As global leaders descend on Davos, is the World Economic Forum just a talking shop?

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Louise Cooper

“To improve the state of the world” is a great objective for a conference. But such lofty ideals fall short of the shmoozefest that is Davos. For the optimists, this year’s title should bring a cold shower of reality – Resilient Dynamism. I had to turn to the dictionary for help. Davos is a global talking shop, where panellists discussing carbon emission and greenhouse gases get flown into Switzerland and are driven up a mountain. It is in danger of becoming a parody of some of the great international meetings that really did help the world, like the creation of the IMF after the Second World War. Yet this is the time when the world needs more global cooperation than ever before. We need the major players to work together. But this won’t happen at Davos. Rather than swapping business cards in the Swiss Alps, world leaders should spend their time away from the media, really trying to sort the financial crisis out.

Louise Cooper is founder of Cooper City.


Peter Cappelli

There is a lot of talking and networking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and there are some celebrity appearances – although not as many as the media suggests. But there is also serious discussion, and the consequences of that discussion matter. Think of this event as similar to going back to college for business and political leaders. They hear what might be done about the big challenges we face, and that can lead to action. The bigger outcome, though, may simply come from being around other people who believe that we should care about the world’s problems, even if they don’t directly affect our lives. Central to the Davos ethic is that businesses and other organisations have responsibilities to all those they impact, not just to shareholders or immediate constituents. Seeing other leaders articulating the same beliefs can influence your own views and behaviour, and that is a force for good.

Peter Cappelli is a professor at the Wharton School of Management.