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DUBAI: The approach of governments today toward emerging challenges, including the high cost of war, growing fragmentation and de-globalization, and the acceleration of artificial intelligence, will define the future of humanity, the UAE’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammad Al-Gergawi warned on Monday.

In his opening remarks on the first day of the World Governments Summit in Dubai, Al-Gergawi urged governments to seek global collaboration.

“We can encourage trade and cultural connection to replace global economic division and polarization. We can work together to reduce the risks of technology and maximize its benefits,” he told delegates at the summit, which brings together world leaders and international organizations to address key challenges facing society.

He said there was a staggering cost of war and conflict, amounting to $17 trillion a year.

About 6 percent of the $17 trillion could combat some of humanity’s greatest challenges including hunger, illiteracy, cancer, and the absence of clean water, in one year, he said.

“Imagine what could be achieved if we invested more in addressing other challenges facing humanity?” he added. “The resources the planet contains is enough for us and for future generations, if we invest it well and use it for the benefit of humanity.”

While global economic integration has helped triple global domestic product since the end of the Cold War, Al-Gergawi warned that growing polarization and “clear transformations in international trade” was causing the decline of globalization.

Economic fragmentation will cost 7 percent of the world’s GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund, a figure that, Al-Gergawi said, would define the future.

The number of global trade restrictions introduced each year has nearly tripled since 2019, reaching almost 3,000 last year, according to the IMF.

“Today, we are witnessing more intense competition in the areas of technology, innovation, currencies, and an increasing internal focus in light of the rise of populism,” Al-Gergawi said. He urged governments to view globalization as a driver of development instead of a threat to national interests and local economies.

He also called on governments to seek benefit from the emerging new economic order, led by China and India, that already drive 50 percent of global economic growth. With more than 70 percent of global economic growth expected to come from the East, Al-Gergawi urged governments to leverage the transformation instead of confronting it.

The minister also warned of the rapid growth of AI, which could be a double-edged sword and cause harm if not deployed properly.

Studies predict that AI will take over 70 percent of tasks in various sectors, increasing human productivity. However, AI has helped produce three times more deep fakes in 2023 than the previous year. There were 500,000 pieces of fake content spread on the internet last year, distorting reality and changing attitudes.

“Media misinformation and the spread of fake news will be among the key challenges facing humanity,” Al-Gergawi warned.

“How can we guard the truth from distortion? Because the end result is mistrust in governments, media establishments, companies and individuals.”

Meanwhile, Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, urged the planet’s leaders to prepare for the new “intelligent era” that the globe is heading toward, which brings an abundance of opportunities.

He said world leaders need to harness technology to create a “humanocracy” and create an era where humans can flourish.

“At the core of this transformation is a commitment to ensuring that the benefit of technological advancement are equitably shared to reach an inclusive society,” he added.

World leaders must use technology to achieve development goals and establish an ethical framework to regulate rapidly growing technologies.

“Political leaders must combine three different dimensions. They need to be technicians and scientists, but also philosophers who are able understand interactions with these new technologies. They need to be humanists who also utilize the human aspect not just technology,” said Schwab.

“The future isn’t happening but government leaders are shaping the future.”

The three-day summit, running until Feb. 14, brings together 25 world leaders and heads of state, 140 governments, more than 85 international and regional organizations and institutions, and leading thought leaders and experts.

Participants will tackle pressing issues facing humanity across various sectors, including the global economy, technology, artificial intelligence, sustainability, finance and education.

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