By Senior Campaign Agent Luke Walpole
Located in a Swiss ski resort and featuring a guest list comprising of the most influential figures in business and politics, the World Economic Forum’s yearly summit in Davos often feels closer to the finale of a James Bond film than real life. Yet, the meeting of minds which takes place provides a platform for the crises of the modern age to be discussed. The Forum’s desire was to create “A Shared Future in a Fractured World”, a lofty ambition considering that many critics of the summit believe it is these very people who are the problem, and not the solution.
Be that as it may, this year’s forum focused on key global issues. Economic sustainability, Climate Change, Trade and representation for women and minorities were all bellwether topics. Additionally, Davos was a chance for World Leaders to provide an insight into their upcoming plans. President Trump, when not talking to Piers Morgan, gave a speech which implied that though he still believed in “America First” that did not mean “America alone”. Indeed, the President was keen to outline his economic successes to date, and proclaim that his country was “open for business”.
The softening of Trump’s approach may be deceptive, but there was a consensus among many that their presence at Davos was a question of pragmatism. John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor and vociferous critic of many at the summit, nevertheless was present. Equally, Theresa May’s presence in Switzerland could even be deemed a necessity. The New York Times described rapaciously how “Britain’s stature on the world stage has diminished, and its economy has sagged” since the Brexit vote; a state of affairs which ensured May’s speech was “sparsely attended”. For the Prime Minister, therefore, Davos was a stage from which she could repackage the notion of a ‘Global Britain’.
Elsewhere, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron discussed the manifold problems facing Europe, whilst Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke more broadly about the threats to civilisation. Concurrently, Justin Trudeau was among a host of leaders to discuss the issue of gender equality in the light of #MeToo. Though this movement showed how social media could be harnessed for good, there were also sustained calls for increased oversight. George Soros, the wealthy, liberal businessman, suggested that some social media companies’ “days are numbered” if they can’t help to detoxify the internet. Though these leaders elucidated large themes, Davos’ worth comes in the smaller interactions, too.
Evidently, Davos allowed a public platform for discussion, yet the question remains whether any of this will provide actionable, tangible difference. What’s more, one may question whether there was quite enough introspection. A large amount of the challenges prescribed by the speakers at Davos manifested themselves under their own collective watch. Perhaps that’s a topic for next year.
Sources and Further Reading:
- World Economic Forum Annual Meeting: About, The WEF
- ‘The Hypocrisy of the Davos Set is Finally Being exposed’, The Guardian (29th January 2018)
- Trump Promotes the U.S. as ‘Open for Business’ in Davos Speech, The WSJ (26th January 2018)
- Theresa May Arrives in Davos as U.K.’s Post-‘Brexit’ Slide Continues, The New York Times (25th January 2018)
- What Happened? The Biggest Stories from Davos 2018, The WEF (26th January 2018)
- George Soros: Facebook and Google a ‘Menace to Society’, The Guardian (26th January 2018)
Image: Wikimedia Commons