Democratising Davos: A message to world leaders from young people.

This week, the CEOs of the world’s biggest corporations, leaders of national governments, academics and international organisations will descend upon Davos, an alpine retreat in the east of Switzerland. As they do every year, they will be convening for the World Economic Forum (WEF), discussing the global economy and making decisions about business practices that will impact the ways we all live. 

The main theme this year will be “rebuilding trust.” In a global study by the Edelman Trust Barometer, they found the average trust in institutions to be less than 50% in 20 out of the 28 countries surveyed in 2018. As the world reels from a global pandemic that has caused the deaths of over two million people, and triggered economic damage impacting billions, that figure could plummet. If we are to address the growing number of crises, from COVID19 to gender injustices, from climate change to racial injustices, decision-makers must regain the world’s trust. 

We asked young activists what it would take for them to do just that? What actions do they want to see taken at Davos? And crucially, what sort of world do they want to be living in 5 years time? Here’s what they told us.👇

Molly-Pugh Jones – London and Southern England Coordinator for Youth Stop AIDS 🇬🇧

Q: What actions should governments and big businesses be taking to rebuild trust with young people?

Trust in decision-makers has suffered greatly this year due to poor reporting of information; with misinformation, bias, and confusion. The information available to the public is difficult to navigate, especially regarding Covid-19, due to false claims, frequently changing policies, and a lack of tailoring in communications to young people. 

To rebuild trust, governments and big businesses must rebuild information flows. This means taking action against misinformation, prioritising clear and accessible information and considering how information is disseminated. For young people social media is their primary source of information, so public health information and education on misinformation must be made more available in these forums. 

Q: How do we ensure greater equity in healthcare?

Young campaigners are calling for greater transparency and collaboration to confront the unprecedented public health crisis we face. Pooling medical and logistical knowledge, research, development and resources is essential to preventing the spread of disease, producing new medicines more rapidly, ensuring equitable and adequate access to medicines and, ultimately, fulfilling the Human Right to health. 

Governments and pharmaceutical companies can take action now and work towards a better future by joining initiatives already adopting this approach such as the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. 

Q: What world do you want to see in 2026, and how can young people build it?

By the next time DAVOS rolls around I hope we are living in a world that champions intergenerational collaboration. I hope that we will come together to reflect upon the impacts and lessons we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, using this experience and knowledge to make change to systems, approaches, or philosophies that are currently not working. 

Young people are crucial for making this dream a reality. I hope that by being visible and persistent young people can engender a collaborative relationship with older generations to make the world a better place. 

Q: If you were the WEF president what changes would you make at DAVOS?

If I took over the WEF presidency I would ensure young people are actively involved in all aspects of conferences, discussions, and strategy-making. I would prioritise inclusivity and diversity, ensuring that everyone was consulted on issues that matter to them. To increase accessibility to political spaces I would create an education programme for young people to learn more about the work of the WEF, specifically targeting students who are unable to gain further education or qualifications.

Taibat Hussain – Youth At Heart Researcher 🇳🇬

Q: What actions should governments and big business be taking to rebuild trust with young people?

Corruption, the abuse of public office for private gain, is a major cause of the falling trust in institutions and businesses. Many young people, especially those in Africa, are understandably, convinced that their leaders are corrupt. 

The economic and social costs of corruption are evident in the dilapidated health system, failing education system, rising unemployment and absence of social protection, both in Africa and around the world. By siphoning off precious reserves of trust, corruption makes it harder for young people’s voices to be heard. In our YouthAtHeart research, we found only 14% of young people felt their voices were represented in their societies. 

To rebuild this trust governments must build stronger institutions with greater transparency and accountability, more sustainable and inclusive platforms for youth participation and address the structural and legal barriers to young people’s involvement in decision making. Businesses, on the other hand, should invest in youth-led initiatives and programmes that are working to provide job placement and skill building opportunities for young people.

Q: What are the most important solutions to fixing education systems and labour markets? 

Our YouthAtHeart research found that formal education has not equipped young people with the skills needed to access decent work in the labour market. In fact, just 39% of the 1,200 young people engaged felt that their education had prepared them “well” or “very well” for the jobs available in their context. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened these issues. The only answer is a complete overhaul of the current curriculum to include soft skills, IT skills, critical thinking and adaptability required of the modern labour market. The education sector should continuously engage with employers, governments, and civil society organisations to understand changing needs. 

