GES 2013: One of the best economic conferences in Germany over the last few years
Both days of the GES-conference there were a dozen of Audi-limousines with the label “VIP-Service” in front of the entrance to the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel, Germany. In addition heavy equipped policemen showed their presence. For those people on the square outside the train station opposite to the Atlantic Hotel exchanging their minds holding a can of beer it seemed obvious: once again one of those conferences where the elite is gathering and having fun without any relation to the reality.
It’s true that many people participated at this conference which generally are considered to belong to the political and economic elite. Examples are the former hedge funds manager George Soros, the Turkish finance minister Mehmet Simşek or the well known economist Barry Eichengreen from the University of California, Berkeley. Apart from that, however, there were representatives from churches and foundations, who do not fit into the typical profile of participants of an Economic Conference. Or would you have expected the presence of the most powerful speaking Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp or the manager Meagan Fallone from the Organisation “Barefoot College” which has the target to provide people in India with electricity, clean water and education? All those interesting people invited by the Institute of World Economy in Kiel were chosen according to one criterion: do their know how potentiall contribute to solve the many problems we have on a local and global level. Finding solutions, this is the approach of GES. Solutions for problems, which are very near to the tough reality.
The problems of many Brazilian schools in the rural area to get access to electricity is one example. Entrepreneur Reinhard Cordes of the small sized company OnlyGlass presented an interesting project. His firm has developed a window which is able to generate power. Currently, some hundreds of schools in Brazil are equipped with this new generation of windows, having the effect of much better chances of education for many Brazilian children. It was also discussed if and how religion could have a positive contribution to solve global problems. The represantatives of different churches like the above mentioned Rabbi Soetendorp, Martin Bröckelmann Simon from Misereor or Mufti Mustafa Ceric from Bosnia Herzegovina concluded that there are so many basic commonalities which should it make possible to deal with the problems. Another subject at GES was also about the right way of economic policy to handle the eurocrisis. Most experts were of the opinion that the eurocrisis was far from over. However, it was not possible to find a common denominator. While Richard Koo, chief economist of Nomura, pointed out that the state is in charge to stabilize the economy through more spending other economists like Stefan Kooths from the Institute of World economy put their emphasis on structural reforms. George Soros had another view proposing his concept of Eurobonds. Climate change, sustainable growth and combating poverty where other themes (amongst various non-mentioned subjects) at the GES-conference.
Thus, GES was characterized by an unusual diversity of themes, which were analysed by people of many different countries and areas.
However, there was another issue which made this conference unique. This was the atmosphere of an easy-going communication between participants. Be it a pleasant conversation of the author with Martti Ahtisaari, the Nobel Peace Price Winner, or the lively conversation of a young student with the former central bank president of Israel, Jacob Frenkel, or the exchange between NGO-representatives and bankers. All this was kind of taken for granted, no feeling of arrogance of elites.
GES exists since 2010. It is a long term project, as it is all about sustainable solutions for the most pressing problems of the world. Each conference is building upon the results found in the former conferences and GES 2014 in Kuala Lumpur will work the same way, oriented closely at the tough reality.