What is the purpose of Davos? The question lingers, as the latest edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) ends just over a week ago. Who is confident, yet disconnected from the outside world?
Has the Forum become the archetype of enormous, increasingly unpopular international meetings, which are terribly expensive, have catastrophic carbon footprints, and exude hypocrisy in terms of diversity? Does this no longer surprise anyone? Today, opponents of Davos do not even need to host ‘counter-summits’ in the 1990s and 2000s when they appeared at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. The WEF’s naysayers are no longer limited to the extreme left and anarchists. Just open Twitter or the face of the young, Swedish Greta Thunberg who came to the global political and business elite that they’ve ‘failed’ in the climate.
But this is not all. This year in Davos issues were raised, ranging from the collapse of multilateralism and the disappearance of the post-war world order, to the rivalry between China and the US, slowing Chinese growth, worries about data sharing, and so on. However, these observations – made by recognised or self-proclaimed experts – are already sound, Davos is behind the times.
Make Davos a laboratory of collective intelligence
Should we just get rid of the WEF then? On the contrary. By broadening the thinking of participants and diversifying their ecosystem, it’s possible to make Davos a truly innovative event. There is not only one approach to economics and geopolitics, and it would be in the ‘leaders” interest to take into account long-term scenarios. The level of public support for political and economic policies has never been lower than today; obviously this has serious consequences. New methods of money exchange, as well as ideas and knowledge, are organized via crypto-currencies and blockchain, which bypasses not only states, but also existing economic and financial systems.
The global pushback against elites, the nationalist populism that has emerged from the margins to take power in a number of countries (Brazil’s Bolsonaro opened the 2019 forum with a short speech, albeit brief), and the weight of public resentment, all require decision- makers to mobilize in favor of collective intelligence. This would be a true innovation.
In the absence of most Western heads of state (Macron, May, Trump, etc.), Davos can still pride itself on leaving room for the expertise of civil society – the ‘stakeholders’ and the only guarantors of prosperity and growth. But this is not enough. Confining such discussions to inside circles of politicians no longer works; the WEF urgently needs to encourage broader participation, to call upon knowledge as well as practice as much as theory.
So the forum must consider ethics. Why? Because it is a social demand and ignoring it wants to lead to chaos. Because it is an investment and to deprive the world of ethical approaches to economics and politics would be a waste. We must rely on customers, employees, shareholders, researchers, associations, citizens, young people. Klaus Schwab founded the World Economic Forum nearly 50 years ago.
Ahead of the world
In order to understand the world, it is beyond their control, economic leaders can no longer ignore the complexity and knowledge of the world now holds. This place is better than lagging behind.
It is the responsibility of leaders – and it’s in their interest as well – to defend freedom of information; to learn, to act, and to share collaborative research. The revolution of tomorrow is that of learning. The 2018 Villani Report, ‘ Giving meaning to artificial intelligence. For a national and European strategy ‘ , the essential skill in a world is perpetually evolving. Why should Davos ignore this important area of expertise?
Fears, inward-looking attitudes, and a lack of audacity have never created a climate of trust and stability that is conducive to business. By relying instead on openness, cooperation, and shared knowledge, the WEF would become the site of tremendous innovation and responsibility. For those invested in the forum, cohesion is essential. Thanks to its international and collaborative dimension, the World Economic Forum could once again become a unique benchmark of the trends of the time.