The Power of Dialogue in a Disrupted World

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, geopolitical challenges are combining with technologically-driven disruptions to create new, immensely complex global problems. But while the challenges confronting us today are unlike anything seen before, overcoming them demands the same age-old solution: good-faith dialogue.

GENEVA – Closing the divides in our fractured world will require collaboration among many stakeholders. And, more often than not, it is dialogue that sets cooperation apart from conflict, and progress from painful reversals of fortune.

Good-faith dialogue – the ability to see the world through the eyes of other people, especially those with whom we disagree – has never been more important. We are living in an age when the Internet and other information and communications technologies have broken down traditional borders and brought us closer together. But it is also an age in which the drumbeat of nationalism is pushing us further apart. In the absence of calm, constructive, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about what kind of future we want, intolerance and isolationism threaten to roll back centuries of progress.

The stakes really are that high. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Risks Report shows that an overwhelming majority of experts worldwide believe that a catastrophic conflict between major powers could erupt this year. In the meantime, problems within countries will continue to fuel public suspicion that the system is rigged to favor elites. Chief among those problems are rising inequality and declining social mobility. According to the International Monetary Fund, income inequality has increased in 53% of all countries over the past 30 years, and particularly in advanced economies.

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