A late night last night at Davos, as I was invited to four events and wanted to attend them all! I finished the evening with my old friend Anthony Scaramucci, always a tonic for even the most fatigued mind, and when I eventually found my way to bed it was with a sense of a day of activity and achievement.
If yesterday was the headline grabbing of Thunberg and Trump, today saw the real meat of the World Economic Forum: panel discussions, presentations, explanations, illustrations and warnings. The Trump clan continued to make its presence felt. This morning I went to a press conference entitled ‘Reskilling Revolution: Better Skills for a Billion People by 2030’, where the UAE’s minister for advanced skills and the founder of Salesforce were joined by Ivanka Trump, increasingly an avatar for her father.
I’m in two minds about Ivanka. She attracts a lot of criticism for her dubious credentials, and certainly her background in high policy is lacking, but she does demonstrate that the US administration is engaging. Few are closer to the president than Ivanka and Jared Kushner, and, while that may make us uncomfortable, it’s the truth on the ground. They are trusted and they have access. Perhaps the global community needs to swallow its distaste; you can’t always choose your interlocutors.
Today was also the day I crossed the line from observer to participant. The YPO, the international community of chief executives dedicated to fostering learning and development, invited me to moderate a panel discussion on gender equality and financial inclusion, featuring Daniel Shakhani, Catherine McGuinness, Charlotte Crosswell and Salah Goss. It was a brilliant opportunity to hear progressive minds at work, thinking about the future and how we can create a community of global leaders equal to the challenges we’re going to face. I was honoured to help out, and I look forward to working with the YPO again in the future.
The golden ticket of the day, however, was the speech given by HRH the Prince of Wales. People who know me will know that I am a committed republican, and I will argue the case for an elected head of state with anyone. But, again, it’s about the facts on the ground. Prince Charles is the heir to the throne, and will become king and head of the Commonwealth. He speaks with authority and with experience (he has, after all, been in training almost all his life).
The Prince delivered his message with passion and insight, and talked much good sense. He wanted to remind the world community that, for all the research and theorising and commitments and pledges, what is needed to tackle climate change is direct, practical action. Now, he said, is the time. It was a sobering reminder that the global goal—the purpose driving international summits such as the Forum—has to be to translate possibility into fact, and pursue policies which will lead to achievements on the ground. Do we need to be reminded again? An entire continent is on fire. We are still too dependent on fossil fuels. Decarbonisation needs more momentum.
“Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink, in trying to restore the balance, when we could have done? I don’t want to,” he told the audience.
Powerful stuff, but exactly what the assembled world leaders needed to hear. You could tell, looking at the listeners and talking afterwards, that his message had been received. 2020 is the year. It must be.
And so the day continues. Tonight there is an open forum with will.i.am and a dinner for young global leaders. I continue as I arrived, ready to listen and to soak up the experience and wisdom of the delegates. Halfway through the week, I can’t tell you how convinced I am by the need for sheer physical interaction between leaders and influencers. It really does make a difference.