Dr. Zlatko Lagumdžija speech – The 3rd Belt and Road Davos Forum

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Zlatko Lagumdžija,  Davos,  February 24, 2019

The 3rd Belt and  Road Davos Forum

Building the Belt and Road – Sharing the benefits of the economic globalization

Shared Societies in the Age of Sustainable Development along Belt and Road Initiative

In globalized and regionally fragmented world everyone has chance to be a big player.

I am coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina.  4 million people country called “best kept investment secret” is part of over 760 million people free trade market (having free trade and stabilization and assessing agreements with and within Western Balkans, EU, Russia, Turkey).

Market with 760 million people and with total GDP over 400 Billion US$ bigger than USA and 7.500 Billion US$ bigger than China (World Bank 2017, Data, 19.802 Billion US$ “Bosnia Free Market”, 19.390 Billion US$ USA, 12.237 Billion US$ China).

We all live in time in which technology is making us more powerful with unprecedented growing speed of change.

Growth of Economy is giving us bigger  chances to have better living.

At the same time inequality along economical, technological and social  dimensions are making us more vulnerable than ever before.

That is why one word is determining our hopes along different  fears and means in search for better world for all.

Word  Shared is defining societies in which we may be living in harmony.

Shared Society. Defined by shared Future, shared Leadership, shared Values, shared Responsibility, shared Environment, shared Benefits, shared Purpose, shared Vision, shared Economy, shared Goals, shared Technology, shared Education …

Shared Societies Approach in the Age of Sustainable Development along  Belt and Road Initiative  can be seen as one of the concrete platforms for achieving peaceful and prosperous societies when leaders and citizens recognize and celebrate the value of diversity and actively build an inclusive, shared society safe for difference.

Shared Society is socially inclusive and cohesive society. It is stable and safe where all tose living there feel at home while respects everyone’s dignity and provides every individual with equal opportunity. It respects diversity and treats it like an asset not a liability.

I am delighted to be able to contribute to this discussion on the Belt and Road Initiative.  The World leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid has been following the development of this initiative with interest from the start, and are pleased to share our reflections with the Chinese Authorities. 

As some of you probably know we are a network of former Presidents and Prime Ministers (over one hundred of us) and we are happy to share with current leaders our experiences and lessons we have learnt by winning, loosing and getting up again and again to continue along our Shared  vision  and values.

For some years we have been having a series of discussion with Chinese key political and academic stakeholders at Imperial Springs International Forum in Guangzhou, the last two years with a follow-up meeting in Beijing with President Xi after the Forum.

President Xi Jinping made the remarks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, when meeting with us just after concluded 2018 Imperial Springs International Forum.

“Belt and Road Initiative, which originates from China and belongs to the world, is aimed at building a new platform for win-win cooperation for the international community, while reiterating the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in promoting cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s overseas investment and cooperation in capacity building and infrastructure construction have driven industrialization of the countries concerned and promoted local people’s livelihood and economic and social development. China’s efforts to promote and build a new type of international relations and a community with as shared future for humanity are also aimed at achieving win-win cooperation among all countries “, said Xi.

In this context BRI can be seen as a practical platform for implementation of crucial components of UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs and Agenda 2030, that is consolidating  our common  Hopes, Means and Tools for shared future, while at the same time having  transformative role in  inclusion, jobs, growth and education.

Therefore I want to share two suggestions with you. 

First, it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that the Belt and Road Initiative is operating in a way that strengthens the development of a Shared Society and does not do anything that opens up divisions within a society.  Development can often operate in ways which benefit some sections of society and marginalize others.  It is important to avoid that.

Secondly, a Shared Societies Approach can help to guide effective processes for implementing the Belt and Road Initiative.  As I say the principles of a Shared Societies are relevant to the community of states and not just within states. The lesson that the Shared Societies Project offers is that the Belt and Road initiative will be more effective if it is a collegial process in which all parties including the states and their peoples – are involved on an equal basis.

Now, let me say just few words in this context about why my country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as 6 countries of Western Balkan, that are on a common journey  to  European Union membership, should be more present in overall BRI economic activities? Why someone from China would have investment interests to come to our part of South Eastern Europe? Why we may be example of sharing the benefits of the economic globalization? Why we are good case for sharing BRI development opportunities and promoting practical cooperation?

Investing in Bosnia is not investment in 4 million people market of one state or in  20 million people of Western Balkan that is one economic space, but it is investment in additional 740 million people market of EU, Russia and Turkey who we have Stabilization and Association Agreement as well as Free Trade Agreements.

