Big Ideas for a Better World?

Gulf Insider attends the Global Citizen Forum in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

In November 2022, we attended the 2-day Annual Global Citizen Forum, held in the beautiful grounds of the Waldorf Astoria, a five-star beach resort in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. Over 650 speakers and guests from more than 90 countries participated and spoke on the concept of ‘Global Citizenship’ – more on this later. Those attending included many internationally famous celebrities, entrepreneurs, and ‘social changemakers’.

Image Credits: GCF 2022

The location, a stunning mountainous coastal setting with mild sunny weather was just wonderful. Armond Arton, the founder of the Forum, greeted attendees with a message; “If we can imagine a new world together, we can also create one.” Arton emphasized that the world is interconnected and collaboration can unlock human potential, a message constantly repeated over the next two days.

Speakers across multiple fields spoke of the importance of such things as ‘self-growth’ and ‘human connection’ through their sessions, and the breezy November weather was perfect for socializing and networking.

Full credit to the organizers, as it was a quite spectacular and very well-organized event. Calling it the Butterfly Effect Trilogy (Butterfly Effect, in economics, refers to the compounding effect of small changes), the RAK chapter of the forum was titled “Human Metamorphosis,” highlighting ‘human interconnectivity, community, and personal development’.

Armand Arton (Image Credits: GCF 2022)

There was much talk of ‘Anti-Racism’, ‘Diversity’, the ‘climate emergency’, green energy, carbon footprints, equity, support for refugees, and concepts such as ESG (environmentalism, sustainability, and governance) – a set of standards largely justified on the basis that corporations and financial institutions should be held socially responsible and actively work to address perceived menaces such as climate change, racism, sexism, and a host of other current and future issues decided as worthwhile by certain international bodies.

ESG has been a hotly debated topic over the last few years and has met with resistance among those who oppose the idea that governments and outside bodies should dictate the affairs of private businesses.

Image Credits: GCF 2022

We briefly met with best-selling author Deepak Chopra, one of the big names attending the event. Many of his critics say that his teachings on health are positively remarkable, but that he goes too far when they conflict with accepted medical science. For example, he claims people can live a life free from disease, never feel pain, and not age or die (though he appears in fine health he still looks his age of seventy-four).

Deepak Chopra (Image Credits: GCF 2022)

We also spoke with Ernest Hilaire, Deputy Prime Minister of the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia. He’s a vocal proponent for reparations for slavery from European countries. We wanted to question him about this – how would it work? Who would pay? Why are reparations only demanded from European countries and not, for example, the Arab world where slavery existed far longer? What about Britain’s role as the first country to proactively abolish slavery – how would this be recognized? Why focus on slavery that ended nearly 200 years ago instead of purely focusing on, for example, present-day slavery (there are more slaves today than ever in history)? Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to ask him these questions.

The longest time we spent was with Raki Phillips, the CEO of Ras al Khaimah Tourism Authority. We were able to learn about the various types of tourism he was seeking to develop and how RAK was learning and benefitting from next-door Dubai’s success as an international tourist destination.

Raki Phillips (Image Credits: GCF 2022)

We also spoke with Harley Dubois, one of the founders of the internationally famous Burning Man Project, about her training and self-development programmes for the Burning Man staff, how Burning Man is currently run, and Nation of Makers, her latest non-profit that supports Americans ‘making more while consuming less’.

In conclusion, at its core “Global citizenship,” we were told, refers to being sensitive to different identities and cultures and calls for upholding human rights, education, and using the earth’s resources responsibly. This sounds well and fine if a bit vague. Words matter. To define what a Global Citizen is we must first be clear on what a citizen is. Citizenship can’t just mean the right to housing, food, clothing, medical care, social services, unemployment and disability benefits, child care, and free education. There comes with it, responsibilities, loyalty, commitment, obligation, sacrifice – and a sense of ‘homeland’.

So, is the concept of global citizenship just a noble-sounding illusion? Could it even be something that if acted upon results in people, in the name of some higher good, relinquishing their freedoms to unelected bodies considered wiser and more caring?

We hope that one day we get the chance to properly and respectfully, in an atmosphere of genuine enquiry, question some of these committed people involved with the forum to find out more.

Image Credits: GCF 2022

About the Global Citizen Forum:

The Global Citizen Forum® is a Canadian non-profit organization that describes itself as “driven by a global community of leaders and catalyzers unlocking the potential of global citizenship, driven to bridge dialogue with action to unlock the potential of global citizenship for generations to come”.

They run events, workshops, experiences and training that focus on challenges and solutions within five adaptive pillars — governance, technology, mobility, sustainability and culture.

For more info contact the Global Citizen Forum: +1(855)9356665 (North America), +971(4)4569220 (MENA ), and +382(20)672427 (Europe). Email:


Related Articles

Back to top button