendly, but first, it needs to be a bit formal.

If you haven’t already done so, could all responsible partners and members of the World Economic Forum agree to hold an emergency meeting before March 2020 to review the delivery and disaster data revealed in recent UN reports regarding trends that will impact people and our planet over the next decade.

The delivery data

This comprises the rates of innovation and investment in sourcing and scaling the technology and policy solutions to challenges that face our species, both in the public and private sphere. What is the rate of innovation and investment in solutions that will enable citizens to fulfill their aspirations, be heard, be included and find meaning in a sustainable way for the planet?

The disaster data

This refers to the rates of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), ecosystem and biodiversity loss, current and projected demographic booms in fragile settings, entrenched gender discrimination, inequality and extreme poverty, global organised crime, tax evasion, illicit capital flight, risk of global pandemics, spread of non-communicable diseases including mental health, digital and data governance threats, rates of democratic recession in key regions, the closing of civic space, and the worrying and dramatic loss of civic trust in institutions.

Based on deliberation around these data sets, please decide whether or not you think humanity faces an emergency. If so, please put together a commensurate plan for the “Transformative 20s” through which we each commit to make the necessary contributions in support of the UN’s Decade of Action to deliver the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

Participants at the World Economic Forum must not just listen to the Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim – and Greta Thunberg-led youth delegation at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting – they must act. Kate Garvey and the team at Project everyone are calling for every corporation, country and community to respond by urgently identify an accountable senior leader to ensure delivery over the decade, with annual and transparent reporting on their progress. Those who do not think there is an emergency should come out and openly state why.

The financial system is a key lever for change. Stepping up to develop methodologies to measure sustainability in the financial system and hold it accountable during this shift are great minds from the World Benchmarking Alliance and the Impact Management Project.

Outgoing Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney is now the UK’s financial advisor to the Prime Minister on COP26. Emerging SDG system-wide standards, building on the Taskforce for Climate Finance Disclosure, and extending to measurements of gender equality and social inclusion, need to gather pace in 2020 and conclude no later than the G7 summit to be held in the UK 2021. The success of this process is a global priority.

Financing Sustainable Development

The world’s economies are already absorbing the costs of climate change and a “business as usual” approach that is obsolete. Both scientific evidence and the dislocation of people are highlighting the urgent need to create a sustainable, inclusive and climate-resilient future.

This will require no less than a transformation of our current economic model into one that generates long-term value by balancing natural, social, human and financial conditions. Cooperation between different stakeholders will be vital to developing the innovative strategies, partnerships and markets that will drive this transformation and allow us to raise the trillions of dollars in investments that are needed.

To tackle these challenges, Financing Sustainable Development is one of the four focus areas at the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Sustainable Development Impact summit. A range of sessions will spotlight the innovative financial models, pioneering solutions and scalable best practices that can mobilize capital for the the world’s sustainable development goals. It will focus on the conditions that both public and private institutions should create to enable large-scale financing of sustainable development. It will also explore the role that governments, corporations, investors, philanthropists and consumers could play to deliver new ways of financing sustainable development.

We need an unprecedented approach to the current nexus of jeopardy and opportunity. Some call it a Marshall Plan for People and Planet; others, a Global Green New Deal or Eco-Social Contract. Either way, we must ensure that humanity achieves the agreed SDG goals by 2030 and makes it safely and healthily into the middle and later stages of the 21st century.

Formula for success

A successful strategy cannot be conducted in the monolithic top-down way of old but arise through combined local, national and global regulatory shifts in the world of finance. It requires structural shifts in corporate incentives and political markets, driven by mass civic political engagement and consumer behaviour change. The driving purpose of this new deal is twofold:

  • to serve and empower society’s most marginalised;
  • to do so in a manner that sustains the environment’s capacity to both supply material needs – and inspire us.

The deal must prioritise those hit first and worst by extreme climate, extreme poverty and extreme gender discrimination – for example, marginalised girls and women in the world’s most stressed regions such as Africa’s Sahelian region.

Adam Smith would see our failure so far to address the climate crisis and make progress in the SDGs as a massive moral market failure. But it can be fixed, if society wills it. In 2020, the COP on climate change in Glasgow is not far from Smith’s birthplace, and it must help anchor a world of change.

We also have other key decision moments in 2020 – such as the health summit for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the gender Generation Equality summit, the UN biodiversity summit in Kunming, the UN SDG summit as well as some key elections in Africa and the US. We have the investors, the capital, the creativity, the inspiring system-shifting activists, the palpable purpose and growing public awareness of our shared need to make deep change happen in the short time we have.

The deep change necessary starts with each of us admitting our addiction to aspects of our unhealthy system

To fix the failures and secure our future we must both challenge power and be positive. The World Economic Forum and others must rapidly scale exciting solutions as well as exit deadly and dying industries. A set of ambitious interventions must be unleashed, harnessing revolutionary partnerships in the worlds of finance, data, innovation, action-tracking and awareness-generation.

The deep change necessary starts with each of us admitting our addiction to aspects of our unhealthy system, and signalling at scale that we will challenge and upgrade our actions – our investments, our purchases, political behaviour, tax-paying, giving, micro-inequities, volunteering and what we really value – and thereby upgrade the system around us. This will help us ensure that from 2020 onward we will rapidly transform towards true values-based, data-driven and accountable 2030 SDG compliance.

“2020 Vision” and the SDGs can’t be reduced to corporate social responsibility clichés. This must be a super year of activism for people and the planet. Let’s own the data, really see the emergency and seize this historic opportunity.

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