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Don’t Ignore the Young People at Davos

greta thunberg

Published on Medium

This was my fifth Davos and it was encouraging to see millennials and zillennials take center stage. This year’s message of urgency was clear, particularly from the many young people driving the conversation, including six Global Shaper Co-Chairs, Parkland shooting survivors, and a 16 year old climate activist. They all said the same thing — the status quo is unsustainable.

We are at the precipice of many crises. We’re approximately 12 years away from irreversible climate damage. Nearly 80 million people around the world are refugees or forcibly displaced. Inequality is rising and being exacerbated by technological progress. It’s no wonder that only 1 in 5 people believe the current system is working (according to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer.)

I had the privilege of meeting many of these young leaders, and they are deeply concerned. They shared their worries, struggles, and deeply personal struggles with a cross section of the “global elite.” Although some of it inevitably fell on deaf ears, I heard a number of CEOs speaking off the record this week, and they are thinking deeply and critically about their role.

“Are you proud of every financial product you sell?”

“What will your legacy be?”

“How will this impact the next generation?”

These questions are being asked, and debated, and taken seriously. Interestingly, many CEOs said the toughest questions are coming from their own children. It’s a good reminder that, sometimes, change happens by working with the system. And it’s the reason why I, and so many others, descend every year to this tiny village.

In a world that is reckoning with its future, it’s important to have young voices represented. We make up over 50% of the world’s population and are disproportionately impacted by geo-political and economic issues. Our seat at the table shouldn’t be a tokenistic gesture. Let’s hope this will become the year global leaders finally listened.