For many, COP26 could be the most important climate summit since the Paris Agreement. In prevision of this venue, Bocconi University held the Think20 summit, a 3-day event bringing influential figures to discuss hot topics such as sustainability of debt, vaccines and health care, inequalities, and digitalization. Tra i Leoni was there to cover each day and here is our final reportage on the second day.
To an external and not yet experienced enough eye, what is striking about events like the THINK 20 Summit, in which some of the greatest minds in the world from different backgrounds get together and from the heights of their knowledge and experience exchange ideas about how to steer the world towards the future as efficiently and equitably as possible, is the tangible enthusiasm and sense of togetherness that is in the atmosphere.
The inputs of the various guests, who came from all over the world and were providing analyses and proposals that regard the same macro-objective, meaning an equitable and sustainable future for the world in all its nuances, truly make it seem like there is a way for the globe to methodically and efficiently work together towards a common objective. If the opening day of the Summit had already delivered a stimulating mixture of lucid ideas and relevant contributions from tens of prestigious guests, day 2 was equally thought-provoking for the magnitude of the themes that were touched and for the immediacy with which they regard each of us, both as individuals and as members of a community.
From digitalization to financial sustainability, from the future of geopolitical equilibria in the international arena to vaccine distribution, the second day of the T20 allowed its participants to be exposed to a synthetic yet compellingly complete summary of the world in a lot of its nuances, as well as some of the methodologies that policymakers should adopt in order to utilize such nuances to lead the world to where it needs to be.
Day 2 of the THINK 20 Summit was opened by a conversation between Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in the USA, and Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation in India, who discussed digitalization in terms of its potential both for connecting people worldwide and for standardizing otherwise inefficient mechanical processes. Such outlook was complemented by a data-driven observation regarding the divide between investment levels in infrastructure worldwide, steadily at a high level, and investments in human capital, which during the pandemic have been reduced in various parts of the world. The consequent suggestion that emerged was to develop a system to invest simultaneously in infrastructure and in people’s education and health, to encourage uniform development.
Such initial remarks were followed by the keynote address by Pascal Lamy, President Emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute in France and Pier Carlo Padoan, Vice President of IAI and President of the UniCredit Bank in Italy and the discussion between Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics at Harvard University in the USA, and James Zhan, Director of the Division on Investment at Enterprise for the UNCTAD. This part of the event, which was moderated by Director of Class CNBC Andrea Cabrini, focused on the methods for achieving fair trade and investments to overcome the trade barriers that still exist between different countries.
The discussion, which ultimately rotated around the notion of cooperation among states and the methodology to endorse it, built on Lamy’s initial suggestion to make a distinction between protectionism, meaning an explicit barrier that an economic union can place on imported goods in the form of a tariff or a quota, and ‘precautionism’: a more flexible, regulatory approach that can better coexist with trade. From such initial point, the various guests who intervened noted the 40% decrease in Foreign Direct Investment that was observed during the pandemic as well as the very uneven consequences that the pandemic had both on different countries and on different categories of people within the same country. They advocated for the G20 to look for issue linkage among countries, with security being the one, always relevant common objective. The most compelling summary of the suggestions that emerged from the discussion was probably given by Padoan, who is leading one of the T20 Task Forces and strongly advocated for the G20 powers’ need to “design rules that reconcile social targets with individual incentives”. That implies not only intervening to directly promote sustainable growth and development but intervening so as to incentivize individuals to make choices that contribute to them.
The floor was left to Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. Her speech was moderated by Mario Monti, President of Bocconi University, and Paolo Magri, National Coordinator and Chair for the T20 in Italy, and Executive Vice President of the ISPI. It was followed by the addresses of Bambang Brodjenegoro, Co-Chair of the T20 in Indonesia and former Minister of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia, Rose Ngugi, Executive Director of the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, and Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal, President of the Gétulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil. If the previous discussions had touched on the pandemic and on its impact on the world population, this segment of the event was wholly focused on the methodology that will be needed to achieve a fair and resilient recovery from all the problems that the pandemic caused.
Hearing such an analysis coming from the managing director of the international organization that perhaps best embodies global cooperation when it comes to financial matters and is able to offer a concrete and complete overview was particularly compelling. Georgieva’s analysis unfolded on three main observations regarding the consequences of the pandemic, the first one being that models project that advanced economies will recover from the pandemic much faster than emerging economies; the second one regarding the inevitable inflation that was risen by the pandemic and that particularly affected poor families; the third one being that global debt reached 100% of the GDP during the pandemic. How to go about these problems? Georgieva mentioned equitable, widespread vaccination as a first relevant step, calibration in policies as the next, and acceleration in investments as the third. The other guests expanded on her points by bringing in digitalization and citing novelties such as cryptocurrencies and bitcoins as potential strategies to design a recovery plan, all continuously emphasizing the importance of international cooperation
After that, Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian Astronaut from the European Space Agency, gave a speech regarding the space economy, one of the few sectors of the economy that expanded during the pandemic rather than contracting. She cited the many innovation and development opportunities that the space offers, also emphasizing the importance of any development within the space economy being achieved through cooperation and equitable participation of various areas of the world.
The last panel of the day featured Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, followed by a discussion between Agnes Binagwaho, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director of the Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Milan, and Mario Monti, both the President of Bocconi University and the Chair of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development for the WHO. The macro-theme discussed were vaccines and health care, which according to the guests must become global public goods, meaning readily available everywhere and free of charge. The panel was moderated by RAI journalist Monica Maggioni. As expected, the African continent was at the center of the discussion between the guests, with Binagwaho particularly emphasizing how the problem behind low COVID-19 vaccination rates in Africa does not necessarily lie within the doses that are sent to the continent but within the fact that vaccines are stopped before they become available to the population. The main takeaway, particularly emphasized by Mantovani, is that the G20 needs to open to Africa.
The closing address by Roberto Cingolani, the Minister for Ecological Transition in Italy, emphasized the Italian government’s commitment to making the recovery from COVID-19 in line with the ecological sustainability parameters that were discussed during the T20 and that will likely be at the center of the G20 Heads of States and Governments meeting that will be held in Rome at the end of the month.
With its outlook on the future, Cingolani’s address was in line with the message that emerges from the T20 summit in general: the future is now, and it is only through international cooperation and a sustainable, equitable approach that we will construct it the way we envision it.
Image credits: T20 Summit Photogallery day 2