Poverty, climate change, water and faith were the themes that dominated my second day at Davos. The day begins early with a breakfast session with former US Vice-President Al Gore and rock star/poverty activist Bono discussing how to combine solutions to extreme poverty and climate change.
Al Gore said: ““The Millennium Development Goals can only be met if the climate crisis is taken into the fold of that effort. If the world warms up by two degrees all of the good work done in development will be undone.”
I was pleased to see Bono taking up this theme, so central to CI’s advocacy strategy, saying that the G8 nations were not making good on their commitments to the MDGs . “It looks like they are not going to happen, and that is a scandal. If we can’t keep to these commitments, who are we?” he said. He called for governments to make a renewed financial commitment to the MDGs, with real increases in budgetary provisions to finance development efforts.
In a session entitled “Time is Running Out for Water”, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that water stress poses an increasing risk to development, human rights, health, safety and national security.
He pointed out that in Darfur fighting broke out between farmers and herders after the rains failed and water became scarce. In the ensuing conflict, 200,000 people died. Several million fled their homes. “But almost forgotten is the event that touched it off – drought, a shortage of life’s vital resource.”
“Securing safe and plentiful water for all is one of the most daunting challenges faced by the world today,” he said.
Panellists agreed that clean water for drinking and hygiene should be seen as a human right, but that water for other purposes such as agriculture, industry, swimming pools or gardens should be priced to prevent waste and inefficiency.
My afternoon session on “Faith and Modernisation” was well attended and, as noted by the Chair of the session, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, expressed the recognition by the World Economic Forum that faith is playing an increasingly influential role in this century’s political, economic and social landscape, while intercultural divides are diverting valuable resources away from addressing pressing global issues. The diverse faith leaders and politicians on the panel included David Harris, Executive Director of the
American Jewish Committee; Pastor Rick Warren, author of the “Saddleback Church”; Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia; Mahdi Hadavi from the Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institution in Iran; and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.
I was not surprised that the common values uniting the panel, as well as contributors from the audience, were: 1) holding supreme the dignity of the human person, our belief in our common humanity and the right to life; 2) not doing to others what you would not wish them to do to you; and 3) taking care of the poor.
I felt that our CI global strategies and operational priorities present a clear challenge to business leaders but resonated well with those who had taken the time to be part of this faith discussion. After the session, in the main congress centre areas, video screens displayed the image of Cardinal McCarrick, with his words:
“We know that you cannot have modernisation without values; and these values are universal across all religions.”