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Davos – where politicians, prominent business leaders, celebrities, the wealthy and even royalty all come together in a meeting held in a small Swiss town most people would never have heard of had the World Economic Forum (WEF) not chosen its home there.
What’s been on the agenda?
The official theme of this year’s WEF was all to do with ‘Globalisation 4.0’ and how global leaders can shape a new architecture for the next wave of globalisation. As ever, an extraordinary range of figures were in attendance this year, many of them eager to help shape the global agenda for 2019 and help bring around social good.
Kicking off proceedings, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella argued that the next phase of globalisation needs to deliver an economic growth that is equitable for everyone, so that there are no places with people without food and there are no refugees in camps – something we can all agree with.
Meanwhile Apple CEO Tim Cook, making his debut at WEF, was aiming to improve the embattled reputation of ‘Big Tech’ through a series of almost diplomat-like meetings with prominent foreign dignitaries. Microsoft’s Nadella went one further, arguing that governments should get ahead of the curve when it comes to regulating facial recognition technology (found in many of the new smartphones) in a bid to prevent harmful consequences to consumers.
It’s evident global sustainability has been a consistent theme during this year’s forum, with David Attenborough turning heads earlier in the week after claiming that people have never been more “out of touch” with the natural world than they are today.
One other notable attendee was the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, who helped to pick up the baton on Britain’s behalf this year, chairing debates on environmental sustainability and mental health – issues he clearly cares deeply about.
Despite notable absentees from including President Trump, PM Theresa May, France’s President Macron, India’s Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping – each having to battle their own domestic difficulties instead – there’s cause for optimism that the benefits of the next wave of globalisation will be felt in even the poorest parts of the world.
For good or for worse?
Davos often attracts criticism from many quarters for being an elitist echo chamber out of touch with the struggles of people’s daily reality. Only a few days’ ago Oxfam reported that the richest 26 people in the world had the combined wealth to the equivalent of half of the entire global population (3.35bn).
The timing of the report is, of course, meticulously executed in true PR fashion, right on the eve of the WEF. Nevertheless the statistic is still staggering. It’s perhaps unsurprising then figures including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have criticised Davos as being nothing more than just a ‘billionaires’ jamboree’.
Nevertheless, it’s clear there’s been some positive signs of change at this year’s WEF. Notably Jacinda Ardern, the Kiwi PM who became only the second leader of a country to give birth while in office (ten points on offer for who can name the first, answer below), has argued that the structures of globalisation must change to make sure it works for all corners of society, not just the wealthiest one per cent.
Optimists among us will hope that leaders across the world will listen and take figures like Ardern, Attenborough and Nadella seriously and enact real change, helping to make sure the next wave of globalisation can be a success for all.
Answer: Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan 1988-90 and 1993-1996.