the war on Ukraine. A rapidly slowing economy, fragmentation and deglobalization. The rising cost of living. Climate changes. There’s plenty for the world’s great and good to get their teeth into this week as Davos resumes after a three-year hiatus.
Strictly speaking, it is not the first meeting of world leaders, businessmen, academics and civil society since the start of the pandemic, but World Economic Forum event last May It was a small event and not especially crowded. As a test it was fine, but a real Davos traditionally happens in January, when snow is thick on the ground in the Swiss village 1,500 meters up in the Alps. In the past, the mood in Davos has oscillated between extreme optimism and unbridled gloom, depending on the state of the world economy. This year seems certain to be the last. As Klaus Schwab, founder and CEO of the WEF, said last week, “economic, environmental, social and geopolitical crises are converging and merging”. The aim of this year’s Davos, he added, was to get rid of the “crisis mentality”.
It will be easier said than done. Before there was a “crisis mentality,” there was a “Davos mentality,” in which annual meetings fostered an inclusive form of globalization, and with everyone in attendance working collaboratively to address cross-border issues such as change climate.
But as the risks to peace, prosperity and the future of the planet increase, the willingness to cooperate – the spirit of Davos, as Schwab likes to say – has diminished. WEF from last week global risk report an annual publication detailing what experts consider to be the most pressing short- and long-term risks, was blunt in its warning.
“Concerted collective action is needed before risks reach a tipping point,” he said. “Unless the world begins to cooperate more effectively on climate mitigation and climate adaptation, over the next 10 years this will lead to continued global warming and ecological collapse.”
The popular perception is that the WEF is a secret and sinister organization similar to something out of a James Bond novel. In reality, it has no executive power at all and is more of a giant forum for global conversation where world leaders take the opportunity to rub shoulders with each other and executives negotiate behind closed doors. Bond flies over Davos on his way to the air from the top of Blofeld’s mountain in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but that’s about as close to an Ian Fleming novel as the WEF gets.
Instead, IGWELs (informal gatherings of world economic leaders, attended by prime ministers, presidents, central bank governors and top executives) are designed to see if there is a way to find global solutions to global problems. In a sense, Davos sets the stage for summits later in the year where real decisions are made.
Some world leaders, like Donald Trump, for example, have used Davos to brag about how well things are going at home. Others come to Davos with the intention of mobilizing support for a global cause, which in the case of Tony Blair in 2005 meant speaking out about the need for debt relief and more aid for struggling developing countries.
Rishi Sunak will not follow in Blair’s footsteps on Monday, even though the prime minister would find many kindred souls among the tech entrepreneurs and Wall Street bankers who always turn out in large numbers at Davos. It’s a source of frustration for WEF organizers that the UK government isn’t using Davos to outline its global agenda, but Prime Minister and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt think it wouldn’t be the best of appearances to be rubbing shoulders with the global elite. while Britain is gripped by a cost of living crisis and strikes.
Instead, the most high-profile British politicians in Davos will be Opposition Leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, who will use the opportunity to show just how pro-business Labor has become.
A lot has happened since Davos 2020 was dominated by a Dispute between Trump and climate activist Greta Thunberg. Relations between the United States and China are worse than two years ago. The pandemic and its consequences have made countries much more cautious about exposing themselves to long and complex supply chains. The golden age of globalization in the late 1990s and early 2000s is now a fast fading memory.
For all Schwab’s talk of breaking a vicious cycle of self-serving, short-term policymaking, the Davos crowd has to contend with a world that is deglobalizing and increasingly fragile. In a way, a little self-examination and humility wouldn’t go amiss, because for those struggling to get by, there are few things more nauseating than the self-styled masters of the universe wringing their hands over the need to address inequality. .