Plenary sessions announced for World Social Science Forum

Five high-level multisectoral plenary sessions at the forthcoming World Social Science Forum will gather thought-leaders from around the world to discuss critical issues for security in the coming decades.

The opening plenary, on 25 September, will set the tone for the Forum. One of the world’s most famous social scientists, Craig Calhoun, President of the Berggruen Institute, will moderate a forward-looking discussion of existential risks, hearing from a unique group of leading experts such as the prominent astrophysicist Martin Rees, co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk; the ‘renegade economist’ Kate Raworth, author of the best-selling book Doughnut Economics – Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist; the peace and conflict resolution expert and former Minister of Environmental Development (Morelos, Mexico) Ursula Oswald Spring; as well as Emiko Okuyama who, as Mayor of Sendai, played a critical role in the reconstruction of the city after the 2011 tsunami.

The following plenary, on 26 September, will tackle one of the most debated security issues of our times, namely the co-evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human intelligence, to explore the the role for the humanities and social sciences in AI development. Speakers will include world experts such as Jiro Kokuryo, Vice President of Keio University; Urs Gasser, who heads the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and Katsumi Emura, who as Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer of NEC, will approach the issue from the perspective of a world-leading corporation in financial services. The discussion will also consider the risks of AI, including the implications of inequalities in access to new AI technologies, as well as ‘unknown unknowns’, such as the possibility that AI could eventually evade human control.

The 2018 Inclusive Wealth Report (IWR) “Measuring Progress Towards Sustainability” will be launched during a special evening event on 26 September. The forthcoming Report includes a wider range of data than previous editions, and highlights the linkages between scientific data and policies to consider policy implications at local, national and regional levels. Chaired by the 2018 IWR editor, Shunsuke Managi, the discussion will introduce the main conclusions of the global report, while highlighting some of its implications for human security. The event will include leading speakers such as the economist and architect of the Inclusive Wealth measure, Partha Dasgupta; the world expert on growth and former Chief Economist at the US Bureau of Economic Analysis Barbara Fraumeni; as well as Pushpam Kumar, who is Senior Economic Advisor at UN Environmental Programme.

Nationalism in Southeast Asia is re-gaining momentum, in step with growing tensions between neighbouring countries. The plenary event on 27 September will examine the role of regional leadership, particularly through ASEAN, to respond to security threats and disasters. Moderated by Professor Nabuhiro Aizawa, the session promises an illuminating discussion between major policy actors and experts, such as the Former Foreign Minister of Thailand Kasit Piromya; the former Foreign Minister of Indonesia Hassan Wirajuda; and the Chancellor of Prefectural University of Kumamoto and leading international relations expert Takashi Shiraishi.

The final plenary session, on 28 September, will be the occasion of a unique discussion on new forms of conflict in a global age between a diverse group of leading lights. Hoda Abdel-Hamid, an Al Jazeera war correspondent, will act as moderator for this exciting panel which includes: General Roméo Dallaire, author of the best-seller book Shake Hands With the Devil and founder of the international Child Soldiers Initiative; the world-renowned expert on transnational terrorism and former Minister of Foreign Affairs from Mauritania Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou; the thought-leader on the global arms trade and corruption Andrew Feinstein; and the specialist on bio-weapons and misuse of scientific research Jo Husbands. The session will explore war in the modern world, including discussions on new types of conflicts, hybrid warfare, new weapons and arms trade.