Global Leadership Forum off to flying start with first meeting

16 Jun 2022

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FIDIC’s new Global Leadership Forum (GLF), which brings together industry leaders from across the globe to focus on the key issues facing society and the wider infrastructure sector, met for the first time in 2022 at a well-attended online session on 16 June, which comprised around 60 global leaders from the engineering, construction, infrastructure, finance, technology and economic sectors.

Commenting on the meeting, FIDIC president Tony Barry said that he was delighted to see so many global infrastructure leaders us from all around the world joining the meeting. “It was just wonderful to see all of the faces and I am very much looking forward to catching up and meeting with people in person as soon as we are able.”

Explaining the background to the formation of the GLF, Barry said: “We felt we had to fill a gap in our engagement with the global infrastructure sector and we saw that creating a forum for its leaders to collaborate would help to find solutions to the challenges the world and the sector is facing. We believe that by bringing the great minds and immense skills of our sector together will ensure that we can exert our considerable influence across the globe to bring these solutions to fruition.”

Forum members then heard from keynote speakers from Swiss Re Institute and the European Investment Bank, who addressed the issues of infrastructure investment and the green transition respectively. Key points raised were that there was a $50bn investment opportunity in the infrastructure sector and that the green transition was the biggest opportunity of all, with at least $4.5 trillion annually needed through to 2030.

Infrastructure - a bankable safe haven

A key point made was that infrastructure has historically outperformed in inflationary environments, which was particularly important point given the current geopolitical, growth and inflation environment and the investment decisions that would be taken going forward. Therefore, infrastructure was still very much an attractive asset class, despite rising global interest rates and wider corporate bond spreads.

There was a clear steer that infrastructure could be seen as a bankable safe haven for investment in the current uncertain economic and political environment. This was certainly a good message to hear for senior executives from the engineering, construction and infrastructure industry. Of course, the key challenge will be how to communicate this positive message across to a much wider audience, including politicians and global investors.

GLF members also heard about the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s ‘climate bank’ and its target of dedicating 50% of its financing to climate-positive projects, while at the same time ensuring its other investments to not act in a way that undermines the bank’s sustainable aims. Private sector participation in meeting the huge global investment gap would be crucial going forward and in order to rise to the challenge the EIB was strengthening its resources and capability as infrastructure investment would be playing a key role in addressing the global climate challenge going forward.

A global forum that packs a punch

Following the keynote speakers, FIDIC CEO Dr Nelson Ogunshakin, gave an introduction to the Global Infrastructure Forum, explaining that it was intended to be “an internationally-recognised network of global infrastructure experts, providing leadership and knowledge to advance solutions to global challenges to improve infrastructure for society”.

Ogunshakin said that he was keen for GLF members to play an active role in the forum and highlighted the importance of the GLF advisory board, which would play a pivotal role as a sounding board to help guide the GLF as a successful networking forum “that packs a punch with its global influencing power to tackle global challenges such as transition to net zero, economic growth and prosperity and digital transformation”. Ogunshakin also invited members to attend an inaugural in-person GLF Summit to be held in Switzerland from 27-28 April 2023.

The meeting also discussed a number of GLF think tanks that had been set up to deal with key industry priorities, including industry recognition, sustainable development and meeting the SDGs, market intelligence and insight and delivering tomorrow’s infrastructure. Think tank chairs gave an update to date on their work and the outputs to come.

Summing up the first GLF meeting, FIDIC president Tony Barry said: “The networking discussions have demonstrated the power that we have in the virtual room. It’s exciting to think what we might be able to achieve when we all get together in person next year. We hope that we’re setting off on the right course with the GLF and that our journey will continue to develop, gather momentum and increase in legitimacy over the next year.”

It was clear from the meeting that the Global Leadership Forum is set to become an increasingly influential network of expert individuals and companies across the infrastructure space providing leadership and knowledge to deliver improved and sustainable outcomes for society across the globe. A further summary of the key points discussed at the GLF is available on the Infrastructure Global online platform.

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