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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in WEF (4)

Friday
Jun052015

World Economic Forum 2015 - day 3

Today was the third and final day of the World Economic Forum that was held in Cape Town from 3-5 June 2015.

Once again I rode my trusty steed (a 2001 model BMW 650GS motorcycle) into the city for the meetings. It was surprisingly cold, although with clear blue skies as I drove into the beautiful Cape Town city bowl. I never grow tired of the beautiful view as one crests De Waal drive into the city.

Having parked just across the road from the CTICC (Cape Town Internation Convention Center) I made my way through security, now quite experienced at what beeps and what doesn't, and made my way upstairs for the first of my sessions.

I started the day with a session on agriculture, development and food security.  There were a few startling revelations in that session, notably that by 2050 the population of Africa will double, but our capacity to produce food will not.  In large measure this is because of too few commercial farmers, poor policy in agriculture and political instability and war threatens food security.  Water, of course, remains an additional challenge.  It was shocking to learn that there are 85 million malnourished persons in Africa, and that a large number of those are subsistence farmers and their families.  Again, the issue of gender inequality featured in this talk.  Women produce +- 80% of the food in Africa but only own 2% of the land.  Men tend to keep the best pockets of land for themselves and often don't utilize it fully.  What was also interesting to be reminded of is that Africa is the world's most resource laden continent - in other words, we are the richest continent on the planet when it comes to natural resources, but because of extractive injustice (where our minieral resources are extracted and sold elsewhere in the world) we are so poor that we have to import food to support our populations. Lastly, we discovered that rural women tend to be better managers of farms, food and finance (better than urban women, and better than all men).  So, what's the lesson?  Well, I think that if we had targeted projects to support and uplift rural women we could achieve a great deal for the common good in Africa.  Naturally we need to develop commercial farmers and technologies to drive efficient and healthy food production that is not destructive of the earth's resources and that can feed growing numbers of people.

Next, I attended a workshop that sought to find solutions to drive development and growth in Africa in the next 10 years.  I was fortunate to be seated at the table of Minister Naledi Pandor - what a remarkable woman!  I was bowled over by her gentleness, her amazing grasp of policy, investment, technology and the complex set of social, political and economic aspects that are necessary for development and growth.  How I wish she could be our President in South Africa!  The process of this workshop was superb using new technology where we wrote on the tables and it showed up on screens in the front of the room.  There were about 6 such tables participating around issues such as education, investment, technology, policy and governance etc.

My second to last session of the day was another remarkable one - I participated in a workshop on security in Africa.  The point of this grouping was to work out what some of the threats and opportunities were that Africa faced in terms of security in the next 10 years.  I was in a group with Minister Mohamed Beni Yonis of Somaliland - a great peace keeper on the continent and a truly remarkable and wise man! His insights into social, economic and technology opportunities and challenges were astounding.  He also appreciates the central role that religion plays in shaping societies in Africa (both negatively and positively).  The meeting agreed that we shall need to spend a great deal more time and energy working with faith based organisations and the religious groupings in our various countries to address social cohesion, service delivery, poverty alleviation and also to work against violence and extremism.  Then, the man whose name is signed on most of my South African money, Mr Tito Mboweni, was also in our group! He is such a kind (even fun!) person.  He spoke about the dangers of ambition (he reached the pinnacle of his career as governor of the Reserve Bank before he was 50 years old).  However, the group agreed that African society will need to acknowledge the place and importance of young leaders - one participant jokingly said that in Africa, presidency is something one 'retires into' at 65 after a working career!  I am attaching an image of the drawing that contains all of our discussions and thoughts on security in Africa.

The final session was about economics, investment and trade on the continent.  South Africa's finance Minister, Mr Nene, commented that "unless we deal with corruption all of our development plans will fail".  The rest of the panelists discussed the challenges of competition and distrust between neighbouring and regionally close countries in Africa, the expensive cost of travel, and the need to see much greater trade cooperation and support among African countries.

