For the first time, this year’s AGD was held online. Themed Towards a New Multilateral Global Economy, AGD 2020 explored topics on prospects of multilateralism, climate crisis, post-COVID recovery and technology for common good.
Opening and Welcome: In conversation with Xiang Zhang, HKU President
Prospects for Multilateralism
What Next for Global Action on Climate Change?
Recovery - Inequality and Sustainable Development in the Post-COVID World
Advancing Technology for the Common Good
AGD2020: Closing Remarks by Victor K Fung
The pandemic has severely disrupted education at all levels, posing technological, economic, and learning challenges for teachers, students, parents and institutions. In a dialogue with 2020/21 AsiaGlobal Fellow and education policy specialist Modupe Adefeso-Olateju of Nigeria, the president of The University of Hong Kong, Xiang Zhang, discusses the impact of Covid-19 on higher education. He will share his perspectives on Hong Kong’s role as an education hub in the context of the growth of the Greater Bay Area, the development of China and the deepening integration of the Asia-Pacific region. President Zhang will offer insights into the future of jobs and the issues that universities face in preparing young people for employment and productive careers contributing to sustainable development.
The weak global response to Covid-19 has revealed how seriously the rules-based international order is in disarray. The pandemic has further complicated political, social and economic stresses that had been playing out in the US, Europe and the Asia. The heightened US-China rivalry, in particular, has led to further tensions in the global system, even as multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization require significant reform if they are to be representative and effective in addressing the many cross-border challenges such as climate change, fair trade and indeed the pandemic. Hear from experts from China, Japan and the US on the prospects for multilateralism, especially with the advent of a new US administration and major developments in Asia-Pacific trade.
China’s carbon-neutral pledge and the expected return of the US to the Paris Agreement could catalyze renewed global action on climate change, even as governments have had to allocate resources and manpower to fighting the pandemic. What is the outlook for further international mobilization to address global warming, especially as the issue has become a priority on national security agendas? What about other pressing environmental problems such as plastics pollution, water stress and the need to mitigate the impact of extreme weather and natural disasters such as the Australian bushfires? And how can the business community contribute to driving further progress on this existential global challenge?
Covid-19 plunged the world into its deepest recession in generations. As economies recover, with Asia taking the lead, the key challenge is to “build back better” by addressing inequality and keeping sustainable development on track. But the implementation of the extraordinary policy remedies and fiscal interventions by governments and central banks may pose challenges to achieving these objectives. In the immediate term, countries will have to cope with the task of the rollout of vaccines and the strengthening public-health security and trust. Over the longer term, efforts will be needed to counter the very severe negative economic and social impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, women and marginalized groups.
The pandemic has highlighted both the great advantages of technology – the widespread use of videoconferencing for online education, for example – and the negative aspects such as the rapid spread of bad and false information through social media. The speedy development of vaccines will be hailed as a game-changing scientific achievement. The public-health and economic crises brought on by Covid-19 will accelerate digitalization and the implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as artificial intelligence. How can these advances be aimed for the common good – for building trust and security rather than rivalry and risk? And how can governments and enterprises narrow gaping digital divides (between and within economies) that the twin catastrophes have revealed.
Closing Remarks: New Directions for Multilateralism for the Post-Pandemic, Digital Economy