DAVOS, Switzerland – Each January this Swiss resort village becomes a dynamic centre of world attention as some of its most important leaders and thinkers gather to share ideas at the World Economic Forum.
This year, for the first time, a UNFPA Executive Director is attending. Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin’s presence seems particularly apt, since the annual theme is ‘The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models’ and UNFPA spent a good part of last year building awareness about the possibilities inherent in a world of 7 billion, a milestone that was reached last October.
On Thursday, Dr. Osotimehin was a keynote speaker at the WEF Global Advisory Councils dinner in which leaders discussed the most pressing challenges for 2012 in today's interconnected and interdependent world. The Executive Director stressed that "Population dynamics - whether the largest generation of young people in history or the growing numbers of older people - will play a profound role in shaping the future of the global economy."
The challenge of population dynamics with respect to sustainability was also a theme of this year's flagship report for the Davos forum, the Global Risks Report 2012.
Also on Thursday, Dr. Osotimehin underscored the need to invest in adolescent girls at a brainstorming luncheon event on a better future for women and girls attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and a host of other personalities. The Executive Director spoke of the "need to aggressively pursue the issue of child marriages in the context of reducing maternal mortality."
Dr. Osotimehin is pleased to address these issues, which are critical to UNFPA's mandate, at the forum, where some 2,600 participants - including heads of state and government, finance ministers, CEOs and hundreds of journalists have gathered to discuss the state of the world and their role in it.
“For UNFPA, the fact that issues of population dynamics are actually being discussed at Davos is very good. It transforms the conversation from ‘welfare’ to ‘investment’. It makes the connection of that investment to the larger context of human capital development,” Dr. Osotimehin said this week.
The Executive Director kicked off his round of meetings in Davos in a lively debate with young leaders on Powers of Change: Opportunities and Risks in an Era of Global Movements. Discussions including NGOs, governments and corporations focused on the meaning of power and its implications for social change in the 21st century.
"We cannot underestimate the power of the new social movements in bringing about positive change,” he said to the young leaders.
He also addressed a panel on Key Issues in of A World at 7 Billion, where he underscored the value of girls' education and the need for services, equity and social justice.
On Friday, the Executive Director is scheduled to take part in a meeting of the Global Compact on Catalyzing Transformational Partnerships to develop a new facility to enhance UN-business partnerships. Throughout the week, he maintained a busy schedule of meetings with CEOs, senior government officials and representatives of civil society groups.