Leadership summit highlights need to “dance with disruption” while navigating uncertain global events

FIDIC president Catherine Karakatsanis speaking at the opening session of the second annual Global Leadership Forum Summit in Geneva on 25 April 2024.

Second annual Global Leadership Forum Summit, organised by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), opens in Geneva.

The second annual Global Leadership Forum Summit, organised by international engineering federation FIDIC, got underway today in Geneva, Switzerland, with a strong statement from the organisation’s president about the vital role of engineers in addressing key issues like the climate crisis, decarbonisation and how to use AI to build better and more efficient infrastructure.

Welcoming global infrastructure leaders to the event, Catherine Karakatsanis, FIDIC president and chief operating officer at professional services firm Morrison Hershfield (now Stantec), gave an upbeat assessment of the key role of engineers and consultancy firms in the urgent need to build sustainable infrastructure to safeguard the world for future generations. “We should never forget – or tire of reminding governments and other decision-makers and opinion-formers – that it will be engineers, often working with others, who will provide the solutions to the existential challenge of climate change that faces our planet,” she said.

The industry also faced other challenges, Karakatsanis said, including the rapidly moving pace of digital and technology and increasing client expectations. “The rise of AI has real potential to transform the way we do business and our working practices and methods into the future and the changing demands of our clients and their expectations of the projects that we deliver mean that the end users of those projects are also ever-more demanding, increasing the expectations that we all face as engineers,” said FIDIC’s president.

Setting the context for the summit, Global Leadership Forum advisory board chair Bill Cox, the CEO of Aurecon, said that the two-day event was taking place at an interesting moment for the world against a backdrop of increasing global volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. “This all creates challenges for everyone, especially governments, businesses and all those who seek to make the world a better place in which to live,” he said.

Cox continued: “Uncertainty is all around us, but it can be argued that life is necessarily ambiguous and just when we think we have a clue about what’s next, things shift again. This constant flux can be exhausting and exacerbating. Interestingly however, people and organisations who can deal with uncertainty, assess situations, improvise and take positive action will be in demand in the future of work,” said Cox.

Global Leadership Forum advisory board chair Bill Cox, the CEO of Aurecon, speaking at the opening of the second annual GLF Summit in Geneva on 25 April 2024.

Against such an uncertain background, it might seem that optimism is in short supply, said Cox, but he urged attendees at the summit to look at the bigger picture, raise their sights and the sights of those around them to show leadership in a complex and uncertain world. “That is our role as leaders and it is the very basis of what the Global Leadership Forum is aimed at,” he said. “The role that FIDIC and our members and their member firms have is to help our clients and the broader society to navigate these complex and often difficult issues and develop solutions to the key challenges we face. This is all part of dancing with disruption,” said Cox.

The Global Leadership Forum was formed back in September 2021 with the aim of discussing the key issues and challenges facing society and the wider infrastructure sector and mapping out strategies to address those challenges. This latest summit for the world’s most senior leaders in the infrastructure sector brought together members of the GLF to collaborate and discuss solutions to the critical challenges facing the global infrastructure sector. Issues up for discussion at the summit included AI, decarbonisation, climate change and net zero transition, project risk allocation, market intelligence and the future shape of consultancy firms.

“One of the strengths of the Global Leadership Forum is the international spread of its membership and its global focus,” said FIDIC’s president Catherine Karakatsanis. “As firms in our sector have grown and become truly international, a global leaders’ perspective on critical issues has become ever more important and I am delighted that we have such a senior gathering with us for this summit,” she said.