The class of 2023 of the Young Global Leaders will make the world a better place – this time for sure

21 April 2023 | The class of 2023 of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders are placing a greater emphasis on a sense of purpose and on having a positive impact on society and the environment than their predecessors, according to their leader. They will make the world a better place in the long term, he is sure. A look at this motley elite force allows a fairly safe judgement as to whether this will really come to pass this time around.

In an article on the website of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the coopted magazine Forbes, Wadia Ait Hamza, Chair of the orum of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, expressed his enthusiasm. However, right at the beginning of his text, there is a bit of a letdown, if you, which you detect if you revers the order of the sentences a bit: 

Nearly 20 years on, our diverse community of young leaders are still working to shape a more inclusive and sustainable future across borders and sectors.  (…)
We live in an increasingly turbulent and polarized world and inspired young leaders who can help bridge divides and create real world change are needed now more than ever.”

Thus, we learn that the Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL) which was founded in 2004 with the aim of helping the world address increasingly complex and interdependent problems and make it more inclusive and sustainable, has failed so far. If you add the predecessor programme Global Leaders of Tomorrow, its been as long as 30 years, and the World Economic Forum  itself has even been (supposedly) busy to make the world a better place for 50 years already.

And the result is that the world is increasingly turbulent and polarised“. That would not exactly be a record of success if one wanted to take the Sunday speeches of the YGL and the WEF seriously.

Perhaps it is because, as Ali Hamza would have us believe, the earlier cohorts of the YGL were simply not engaged enough and oriented towards community interest. These earlier chorts included Angela Merkel, Jens Spahn, Annalena Baerbock, Emmanuel Macron, Victor Orban and, if Klaus Schwab is to be believed, Vladimir Putin. So we might not find it hard to believe that there was a lack of orientation towards the common good here and there.

It is less easy to believe that the new generation is completely different and that it will really, genuinely, finally make the world a better place:

“The new generation of leaders is very different from their predecessors, because they care more about having a sense of purpose and having a positive impact on society and the environment.”

This new generation will finally do whatever it takes to make the world a better place“. They will successfully tackle the worlds old and new problems, i.e. the costofliving crisis, social unrest and trade wars, as well as the war in Ukraine, a new era of low growth, the rapid development of dualuse technologies (civilian and military) and the increasing impact of climate change“. They will solve these problems according to the time tested (not!) method of publicprivate partnerships (i.e. for the benefit of the corporations).

What could possibly go wrong, with the result that in a few years the World Economic Forum might again have to note with concern that the social divide between poor and the rich (the YGL or their friends and patrons) has become even worse? Let’s have a look at who these people are, to get an idea. 

Bank managers as dogooders

The list of high potentials newly admitted to the elite development programme in 2023 shows in which functions they want to put at work their strong aspirations to solve the worlds most pressing problems. Thes list includes:

  • CEO, ila Bank, Bahrain,
  • Chief Investment Officer, Alpha Capital, Saudi Arabia,
  • Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, VAE,
  • Executive Producer, Netflix, Ghana,
  • Chief Executive Officer, Angola Stock Exchange,
  • Executive Director,, East West Banking Corporation, Philippines,
  • Editor-in-Chief, Asia Pacific, Vice News, Australia,
  • Managing Partner, Pictet & Cie, Switzerland,
  • Global Chief Investment Strategist, BlackRock, UK,
  • Chief Executive Officer, Wingcopter, Germany,
  • Head of Group Risks and Analytics, Swiss Re Management,
  • Switzerland
  • North Asia Head of Strategic Advisory and Private Asset Group, Credit Suisse, Hongkong,
  • Editor-in-Chief, Vogue China,
  • Managing Director for Latin America, Meta, Argentina,
  • Chief Financial Officer, Grupo Mexico (Copper Group),
  • Senior Vice President of Digital Partnerships, Retail & Commerce, Mastercard, USA,
  • Chief Investment Officer Emerging Markets Americas, UBS AG, USA,
  • Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Bridgewater Associates, USA,
  • Research Scientist and Quantum Electronics Engineer, Google, USA,
  • Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company, USA,
  • Chief Executive Officer Communications, Verizon Communications, USA,

When I was young, the young people, who were more concerned about the others, about the environment and the poor, did not aim to become Managing Director of a bank before turning 40, or Senior Partner of a large business consulting firm, or Senior Vice President of Mastercard. They did not see such jobs and titles as the best best opportunity to make the world a better place. Rather, it was those hungry for power, status and money who pursued such careers. 

Diversity is promoted, however. Most of the YGL of 2023 are female, at least that is the impression without having counted, and the majority are nonwhite. The World Economic Forum is moving with the times. This might be necessar for some other reason:  the opportunities for (halfway) young white men to make become highly influential are rapidly diminishing. And the WEF and the corporations behind it, do want influential people as their influence agents.

Penetration of the Cabinets

In a panel discussion at Harvard University, available as a Youtube video, probably from 2017, Klaus Schwab boasts that the World Economic Forum with its Young Global Leaders penetrates the cabinets, i.e. the government teams. That makes sense. After all, building publicprivate partnerships to advance the corporate agenda works much better when there are people on both sides who are committed to the World Economic Forum.

In 2022, the Forum put an emphasis on ministries in charge of digitalization when selecting YGLs from the government sector.

This year, he seems to be more concerned with getting a foot in the door of the political power centres of as many governments as possible. This time the programme includes:

  • Deputy Cabinet Secretary at the White House, USA,
  • Secretary General, Office of the Head of State, Kingdom of Morocco,
  • Chief Legal Adviser, Office of the President, Ghana,
  • Foreign Minister, Mongolia,
  • Minister of Finance, UAE,
  • Minister of Investment, Honduras,
  • Secretary of State, Ministry of Information and Communications, Vietnam,
  • Prince of Brunei,
  • Governor, Nairobi City, Kenya,
  • Vice President, Malaysian United Democratic Alliance, Malaysia,
  • Mayor of Sarajevo, BosniaHerzegovina,
  • Member of Knesset, Israel,
  • Congresswoman, Peru,
  • Yukon Regional Chief, Assembly of Nations (Aboriginal), Canada,
  • Mayor of Cleveland, USA,
  • Member of the House of Commons, Canada.

Dogooders for the feuilleton

Now, it is rather difficult to tell heartwarming stories about how a Global Chief Investment Strategist of Blackrock or a minister of a medievalfeudalistic monarchy concretely improve the world and reduce the division of society into rich and poor. You cannot possibly write stories like the following about them:

“Born in a refugee camp and raised during Uganda’s civil war, YGL Victor Ochen founded the African Youth Initiative Network, a human rights organization that has provided reconstructive medical repair and psychological assistance to more than 21,000 victims of rape, mutilation and other violence during war.”

That is why each years cohort also includes a number of people who are actually socially engaged, or who, as artists, have prsonalities and stories worth writing about. It is almost exclusively these types of YGL that we are told about on the web pages of the Forum and in other media, not the Senior-Vice-President-of-a-financial-firm types. 

German version


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