Photo: Laszlo Szombatfalvy. Credit: Global Challenges Foundation. - Photo: 2017

A Swedish Billionaire Invites Ideas for a New UN

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Laszlo Szombatfalvy, a Swedish billionaire of Hungarian origin, is willing to pay US$5 million to anyone who comes up with innovative ideas for revamping the global governance system as currently manifested in the 71-year old United Nations now facing a huge funding challenge from the U.S. with Donald Trump as the President.

It is officially described as ‘The Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape – Remodelling Global Cooperation’. The award has been issued by the Global Challenges Foundation, which is urging “big thinkers, from all disciplines, everywhere” to use their “brainpower” and “best ideas as never before” to “help to reshape our world”.

The award was launched in November 2016 and participants can register their interest in the Prize competition until February 15. May 24 is the final submission date for proposals. Between May and August 2017, all eligible and complete entries will be assessed by an Expert Academic Panel, a group of leading academics, working in relevant fields, all appointed by the Foundation.

In August, a long list of selected entries will be presented to the Prize Competition Jury, who will review these entries and produce a short list. At the beginning of October, shortlisted candidates will be notified and invited to a final judging day in Stockholm. They will be asked to present their award entry on the judging day. The final results of the competition are expected to be announced end of November.

According to the website, the Global Challenges Foundation aims to incite deeper understanding of the most pressing global risks to humanity – and to catalyse new ways of tackling them.

Founded in 2012 by the Swedish financial analyst Szombatfalvy of Hungarian origin and author of two books, the Foundation is based on the belief that global challenges require global solutions and new forms of international cooperation are urgently needed in order to secure acceptable living conditions for future generations.

The Foundation’s approach is rooted in the risk analysis employed by Szombatfalvy during his five-decade career as an exceptionally successful investor. This objective, scientific approach led him to conclude that the impacts of the great challenges of today – especially climate change, large-scale environmental degradation, violent conflict, extreme poverty and continued rapid population growth – are being gravely underestimated by political and business leaders, who are too often influenced by short term interests.

These ideas are expounded in his book, The Greatest Challenges of Our Time (Ekerlids, 2010) which has been translated into English, Mandarin, Spanish, German and French. This book briefly analyzes the severe threats facing humanity issuing from four mega-problems: environmental damage, climate change, weapons of mass destruction and extreme poverty.

The Foundation believes that twenty-first century risks – termed ‘global catastrophic risks’ when they threaten the survival of at least 10 per cent of the world’s population – is an important source of ever-increasing interconnectedness between the nations of the world. “Because these risks transcend national borders, we need new global solutions that our current systems of global governance struggle to deliver.”

Many of the risks now threatening humanity have originated from a rapid pace of industrial development coupled with the population explosion. However, it is the Foundation’s belief that human ingenuity, which after all has brought us this far, can, if it is properly channeled, manage and minimize the risks and thereby secure a better future for all.

The Foundation wants to create a convening platform to draw together the brightest minds from academia, politics, business and civil society to discuss how the world can better manage these risks in the interests of all citizens.

The Foundation’s various projects in recent years include:

– Producing an annual report assessing Global Catastrophic Risks, in partnership with the Future of Humanity Institute and the Global Priorities Project at Oxford Martin School at Oxford University. The Global Catastrophic Risks 2016 can be downloaded.

This is complemented by Quarterly Risk Reports, bringing together diverse global perspectives on how to manage global risk. These reports bring together leading actors from around the world to prompt a shared understanding of the current challenges that we face. The latest reports are available here: Quarterly Report #1, August 2016 – Resetting the frame and Quarterly Report #2, November 2016 – Remodelling Global Cooperation.

– Financing “The Earth Statement” in anticipation of the COP21 climate change talks.  In 2015 the Global Challenges Foundation joined forces with Earth League, a network of the world’s 17 leading climate scientists, to develop the climate petition Earth Statement. The petition summarized the synthesis of the global research on climate change. Boiling it down to eight elements regarding what the world’s leaders needed to commit to at the Paris climate conference (COP21).

 – Helping to prepare tomorrow’s leaders to deal with global risks, the Foundation sponsors the Global Challenges track at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Szombatfalvy, born 1927 in Budapest, Hungary, is described as “one of Sweden’s most successful investors of all time” and considered as the Warren Buffett of Sweden. Like Buffett, he started life in very humble circumstances. He arrived to Sweden from Hungary in 1956 when Soviet tanks marched into Hungary.

Szombatfalvy’s four advices for the youth are:

Be conscious of the fact that you are not only your own country’s citizen; you are a global citizen.

Realize that your children’s and grandchildren’s living conditions to a growing extent will depend on other countries’ citizens, even more than on their compatriots.

Understand, that without a global governance system that can tackle global risks, the likelihood of major catastrophes will become incomparably higher.

Demand action from your elected politicians! Vote out the incompetent people – you cannot afford them! [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 February 2017]

Photo: Laszlo Szombatfalvy. Credit: Global Challenges Foundation.

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

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