DUBAI, 19th October, 2023 (WAM) — The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Young Global Leaders (YGL) Annual Summit kicked off in Dubai today with the attendance of H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and member of the Young Global Leaders Council. This is the first time the gathering is being held in the UAE.
Around 500 members of WEF’s YGL will take part in sessions and workshops during the inaugural edition of the summit, addressing questions around climate change, environmental degradation, geopolitics, AI, human development, economies and other critical topics. The summit is being held from 19th to 21st October, as part of the strategic partnership between the UAE government and the World Economic Forum.
Sheikh Maktoum underlined the UAE’s belief in empowering young people, investing in their potential, and supporting them to contribute to building the future.
His Highness said, “We learned from Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum that youth are the key to creating the future. They are the true wealth of any country that is committed to positive change and participating in global human development.
“Young leaders are the most important factor in achieving feats and writing success stories. They are the foundation of any development process.”
His Highness added, “The many global events hosted by Dubai and the UAE, with the aim of anticipating and designing the future of the world, reflect the forward-looking vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
“It is a vision that aims to enhance the country’s position as a key global contributor to shaping the future. Dubai and the UAE provide a global platform for generating forward-looking, creative ideas and ambitious visions aimed at designing solutions to global challenges.”
Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, President and CEO of UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators (UICCA), spoke during the opening plenary, saying the many challenges the world faces today require “grit and resilience” as well as collaboration.
She underlined the work of the UICCA, the region’s first independent climate change accelerators, which she launched in 2022.
“When it comes to climate change, no-one, no country, no business, can do this work alone,” she told delegates, describing the annual summit as “a wonderful platform for us to collaborate”.
Addressing the shared challenge of climate change, she said, “We need more collaboration. We need a lot of grit and resilience. We need to inspire our children, we need to dedicate our lives to a purpose.”
Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications, welcomed delegates to Dubai, a city home to more than 200 nationalities.
“This gathering embodies our ethos, where driven, enlightened young people come together, the impossible is willed into being possible. In fact, the UAE is a YGL – young, global and leading. Young in its age as a country and in its demographics. Global in the fact that it thrives in globalisation and in the diversity of its populace. Leading in government efficiency, services, tourism, logistics, renewable energy and AI,” he said.
He also spoke about the qualities of leadership. “We cannot shape the future by having hesitance, we cannot shape the future by being pessimistic, and we cannot shape the future by not having the complete conviction that what we agree on that is noble enough and that is life-changing enough, needs to happen and continue regardless of the circumstances that face us,” Al Olama said.
He added, “It is going to be difficult. It is going to be turbulent. But it’s on us, the young, the global, the leaders of the world to shape that future.”
Also on the panel was Elham Al Qasim, Chief Strategy & Technology Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Holding, who described the opportunities for the private sector to increase its contribution to the country’s GDP based on the UAE’s stable business environment. She also spoke about the important role of the private sector in the UAE’s global climate leadership.
Al Qasim said the UAE is ahead when it comes to women in technical fields and in leadership roles, noting how six in 10 STEM graduates from UAE universities are female. She hailed the Founding Father’s commitment to “bringing along the entire population” in the country’s development journey, saying: “He was relentless in pursuing the progress, development, education and engagement of women.”
Yousef Yousef, CEO of LG Sonic, agreed with Al Qasim on the importance of the private sector’s contribution to climate action. But he noted there are significant challenges to scaling green businesses, including financing.
“It’s very hard to scale green businesses. Only one out of 10 companies will make it in the green business,” he said, adding that climate tech firms often face bigger challenges to scalability because they are hardware-based. He said governments and large corporations are often too risk-averse around climate tech projects because of the longer-term returns of investing in green businesses.
Francois Bonnici, Head of Foundations, World Economic Forum, said in his speech that the summit focuses this year on redefining the concept of future leadership, by designing a new model based on the role of young leaders in anticipating the future of global challenges.
Olivier M. Schwab Managing Director, World Economic Forum, also spoke about what the Young Global Leaders Annual Summit seeks to achieve in its 19th edition. He stressed the Young Global Leaders community represents a special group of young talents, who are passionate about continuous learning and making a positive impact on shaping the global future.
YGL was established in 2004 to enable young leaders from around the world to help create practical solutions to local, regional and international current and future challenges.