The Evian Group (EG), founded in 1995, is an international coalition of corporate, government and opinion leaders, committed to fostering an open, inclusive, equitable and sustainable global market economy supported by a rules-based multilateral framework. In its diverse activities it draws on the collective wisdom and experience of its members, Brains Trust, and associates, to provide greater knowledge, vision and direction in meeting the economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. It is strongly inspired by humanism.
The initial focus of the EG was primarily on the global trade agenda. The WTO, established in 1995, was hailed as the first truly global institution of the “new era” of globalisation that emerged following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Initially encouraged by the launch of the “Doha Development Agenda” in 2001, the EG then contemplated with alarm the agenda going off the rails in subsequent years until it stalled. Today, the WTO as a multilateral rules-making forum for constructive cross-border negotiations has become moribund.
As the former Director General of the WTO the late Renato Ruggiero remarked in 1995, “we have gone from a divided world to an integrated world ….. and an integrated world is much more difficult to manage”.
In fact, integration has been terribly mismanaged with the result that the trend in recent years has been toward disintegration, rather than integration. This is true of trade, as it is of migration and refugee policies, as it is of climate change, and of relations between emerging and established nations. The period has also been marked by an apparent alarming decline in corporate ethics – one of the most flagrant illustrations of which is the Volkswagen emissions scandal. How can managers and engineers from a supposedly reputable company in all consciousness cheat tests and thereby spew out immense quantities of poisonous nitrogen oxides endangering the planet, including their own families?
The main cause of this disintegration would seem to be the very myopic, ie short-term, and narrow nature of public policies and corporate strategies.
In seeking to create a global market, there was a failure realise that it could only be sustainable if based on a global community. The main consequence and cause for alarm is to put in grave peril the prospects of future generations.
The primary mission of the EG on the occasion of its relaunch in June 2017 is to focus on the long term with the aim of identifying the building blocks for establishing an inclusive, equitable, sustainable and dynamic global community as the base for a functioning prosperous global market. To that end, guidance will be taken from the recently announced seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The over-riding question is how can we secure the future of the coming generations in the 21st century and not risk comparable scenarios to those of the early decades of the last century. The EG cannot of course solve the world’s problems, but it can make a constructive contribution. Above all complacency and defeatism need to be spurned in favour of sound reflection, dialogue and action.