Is there any point to the annual WEF summit in Davos?
Bill Michael, chairman and senior partner of KPMG in the UK, says YES.
Elements of the World Economic Forum (WEF) do raise an eyebrow. From the setting in the Swiss Alps to the A-listers in attendance, it can seem like the last bastion of global elitism.
Yet, away from the headlines, the issues discussed at Davos are critical. This year delegates will consider the importance of mental health, the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs, and how to tackle climate change.
As individual business leaders, we can try to address these problems in isolation, but they impact societies worldwide. This is where Davos can make a difference, bringing together leaders from government, society and business, enabling them to pool ideas and create new partnerships to drive solutions. It encourages collaboration, which is sorely needed in a time of political and economic nationalism.
Davos may not appeal to all, but behind the “theatre” it remains a unique opportunity to achieve more in a week than can be achieved in a year.
Our challenge this week is to make that happen. We need to turn talk into action to drive purposeful growth and create opportunity for more of society.
Lauren McEvatt, managing director at Morpeth Consulting, says NO.
Long before Theresa May’s “citizens of nowhere” catchphrase, Samuel P Huntington had hit upon a similar description for WEF summit attendees: “Davos Man”, an appropriate moniker since the number of female attendees has never passed 21 per cent.
Davos was designed to bring world leaders together with private sector magnates to solve global problems. Instead, every year it creates an image of an increasingly vilified elite frolicking in the snow like entitled dilettantes.
This image hangs like a PR noose around the necks of world leaders whose citizens have been at the forefront of the austerity policies required after the crash of 2008.
Pity the President of Zimbabwe, who announced on Twitter that, given the “unrest” (read: civilian deaths) at home, he has pulled his attendance. Ironically, this spin will be lost on the citizens of Zimbabwe, since his government has shut down the internet, raising the question of why he was invited at all.
Davos is a better organised, allegedly philanthropic Fyre festival for influential boomers, with fondue instead of cheese slices.