The highlight of the day, for me, was when Archbishop Tutu was invited onto the stage to close the WEF Africa meeting in prayer.  He was overwhelmingly warmly received.  He began his prayer, as I have heard him praying before, by saying that God is weeping at the way in which we treat one another and the earth.  Yet, he went on in his jovial and loving way to say how happy God was to see the participants of the WEF and all those they represented who were people of good-will whose desire it was to make this world a better place for all by working for the common good.  You can listen to his prayer (which I recorded on my phone) here.

Attending this form was a remarkable privilige.  I have learnt so many things at the WEF this week.  In particular I understand that we face a number of wicked problems that require partnership, cooperation, and even sacrifice to solve.  Water and the environment, poverty and inequality, gender imbalances, massive growth in our population and dwindling resources are huge challenges.  Yet, I am hopeful.  It was amazing to meet creative, intelligent, passionate and committed people from all sectors of society who were working for good! The investment of time, energy, resources and self into these problems is sure to make a difference, and in many cases solve the problems we discussed.

I realise that South Africa is fast falling behind.  Our political landscape and our own social context of poverty and inequality is vexing growth and cooperation.  We shall need to do a great deal more to foster trust and a willingness to give up some things (like white power and wealth) and take up some things (like hard work, good education, and uncompromising moral standards).  As I drove home I kept thinking that as Christians we must always ensure that our speech is peppered with hope, our hands are strengthened by justice and our hearts are filled with love as we work for a better future.  We do need a much higher calibre of leadership from both government and the private sector.  But what we need more than that is active citizens who are willing to be deeply involved in shaping a better world.

Thursday
Jun042015

World Economic Forum 2015 - day 2

Today is the 2nd day of the World Economic Forum regional meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

I only got into the CTICC just after 9am because I had to do a short radio interview at 8.15. Thankfully the rain has let up! So driving in was a little better on my motorcycle. As an aside, it must be one of the best ways to travel! I managed to park just across the road from the CTICC, whereas the drivers of cars first had to have their cars screened and cleared by a security team before they could enter the parking lot. In large measure this has to do with the number of foreign dignitaries, who are attending the forum, as well as the fact that Mr Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, spoke this morning. I attended the Panel discussion at which Mr Zuma spoke. Just a few minutes before that session he and the security entourage passed right past me. I was asked to stand still for a few moments as they passed. Then, as I was about to enter the venue of the presentation I saw my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba waiting to enter the venue. We talked for a while and then sat together in the hall. It was wonderful to see him being greeted by so many of the important and significant dignitaries, especially Mrs Graca Machel (see the attached photograph).

I was also grateful to have an opportunity to meet Mrs Machel and tell her about the research that I am doing on her for the American Academy of Religion. She was very kind! I even managed to get a photograph with her when I attended the panel discussion on bridging the gap between male and female economic inequality.

She is doing such amazing work to bring gender equality in society. It is a sad fact that women are most often the primary carers in the home and in society, they earn less than their male counterparts and get less access to the formal economy. On the whole women work harder and get less than men! While many countries and companies work for 'political' equality (representation in policy and decision-making positions). However this is not matched in wages, division of labour and human rights. The issue that should drive this agenda is justice and equality, not tokenism. The ethics of care is a reminder that care is not linked to only one gender. Women often get trapped in unpaid care that locks them to the home. Men work and so get economic independence, status and even the stimulus and recognition for their efforts. So simply put, let's distribute care and the division of labour in the home more equitably, and let's educate, lobby, and work for equal rights, opportunities and economic opportunities for both women and men.

One of the most interesting parts of the day was in the earlier panel discussion on Africa (the plenary session) when Anton du Plessis (from the Institute for Security Studies asked a question about security, good governance and corruption - I managed to record the response of Mr Zuma, it is in Apple voice recorder format (.m4a) and about 2MP.

You can download it from here.

He was clearly in the hot seat! His response was vague and tried to avoid the local context and his own challenges in South Africa. As I listened to conversations after that session it was clear that person's from all over the world were aware of this embarrassement!

