The following is the message sent by the Holy Father Francis to Professor Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the “World Economic Forum” (WEF) on the occasion of the annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 21 to 24 January 2020, the text of which will be presented by His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, as Holy See representative.
Message of the Holy Father
To Professor Klaus Schwab
Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum
As the World Economic Forum celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, I send greetings and prayerful good wishes to all taking part in this year’s gathering. I thank you for your invitation to participate and have asked Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to attend as the Holy See’s representative.
In these years, the World Economic Forum has offered an opportunity for the engagement of diverse stakeholders to explore innovative and effective ways of building a better world. It has also provided an arena where political will and mutual cooperation can be guided and strengthened in overcoming the isolationism, individualism and ideological colonization that sadly characterizes too much contemporary debate.
In light of the ever growing and interrelated challenges affecting our world (cf. Laudato Si’, 138 ff.), the theme you have chosen to consider this year – Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World – points to the need for a greater engagement at all levels in order to address more effectively the diverse issues facing humanity. Throughout the past five decades, we have witnessed geopolitical transformations and significant changes, from the economy and labour markets to digital technology and the environment. Many of these developments have benefitted humanity, while others have had adverse effects and created significant development lacunae. While today’s challenges are not the same as those of half a century ago, a number of features remain relevant as we begin a new decade.
The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family. The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very centre of public policy. This duty, moreover, is incumbent upon business sectors and governments alike, and is indispensable in the search for equitable solutions to the challenges we face. As a result it is necessary to move beyond short-term technological or economic approaches and to give full consideration to the ethical dimension in seeking resolutions to present problems or proposing initiatives for the future.
All too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest. This typically views others as a means to an end and entails a lack of solidarity and charity, which in turn gives rise to real injustice, whereas a truly integral human development can only flourish when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good. In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth.
In my Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, I drew attention to the importance of an “integral ecology” that takes into account the full implications of the complexity and interconnectedness of our common home. Such a renewed and integrated ethical approach calls for “a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision” (ibid., 141).
In acknowledging the achievements of the past fifty years, it is my hope that the participants in today’s Forum, and those to be held in the future, will keep in mind the high moral responsibility each of us has to seek the integral development of all our brothers and sisters, including those of future generations. May your deliberations lead to a growth in solidarity, especially with those most in need, who experience social and economic injustice and whose very existence is even threatened.
To those taking part in the Forum I renew my prayerful good wishes for a fruitful meeting and I invoke upon all of you God’s blessings of wisdom.
From the Vatican, 15 January 2020