With 10% corporate tax on profit, Euro as a currency anker, Adriatic Mediterranean major ports being distant by train from potential factories inside diameter of  300 kilometers, cheapest available industrial electricity in broader region, with competitively priced highly skilled labor force, Bosnia is part of over 760 million people free trade market (Western Balkans, EU, Russia and Turkey). Investing in tourism, real estate and  food production oriented for Chinese market is another side of the same investment opportunity coin of win-win cooperation.

 Belt and Road Initiative has made great  strides since the initiative was first conceived 5 years ago.

Now it is time for more understanding and learning in a shared process where we are all students. Looking for shared future, shared leadership and sustainable development in shared societies along the long and winding road ahead of us.

The BRI can be seen as our common search for new type of globalization in the age of sustainable development with a basic logic of decentralization while advocating common, fair and inclusive development where we are mutually respecting and learning from each other

That is the reason why we need inclusive Shared Society approach.

In order to do so, we need  to  work more on understanding and educating each other while  learning and opening new horizons together.

In past 5 years, infrastructure and investments (hardware) with new jobs creation (software), have been laid down.

Now is the time for life ware, human capacity, education and sharing experiences research and culture, to be our common mission along BRI.

I will conclude with two concrete proposals which could be beneficiary for all BRI stakeholders as an example of Shared Society  Values Approach and win-win cooperation.

First proposal, is based on my own experience as  postdoctoral Fulbright scholar in management and information technologies  in late 1980s  as well as current distinguished professor in leadership at  Tsinghua Schwarstman College and BNU EMI .

I had a privilege to benefit three decades ago from one great global academic exchange program that made enormous positive impact not only on USA but to the rest of the world as well.

Now I enjoyed meeting and sharing knowledge with few extraordinary groups of new young leaders of our shared future. Schwartzman  program oriented to first class graduate students from all over the world at Tsinghua University, and another one putting together unique graduate students from emerging markets at BNU. I am sure that I met young people who will be meeting in Davos and different prime decision makers events very soon as a business, political or academic leaders with global outreach.

Establishing BRI Scholarship comparable with Fulbright program oriented to broad spectrum of academic and researcher scholars that are coming from Belt and Road countries as well as from another countries who are interested in areas related to BRI, would be my first proposal from today’s Forum.

States cooperation cannot produce long term mutual befits without bottom up cooperation starting with people and local communities.

First proposal can be  one of the most productive ways to strengthen shared future through People to People exchanges.

Second proposal  is  oriented to strengthening local communities and cities cooperation using  Shared Society approach along with existing BRI oriented projects to local level and cooperation.

Already in 2016, the Imperial Springs International Forum, which
that year brought together experienced world leaders, international and
Chinese expert practitioners and scholars to discuss the impact of the Belt
& Road Initiative on the sustainability, inclusiveness and resilience of
cities, proposed the creation of a Belt & Road Cities Alliance.

Without creating a new, bureaucratic structure, such an Alliance could be
established within already existing international associations of cities.

This could facilitate important technical, financial and economic due
diligence in host countries and coordination amongst investors. It can also open
the door for optimizing the interconnectivity that these infrastructure
investments will allow. This could foster the adequate consideration of
the sustainability, inclusiveness and resilience challenges that arise
alongside the economic development such investments would generate.
Naturally, it would also allow for the introduction of concepts and values
that are at the core of the Shared Society Approach and a more participatory
and open consideration of the investments to be made as well as their eventual

City of Sarajevo with CdM initiated network of capital cities of SEE, all of them be along BRI, to be working together and promoting Shared Societies and cooperation on concrete projects as one of a ways to shared future and leadership.

Global Mayors Forum (GMF), already have started activities to create a platform for dialog among mayors from cities with BRI projects. Shared Society framework cooperation in SEE, along with a Global Mayors Forum vision and purpose may be right starting point for these activities.

Global Mayors Forum’s vision to communicate culture for global sustainability as well as GMF’s purpose to convey cultures, promote the sustainable development of the city, and build a global network of mutual learning and cooperating cities fits perfectly in given framework.

In order to move forward along our common goals we need some kind of „Shared Leadership“ that is participative, inclusive and long term oriented. 

Building the Belt and Road while sharing the benefits of the economic globalization can succeed only on these principles.

Shared Leadership for Shared Future in Shared Societies and Environmental Sustainability. Shared Leadership for Harmony of  People, Planet and Technology – Shared Vision, Values, Passion and Persistence.