Forum 2017: Trust


Too many people feel removed from progress and do not believe the overall system is working for them. 

This distrust can partly be explained by a significant decline in economic and social status due to the financial crisis, but there is also a general sense that government policies and business strategies favour a concentration of wealth among rich and powerful people, as well as rich and powerful regions. 

A survey conducted by McKinsey Global Institute in July 2016 (Poorer than Their Parents? A New Perspective in Income Inequality) found that a significant number of those whose incomes have not been advancing are losing faith in the global economic system, and expressed negative opinions about free trade and immigration. 


'post-truth' era

We are witnessing the emergence of a new so-called 'post truth' era, which has risen from the combination of low levels of trust and the increasing fragmentation of news and media sources brought about through digitalisation.

In the social media world, everyone is a publisher, and traditional news organisations are no longer the predominant source or gatekeepers of news. 

This new environment has made it easier for the lines between fact and fiction to be blurred. 

False information, diffused through social media, can quickly be taken to be true without question of the legitimacy of the source. 

Furthermore, social media patterns and the increasing prominence of algorithms are also contributing to the creation of silos of opinion, in which we surround ourselves with people who think like us and are fed information which is intended to fit our preferences rather than challenge our thinking. 

The mainstream media, whose credibility has also been questioned and perceived as part of the 'elite', is also increasingly being impacted. 

As media organisations compete for advertising revenue, now a central component of new business models, temptation is rising to opt for news and headlines which generate the highest number of clicks, or 'click bait', creating ethical tensions in terms of public information provision, and in cases calling into question the very idea of news as a civic good.


civic engagement

Due to the low levels of trust, 'a person like you' is now as credible as an academic or technical expert, and far more credible than a CEO or government oļ¬ƒcial, implying that the primary axis of trust is now peer-to-peer.

Combined with the fact that algorithms sort us into groups of like-minded, creating social media 'echo chambers' that amplify our views, reducing dialogue among people holding different opinions and perspectives, depriving us of opposing  arguments and leaving us less-well informed for better, more effective, policymaking.

This polarisation of our societies could also undermine the democratic process. 

In Forum discussions we focused on finding ways to get back to shared conversations, experiences, and understanding that transcends polarisation, helping to bridge current divides. 

The Forum explored concepts such as voter protection as well as the degree to which democratic political systems and practices need to be overhauled in the 21st Century of digitalisation, to be more deliberative, embracing civic engagement as a means to co-design and co-construct policies.


sharing the benefits of trade

International trade is facing strong headwinds of weaker global demand, while large parts of society now also feel trade is undermining, rather than underpinning, their livelihood, with calls for protectionism increasing. 

Yet trade can work for everyone’s benefit if governments apply the full range of national, subnational and international policies to ensure that all people and regions are involved, and that everyone shares the fruits of freer and fairer movement of information, ideas, technological innovations. 

Trade and investment are important for boosting productivity and essential for the global value chains that spur our interconnected economies and societies. 

competition and responsible business conduct

Despite the financial crisis corporate profits are at an all-time high. 

The global frontier firms have been performing exceptionally well due to their capacity to innovate, combining technological, financial, organisational innovation, and human capital. 

They are in a position to hire the best talent, offering the best financial rewards in the market, further increasing the levels of inequality in our societies. 

Given the backlash against globalisation, leaders in the business sector must set the example at home and abroad with regard to responsible business conduct in terms of social policy, working conditions in supply chains, and tax practices.  

There is growing concern that certain frontier firms are consolidating dominant positions, preventing the spread of innovation and increases in productivity throughout the economy particularly within SMEs, the sector of the economy that is the biggest employer in OECD economies, and a motor for regional and local development. 

Are these phenomena just 'growing pains', as some would argue, or a systemic trend that will increase inequality and stifle competition?


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