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International trends and dynamics in 2021: Reset or revolution?

Zlatina Loudjeva and Lord Jack McConnell explore international trends and dynamics in 2021, including the need for strong global leadership, the role of the private sector, challenges and opportunities in Net Zero as we approach COP26, and how we can ensure people have the skills they need for future jobs.

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“If we are going to have more resilience and we are going to have net zero to tackle climate change, then we need to make sure that young people and older adults as well have the education and the skills to be able to survive and thrive in the new economy.”

Lord Jack McConnell


Zlatina Loudjeva:

Welcome to our discussions on international trends and dynamics in 2021. My name Zlatina Loudjeva, I am a director in PwC. I have spent the past 20 years looking at disruptions, economic disruptions, the global trends, and the impact of development. I am delighted to be joined today by Lord Jack McConnell, a former first minister for Scotland and now a senior adviser to PwC, welcome Jack.

Jack McConnell:

Hello, it’s great to be here.


Jack, thank you for joining us. At the end of November 2020, we had a big global conference with international leaders, and everyone was talking about the potential for a catalytic reset, partially because of the disruption experienced by COVID, partially because of technological innovation we have seen in the past few years.

A few months have passed since, and things have gotten worse, hopefully they will get better soon, but for now they have gotten worse, and I wanted to ask you, are we looking at a reset or are you looking now at a revolution.


Yeah, well we might be looking at a revolution. A reset looked likely in November, but since then we’ve had such bad news about the continuation of pandemic and the health crisis, but also the impact in education and the economy, where we have, in many ways just as bad a crisis developing in schools, and across businesses all over the world. There is a real need now for strong global leadership in 2021, coordinated leadership, the UK can be at the centre of that if they set the right agenda for the G7, and use that as a stepping stone to a successful COP26 in November. Around the world, people, rich and poor, from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures are going to be looking for global leaders to pull together and find a way out of these interlinked crises, that just demonstrate how interdependent our world is today.


Thank you, Jack, you started by saying we might be looking at a revolution, and of course, revolutions could be a driver for positive change, but also often times are better avoided. I am wondering, if you think of the collapse of the real economy we’ve seen, and what has happened to people, people have lost their jobs, people have in many cases now even gone through their savings, if they had any to start with. But I am wondering, is the skills and skills development, and building of skills a solution? I know education is a big part of the solution, and you mentioned that, but I am thinking particularly about short-term rapidly building skills for jobs, what is your view?


If we have to have a fundamental reset, and not have a very disruptive and potentially dangerous revolution in places, then we have to give people hope, but it seems to me that with the challenges in the economy in particular, but also with the changes that have to take place if we are going to have more resilience and we are going to have net zero to tackle climate change, then we need to make sure that young people and older adults as well have the education and the skills to be able to survive and thrive in the new economy. Education and skills, closing the gap in education, making sure that those who have been affected in education by the lockdowns around the world, but also those who lose their jobs, have a chance to reskill, update their skills, and be able to take part productively in the economy of the future.


I am glad you ended with the economy of the future and you spoke about net zero there, and I wanted to ask you, in particular, in the context of 2021, what do you think has changed? Net zero has been around for a while, we’ve been talking about the climate emergency now for a while, so what do you think has changed in 2020-2021 and what is the opportunity now?


Actually, with a few notable exceptions, governments have been behind the private sector in relation to net zero and the wider sustainable development goals. The best international companies have been reviewing the supply chains, they have been setting targets, in some cases changing their whole business model. What we need to see in 2021 is a proper partnership between governments and multinational companies, in particular, as well as national, to make sure that if we are going to achieve net zero, then people can work together towards that end. And I think there is a key role here for firms like PwC, who can help convene public and private sectors to share the same agenda, to make sure that regulation works with changing business plans to deliver a safer and a much more resilient world in the future.


Thank you, Jack, really insightful and thought-provoking points. I am particularly impressed, and I am taking away the points about the increased relevance of global leadership and global cooperation. We see that no country can manage this on its own. I am also taking to heart the point about the importance of private sector companies like PwC, helping create the private-public partnerships. Again, the challenge in front of us is so big, public sector or private sector cannot meet it alone.

Thank you for taking the time to share these thoughts with us, and I look forward to continuing this very important conversation. Have a good day.

Contact us

Dr David Armstrong

Dr David Armstrong

Consulting Partner, Government & Health Industries leader for PwC Northern Ireland, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7713 680266

Zlatina Loudjeva

Zlatina Loudjeva

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 4815

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