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DAVOS – A Notorious Parallel Reality of Elitist Deliberation

Are you exasperated with nothing but #Davos2020 trending on your TV, newspapers and social media for the last few days?

This annual summit of the World Economic Forum is one of the most talked-about events in the world. Organized for the first time by Klaus Schwab in 1971, the European Management Symposium (as it was called then) was meant to discuss and encourage modern world ideals like liberal democracy and free markets.

Today, it’s viewed as a global brainstorming session on pressing issues of society, economy, industry, ecology, technology and geopolitics. This international conference draws famous business heads, technocrats, political leaders, charity heads, academicians and some celebrities as well.

Analysts and reporters across the globe track this event closely each year, trying to decipher the typical WEF jargon. This year’s theme is was ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’. While it sounds very noble, the Davos summit mostly serves as a networking hub for international businesses for most of its duration. Of course, there are talks and panel discussions on global issues like climate change and refugee crisis, but it is hard not to question its functionality and relevance for the world. I have long wondered – does this immensely costly event bring much value to the ‘real’ world?

Here is my fundamental question – are problem creators themselves going to find the solutions? Issues like climate change and inequality haven’t just been discovered. They have slowly and steadily crept up over the last few decades. If business and political leaders meeting at Davos meant what they said, would we not have noticed global warming going down somewhat? Would the inequality gap not be narrowing by now?

Arguably, the leaders in Davos are part and parcel of these and many other sustainability problems. Executives from mega-plastic-waste-producing FMCG companies, “self-regulated” addiction-cum-depression-inducing social-media companies, high-pollution manufacturing industries, and all the “talking” Government officials and politicians–most of them have not YET done anything substantial. Ask Greta!

This visible lack-of-initiative can be addressed by creating a system where actions are quantifiable and trackable each year.

The double standards must go, and Davos should be the time for leaders to “walk their talk”. To demonstrate some quick points:

  1. If leaders care for the environment, they should have vegan food at the event; we very well know how animal farming is the number one cause of climate change.

  2. Leaders should arrive in public / pooled transport and not in their private jets. Commercial aviation contributes to 5% of the global warming and Davos welcomed some 1500 private jets in 2019 alone. Private planes produce more emissions per person than commercial flights. Many premiers even prefer to use military planes that only use the nearest military base. Such flights are not even on the record. So much for climate change!

  3. They should create examples of recycling at the event to promote sustainability.

  4. Lack of diversity and inclusion should be addressed. Political scientist Samuel Huntington coined the term Davos Man — a wealthy, white, middle-aged male guest at Davos (and supposedly out of touch with the reality of the world around him). This view of Davos hits home as the global representation at the forum is highly skewed. The diversity should span genders, nationalities, ages (Greta Thunberg is a welcome inclusion this year), and possibly even include robots like Sofia.

Davos can be an excellent opportunity to make the world a better place and not merely talk about it.

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