Viewpoint: Beyond Davos

Leela Ramdeen

Leela Ramdeen

"Adherence to the current economic system represents a betrayal of future generations, owing to its environmental unsustainability." (Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum)

Will you be following the proceedings of the World Economic Forum's 50th Annual Meeting held in Davos, Switzerland from 21 - 24 January? This is seen as the single most influential gathering of world leaders and business innovators.

The theme this year is Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World, "with a focus on renewing the concept of stakeholder capitalism to overcome income inequality, societal division and the climate crisis." See for the Forum's recently released Davos Manifesto 2020, "which builds on the original Davos Manifesto of 1973 and lays out a vision for stakeholder capitalism that addresses fair taxation, zero tolerance for corruption and respect for human rights.

"'Business has now to fully embrace stakeholder capitalism, which means not only maximizing profits, but use their capabilities and resources in cooperation with governments and civil society to address the key issues of this decade. They have to actively contribute to a more cohesive and sustainable world,' said Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab."

During 400 sessions, the following six areas will be addressed, allowing stakeholders to "advance the mission of creating a more cohesive and sustainable world": Ecology, Economy, Society, Industry, Technology and Geopolitics.

David Gelles, New York Times, said that in its 50th year: "Davos is searching for its soul...Critics say the gathering of elites is out of touch...Open borders, liberal democracy and free markets are under threat around the world. Instead, the moment is being shaped by rising nationalism, authoritarianism and a Chinese economic system to rival Western capitalism. Couple this with a surge of anti-elitist sentiment, and the forum, which hosts world leaders and chief executives in mountaintop chalets under tight security, has for some become a symbol of all that is wrong with the world...

"Critics have said that" the gathering at Davos "allows companies to gloss over their sins with high-minded pledges to do better, and that it is insufficiently diverse. (It remains an overwhelmingly male affair, with just 22 percent of attendees women this year, a record high.) "

Gelles says that months before the event Schwab flies around the world asking executives and world leaders what's on their minds. "Mr. Schwab said that the top concerns included rising debt, China's rise, Brexit and climate change. In short, the elite are worried about the demise of the very ideology long espoused by Mr. Schwab: globalism - the notion that the open exchange of people, products, ideas and services across borders will benefit all."

Ian Bremmer, the founder of the Eurasia Group rightly says that many people feel that globalism has failed them. According to Gelles, one line of criticism is that "the global elite are uninterested in solutions to intractable problems if those solutions threaten their dominance."

He refers to a telling statement by skeptic, Rutger Bregman, a Dutch journalist and historian: "Some people believe that the global elite go to Davos and plan for world domination, but it's much scarier than that. You go there and you find out that all those people are pretty nice. But friendliness can stand in the way of justice."

We live in an interconnected/interdependent world. What transpires at Davos and the follow-up to achieve agreed goals will impact on us in our little corner of the world. I pray that when they all return to their respective countries/homes - many of them in their private jets, they will be inspired to commit to build the common good; to promote authentic integral human development - acknowledging the fact that the dignity of the human person is paramount. Let's hope that they will not be indifferent to the plight of those who are not part of their elite club and use their God-given knowledge/skills/gifts to build a better world.

Can Davos become, as Pope Francis hopes, " a platform for the defence and protection of creation and for the achievement of a progress which is 'healthier, more human, more social, more integral' (Laudato Si, 112), with due regard also for environmental goals and the need to maximize efforts to eradicate poverty..."?

In his message to world leaders at Davos in 2018, he said the world "cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions of people whose dignity is wounded, nor can we continue to move forward as if the spread of poverty and injustice has no cause."

Leela Ramdeen is Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and Director of CREDI

Tags: Leela Ramdeen, Davos, World Economic Forum, Environment

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