Similarly, intentional investment in youth entrepreneurship, including skill building, funding, mentorship and networking spaces, has the potential to improve the labour market, create jobs and provide young people with more sustainable incomes. There is a clear demand for this kind of investment with 42% of young people keen to run their own businesses citing lack of access to capital, and lack of training as major barriers.

Q: What world do you want to see in 2026, and how can young people build it? 

Even prior to the global pandemic, the world was too focused on profit not people. COVID-19 has shown us what a crucial error this is. We are interconnected and interdependent and we need to rethink our economic model, consumption and production.

I hope that by 2026 people and planet are seen as central to our approach, that the most vulnerable groups are not forgotten and left behind, and where women and girls are supported and allowed to thrive and lead. To achieve this world, young people must raise their voices, hold current leaders to account and take up more leadership positions. We already have the SDGs as a framework we need to work together to make them a reality. 

Q: If you were the WEF president what changes would you make at DAVOS?

If I were the WEF president I would address the idea that the WEF is only for the richest and work to ensure that all are involved in this important decision-making space. I would democratise opportunities, to build a more inclusive economy for all. And this starts by involving young people, beyond tokenism. Young people constitute more than 50% of the entire world population and should always be at the decision making table. 

Malaika Collette – MockCOP26 Organiser 🇨🇦

Q: What actions should governments and big business be taking to rebuild trust with young people?

Young people have lost trust in corporation’s due their inability to put people before profit. The pandemic and other social crises that came into focus this year have demonstrated how severely broken the system that our society relies on, truly is. To rebuild trust with young people, governments and corporations need to transform their mindset, to prioritise sustainable models of business and governing, address their environmental impact, and put people first.

Q: What are the most important solutions to addressing the climate crisis? 

We want to see corporations and governments prioritising the environment in all their decisions. We want to see a transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies and sustainability. This is the only way of building a cohesive relationship between society and nature. 

Q: What world do you want to see in 2026, and how can young people build it? 

In five years I hope that young people are heard and that our plea for action is acted upon. I hope that in five years, the world will have sustainably recovered from COVID19 in a green and just way. I hope that politicians and corporations will have understood the existential threat that the climate crisis poses and will have begun acting upon it instead of ignoring it and continuing to increase its gravity.

Q: If you were the WEF president what changes would you make at DAVOS?

If I was president of the WEF, I would redefine “business as usual,” mandating environmental regulations that corporations would have to meet in order to continue operation. I would lead a transformation of society and the way those in power lead to reflect the needs of the people and planet.

Josh Tregale – MockCOP26 Organiser 🇬🇧

Q: What actions should governments and big business be taking to rebuild trust with young people?

Young people have relentlessly called for action on climate change. It is unsurprising that they are losing faith in their governments and leaders who have failed to act upon these calls. Many young people, myself included, have never been able to vote before so the feeling of not being listened to is compounded by not being able to choose those in a position to listen. Corporations and governments seem content with the status quo despite the damaging impact this has on environmental and social justice. They should send a clear message that they value the voices of young people by not just listening but implementing or discussing what we ask.

Q: What are the most important solutions to addressing the climate crisis? 

At Mock COP26 we outlined 18 policies we would implement if we were in power. Of those 18 polices 6 were focused on climate justice. We want to see the rights of indigenous peoples protected, the recognition of the human right to a healthy environment, protections for those who peacefully protest, strict safeguards created to ensure that agriculture and extractive industries are not damaging to the environment or those who live on it and for there to be meaningful youth participation in matters relating to the climate and ecological emergency.

Q: What world do you want to see in 2026, and how can young people build it? 

I hope that we will have had a green recovery from the pandemic and we have used this opportunity to refocus what we deem to be important to society. I hope that we will have valued unity and the importance of a healthy environment and will be working together as an international community listening to the voices of the next generation when it comes to long term decisions that will predominantly affect them and their children.

Q: If you were the WEF president what changes would you make at DAVOS?

I would ensure that there was a zero tolerance for greenwashing and misinformation. This would be a huge step forwards when it comes to ensuring transparency and rebuilding trust. If I were president I would urge leaders to consider the environmental and social impacts of decisions rather than purely financial arguments so that happiness, health and wellbeing were valued above money.

Let us know what you think about fighting inequality…

And take part in the Global protest against inequality now. Find actions taking place in your country. Or use these stickers to protest online!

Power your creative ideas with pixel-perfect design and cutting-edge technology. Create your beautiful website with Zeen now.

Democratising Davos: A message to world leaders from young people.

by wearerestless Reading time: 8 min