Risk Talk on Global Risks Report 2014: Generation Lost, or Leadership Lost?

“Even the leaders who understood the magnitude of the financial crisis, and saw what was coming, didn’t do anything. And that scared me. Society needs to engage more, and we need better leadership.” These are the words of Afonso Reis, Founder of Mentes Empreendedoras at the annual Global Risks Report Risk Talk at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue on 6 March 2014.

Afonso, one of the WEF’s Global Shapers, was accompanied on stage by Jennifer Blanke, WEF Chief Economist and editor of the Global Risks Report 2014; and Rainer Egloff, Emerging Risks expert at Swiss Re and primary contributor to the Report chapter “Generation Lost?,” a term referring to people born after 1990. Philippe Brahin, Swiss Re Head of Government Affairs & Sustainability, moderated the event.

According to Blanke, experts believe that among the global risks that will have the biggest impact over  the next 10 years will be the fiscal crisis and lack of employment.

“Each of the 31 risks considered in the Global Risks Report holds the potential for failure on a global scale; but it’s their interconnected nature that makes their negative implications so pronounced," she said. “That’s why it’s vitally important that all parts of society work together to address and adapt to the presence of global risks in our world today.”

Inequality and social unrest

“The problem described in 'Generation Lost?' is also directly linked to rising inequality and increasing social unrest," Blanke said.  "We live with youth unemployment every day. So we have to ask ourselves who will be tomorrow’s leaders, and how do we shape tomorrow’s society?"

"We have to start a discourse about intergeneration justice."

- Rainer Egloff

Egloff explained that this generation had difficulty acquiring a foothold in the job market and building the right skillsets. “It’s a global problem taking different local shapes depending on whether you find yourself in the mature markets or the emerging markets," he stated.

“That said, this is a very bright and ambitious generation,” he continued, “and highly endowed technology wise. That’s the reason for the question mark in the title of 'Generation Lost?'. If we involve them more actively today we might actually succeed in building a more sustainable future for us all tomorrow.”

Triggering a virtuous cycle

Building a sustainable future is what Afonso Reis is trying to do with his Mentes Empreendedoras (Entrepreneurial Minds) youth movement, because he felt that the young people of Portugal had lived with the term crisis for too long. “Entrepreneurs do things, and I wanted to show them that by acting on their own ideas, they could help trigger a virtuous circle of youth autonomy, leadership, talent development and confidence.”

He continued, “I often ask myself whether it’s a problem of Generation Lost or Leaders Lost? The current situation is very much an attitude problem – not least amongst the current leadership.

"Through Mentees Empreendedoras we have this amazing opportunity with 340,000 high school students in Portugal. They are very open to change, and open to discovery. They see the social challenges around them, and they really want to help. You want to involve them? Why not go ahead and ask them.”

Egloff concluded, “We need to rebuild trust and confidence in the younger generation. We need to consider how the private sector, including insurance, can help. Naturally it’s about labor markets and education. But we also have to start a discourse about intergenerational and social justice, and justice between societies."

Global Risk Report

The other groups of risks in the Global Risks Report 2014 that merited special case studies, alongside 'Generation Lost?,' and which benefitted from important contributions from the two other corporate partners involved in the project, Zurich Financial Services and Marsh McLennan, were the increasing risk of “cybergeddon” in the online world, and the increasing complexity of geopolitical risk as the world moves to a multipolar distribution of power and influence.

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