In the broader discourse of the day, a great deal of the discussion on the morning has been about the development of Africa's youthful population. A few interesting statistics are that by 2040, 50% of the world's Youth will be African, and that there is a need to create 80 million jobs a year for African school leavers (for all of us to be employed). There was an emphasis on the fact that we need to train young Africans to be much more entrepreneurial, and also that education in Africa, while being widespread (about 90% of Africans get access to some form or level of education), is often not preparing young people for work or work creation.

I also attended a session on water security - it was shocking to be reminded that the World Economic Forum lists water security as the single largest challenge we face in the world today! Statistically the WEF shows that demand will be 40% higher than what the earth is able to supply by 2050! We are heading for a serious water crisis. What is needed is for us to change the way in which we use water, demand and supply are a huge problem. Wastage is another problem - it was reported that just 8 municipalities in South Africa account for 90% of wasted water, costing us 7 Billion Rand per annum! That is shocking! Lastly, we need technology and partnerships to manage water use policy and water supply and delivery.

As a Christian I am thinking how can we use this precious resource more justly? The reality is that people like myself can afford clean and reliable water, but the poor cannot! They suffer most when water is scarce. I will be attending a few more sessions during the day and will upload more reflections and thoughts as the day progresses.

Thursday
Jun042015

World Economic Forum - day 2

 

Please follow this link for an updated post with reflection on further sessions on gender equality, water security and the development challenges.

Today is the 2nd day of the World Economic Forum regional meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. I only got into the CTICC just after 9am because I had to do a short radio interview at 8.15. Thankfully the rain has let up! So driving in was a little better on my motorcycle. As an aside, it must be one of the best ways to travel! I managed to park just across the road from the CTICC, whereas the drivers of cars first had to have their cars screened and cleared by a security team before they could enter the parking lot. In large measure this has to do with the number of foreign dignitaries, who are attending the forum, as well as the fact that Mr Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, spoke this morning. I attended the Panel discussion at which Mr Zuma spoke. Just a few minutes before that session he and the security entourage passed right past me. I was asked to stand still for a few moments as they passed. Then, as I was about to enter the venue of the presentation I saw my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba waiting to enter the venue. We talked for a while and then sat together in the hall. It was wonderful to see him being greeted by so many of the important and significant dignitaries, especially Mrs Graca Machel.

 

I was also grateful to have an opportunity to meet Mrs Machel and tell her about the research that I am doing on her for the American Academy of Religion. She was very kind! One of the most interesting parts of the panel discussion was when Anton du Plessis (from the Institute for Security Studies asked a question about security, good governance and corruption - I managed to record the response of Mr Zuma, it is in Apple voice recorder format (.m4a) and about 2MP.

You can download it from here.

A great deal of the discussion on the morning has been about the development of Africa's youthful population. A few interesting statistics are that by 2040, 50% of the world's Youth will be African, and that there is a need to create 80 million jobs a year for African school leavers (for all of us to be employed). There was an emphasis on the fact that we need to train young Africans to be much more entrepreneurial, and also that education in Africa, while being widespread (about 90% of Africans get access to some form or level of education), is often not preparing young people for work or work creation.

 

I will be attending a few more sessions during the day and will upload more reflections and thoughts as the day progresses.  Please follow this link for an updated post with reflection on further sessions on gender equality, water security and the development challenges.

Wednesday
Jun032015

World Economic Forum 2015 - day 1

I have just registered for the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting that is taking place in Cape Town.

I am honoured and excited to have been selected to be one of the 150 or so persons from civil society to participate.

I am looking forward to 3 days of learning and participating in the various sessions.

I have joined sessions on ethics and governance, economic stability and poverty, and the role of civil society as my primary points of participation. It is very exciting!

Security is super tight! I had to park about 2km from the CTICC and walk down. Registration was very efficient and simple.

I will tweet on @digitaldion and post some comments and reflections here throughout the next three days. So please do check back from time to time if you are interested.