Speakers - including Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, William S. Cohen, former US Secretary of State for Defense, Dr Theo Waigel, former German Minister of Finance, Dr Jan Pronk, former Dutch Minister for the Environment and President of the Kyoto Environment Conference, US Senator Bill Bradley, Noreena Hertz, anti-globalisation authority and Mike Moore former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Director of the World Trade Organisation - told delegates that stronger leadership and greater commitment to an integrated private sector and government led approach to major global issues was essential to avoid escalating levels of international business risk.
Referring to global warming's disproportionately severe effects on developing countries, Dr Sachs told the audience of business leaders from the US and Europe: "There is a population of one billion people - mainly in sub-Saharan Africa - where people are falling back. The possibility of confrontation between the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor is immense. We are still living in a world of massive geopolitical risk."
William Cohen, a Republican who served as Secretary of State for Defense in the Clinton administration believed that rising and increasingly violent opposition to American society's open attitudes towards religious beliefs led directly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "A lot of people, even if they don't love America, admire what we have done. But embracing many religions and the concept of equal opportunity are threatening and insulting to some," he said.
Dr Theo Waigel, one of the architects of the common European currency and German Finance Minster during the integration of East and West Germany during the 1980's said he believed that globalization was "an irrevocable fact", but there were fundamental questions over the causes of the past three years of global financial stagnation.
He said: "What we actually seem to be dealing with here is a longer down wave that is the result of more than real economy factors alone. At the root of the matter it is much more a case of trust - a sustained loss of trust in the stock markets by contributors of capital and in economic policy by consumers and investors." Senator Bradley described shifting attitudes towards protest and self interest among many of the world's most disenfranchised social groups.
He said: "Thirty years ago in Latin America or many places in the world, a young man with a gun may have joined a radical group. Today he is likely to be thinking of himself and will probably rob a bank or kill someone. More money needs to be spent on health and education in the countries that are breeding grounds for violence."
Dr. Pronk said: "The greatest risk at the moment is rage from poverty. After 1945, people expected that they would have a better life than their parents, and their children an even better one. Today, they know that their life is worse and they are certain that their children will have an even worse situation." They feel they have nothing to lose by turning against "a system that doesn't want to share with them".
Ms Hertz believed that while most people disapproved of the behavior of anti- capitalist protestors, many more approved of their motives. She identified a class of "actively angry" people throughout the world and said that companies were now vulnerable to these forces. She said one third of CEOs think the anti- globalisation movement poses a significant threat.
While highlighting many global issues which constituted significant risks for governments and business, Mr. Moore struck an optimistic note.
"Public private partnerships have got to work," he said. "Corporations who value their reputation and their customers of the future can play a dynamic role; it is good business to be a good corporate citizen."
He added: "I think we are extremely lucky to live at this time. It is for our generation now to rebuild confidence in financial institutions, democracy and the ballot box. We have the levers and if we don't use them we deserve the future we face."
XL Capital Ltd organized the two-day Congress to provide a forum for business leaders to hear, first hand, the nature and sources of global business risk.
XL President & Chief Executive Officer Brian M. O'Hara said: "We have to understand the nature of risk, but as good as we are at developing robust risk strategies, as smart as we are with risk scenarios and underwriting risk, even when we've done all the actuarial analysis, monitoring measuring and modeling, unpredictability remains at the very heart of the beast.
Our speakers - poles apart politically and ideologically - all presented a strikingly similar analysis of the roots of the major risks facing business today. And the consensus seems to be that government and businesses everywhere have to give stronger leadership and work in tandem, sharing resources, knowledge and technology to find the solutions."
Speakers scheduled for today's sessions include Astronaut and US Air Force Officer Jerry Linenger, Bermuda Governor His Excellency Sir John Vereker, and Prof. Dr. Felix Von Cube, the University of Heidelberg.
XL Capital Ltd, through its operating subsidiaries is a leading provider of insurance and reinsurance coverages and financial products to industrial, commercial and professional service firms, insurance companies, and other enterprises on a worldwide basis. As of June 30, 2003, XL Capital Ltd had consolidated assets of approximately $39.2 billion and consolidated shareholders' equity of approximately $7.6 billion. More information about XL Capital Ltd is available at www.xlgroup.com