Is Davos as bad as critics say? World leaders say (2023)

The Davos sign is on the roof of the hotel ahead of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg preko Getty Imagesa hide title

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Is Davos as bad as critics say? World leaders say (2)

The Davos sign is on the roof of the hotel ahead of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg preko Getty Imagesa

The 50th meeting in Davos ended on Friday. It's the annual gathering that critics love to hate. They say the World Economic Forum is just a forum where the rich and powerful can feel like they are making a difference. And that their comings and goings do not include contributions from the rest of the world.

So is the conference really good for anything?

To explore the impact of the prestigious summit on world affairs, we interviewed more than six leaders in global health, economic development and social justice and asked them to reflect on previous efforts in Davos to improve the lives of people improve living in poverty. income countries.

While acknowledging the exclusivity and elitism of the summit, they broadly say Davos has helped play a role in promoting some important global initiatives.

The consensus was that while Davos has some shortcomings, there are important reasons why it has been an effective forum for change.

1. Leaders from different fields can combine...

The guests in Davos are an elite group: this year President Trump, musician and Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam were present.

Nancy Vogelsall, principal investigator and president emeritusCenter for Global Development, says the conference brings together people who don't normally interact, including business leaders, nonprofit and charitable founders, and researchers and academics.


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But not only the elite are invited. The Davos organizers also attract global change actors such as climate activists.Greta ThunbergGKenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch.

It's a rare forum where activists and business magnates can mingle and discuss sustainability. ways to make the world a better place, says Birdsall. For example, on TuesdayJasmine Willsen, an 18-year-old environmental activist from Bali, Indonesia, shared the stage with top executives, including the co-CEO of Salesforce.Marc Benioff, co-founder and vice president of LinkedInAll blue, CEO van Deloitte GlobalThe desert lovesand others. They discussed how in a group discussionWEF's new digital crowdsourcing platformcan help involve more young people in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Craig Hanson, vice president for food, forests, water and oceans atWorld Resources Institute(WRI), says it can hold “months of meetings over just four days in Davos” thanks to “the presence of all CEOs and other leaders, all in one place at once.”

...but the people most affected by poverty and other problems are usually not invited

However, critics find the conference too exclusive. By targeting the global elites, the organizers are "not inviting at all the people most affected" by the problems they hope to solve, he says.Adrienne Sorbom, Professor of Sociology at the Stockholm Center for Organizational Research andco-author of the book on WEF.

For example, climate change was a central topic in Davos this year, as evidenced by several surveysThe poor are most affected by climate change.- however, people from this population were not proportionally represented on the list of those invited to the summit.

Women also make up only 24% of the 3,000 participants this year, albeit the majorityWEF notesthat this is more than ever.

2. It exposes people to new ideas...

As a forum for dialogue, Davos exposes visitors to many topics and ideas that they may not encounter in their daily lives, says Birdsall. Topics range from automation to climate, from poverty and health to inequality, and even togeopolitical peace negotiations.

Last year, for example, whenMohamed Hassan Mohamed, a Somali refugee, co-chairs Davos, with the aim of spreading the message that refugees should not just be helpless recipients of aid. Instead, he wanted Davos CEOs and leaders to think about how they could help them by leveraging their skills: hiring them or using their ideas for innovation.

goats and soft drinks

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Sometimes it takes years for important ideas from the Davos conversations to become reality. For example, in 2015, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) created a new development bank called the New Development Bank to help the bloc better mobilize funds for infrastructure and development projects in their countries. and others. emerging economies.According toNicholas Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics, came up with the idea in Davos in 2011 together with former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz.

...but whether they act accordingly is another story

Ideas don't always result in work, much to the disappointment and frustration of critics. For example, Oxfam has published one every year since 2013A damning report on inequalitybefore Davos, which compares the wealth of the world's richest 1% (many of whom are in Davos) to the rest of the population. Year after year, the report's key recommendations to tackle inequality are to raise taxes on the wealthy and close corporate tax loopholes.

“They denounce economic inequality, but oppose proven solutions, and inequality grows year after year.”Gawain Kripke, policy director of Oxfam Americas, wrote in an email to NPR.

3. It serves as an excellent platform for launching new programs and campaigns...

Davos has become a popular place to launch initiatives for many global development players. That's "because of the strong media presence there and because it's an opportunity to stand in front of many business and finance leaders," WRI's Hanson wrote to NPR.

For Hanson, that kind of exposure was "important in addressing major sustainability challenges such as food loss and waste."

In 2016 WRI launched its own campaign,Champions 12.3in Davos to build political momentum to halve per capita global food waste by 2030. The campaign, which continues today, encourages governments and businesses to measure the amount of food they waste to better understand where and why this is happening. and improve over time.

Other important initiatives were also announced in Davos. In 2006, musician Bono launched Product Red, an organization that raises money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This is achieved by partnering with brands such as Apple and Amazon to sell products, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Global Fund.

"Davos can be a real driver," a spokesperson for (RED) wrote in an email to NPR. "(RED) was able to present his idea and name to a large audience right away."

Perhaps one of the most celebrated programs to launch in DavosGavi, Alliance for Vaccines– an association of vaccine manufacturers, governments, donor organizations, philanthropists and researchers that supports immunization programs and campaigns in developing countries. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi claims to have prevented more than 13 million deaths.

...but there must be a sequel.

In an email to NPR,Sean SimonsThe US press secretary for The ONE Campaign, which has lobbied its global members to support government funding for Gavi, noted that solving major global challenges such as poverty and health requires the collaboration and commitment of those who come to Davos: international donors, governments and private sector.

"When all three come together to advance global public interest, incredible things can happen. Just look at Gavi," Simons wrote. "The billion-dollar question is, how do we ensure that the enthusiasm and funding for the development programs launched in Davos lasts long after Davos?"

Joanne Lu is a freelance journalist covering global poverty and inequality. His work has appeared inHuman atmosphere,Guard,World Championship in WashingtonGwar is boring. Follow her on Twitter:@joannelu


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