Davos Notebook

Davos: Can social media make a difference?

The Davos meeting organisers have made a huge push into social media this year. From interviews on Facebook to geo-location services using Foursquare, it’s an impressive use of social media tools to bring the closed-shop that is the WEF to the masses.

In the video clip below, Reuters correspondent and Davos veteran Ben Hirschler shares his thoughts on the impact this will have on this year’s WEF.

“They’ve made a big effort to show their involvement with the outside world,” he says. “The question is… to what extent is this just PR eye-wash and to what extent is it something serious?”

Cancun needs to be a key issue at Davos

– Lord Julian Hunt is a Visiting Professor at Delft University, Vice-President of Globe, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own –

CLIMATE/The environment has long been a key area of focus for delegates at the World Economic Forum.  This year will be no different with the gathering at Davos taking place only a month after the UN Climate Change Conference meeting in Cancun.

Far from being another unsuccessful international environmental meeting, as some predicted, the Cancun Summit is likely to be looked back upon in years to come as a seminal moment.  The accord endorsed the various actions of countries to limit green house gas emissions.  However, more significantly for the long term it accepted that preserving the global environment in its present state is probably unattainable.

Davos fails to grab the attention of angry protesters

The days when anti-capitalist protesters could rampage through Switzerland’s financial capital Zurich in rage at the Davos talkfest 100 miles (150 km) to the east are long gone.

A couple of hundred anti-globalisation activists managed to rally in the nearby town of St. Gallen on Saturday against the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum opening this week. Braving a vicious north-east wind, they assembled near the station then marched peacefully through the centre of town, barely disrupting the good burghers as they went about their weekend shopping. At the front of the demo a large red banner proclaimed: “Take the future from the capitalists – Smash the WEF”.

The mostly young demonstrators pulled a cart festooned with anti-capitalist slogans, and beat drums and lit crackers to keep time. The march went off peacefully.

Why “generation next” matters at Davos

trevor dougherty lowres– Trevor Dougherty is a student and activist and will attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos as a representative of the Global Changemakers. He’s also the youngest American ever to attend the Davos meeting. —

Most of the sessions at the WEF’s annual conference in Davos will focus on the future, and how it can be bettered, so, naturally, a topic of discussion is the “next generation.” How will their consumption patterns change? How will they contribute to society? How will they use technology? How will they lead?

Among the Davos crowd, better known for its executives and politicians, is a group of people who can offer real insight to these questions. They possess a profound knowledge of “kids these days,” because, drum roll please, that is exactly what they are. Meet the British Council’s Global Changemakers, five teenagers selected from five different countries to represent young people at the World Economic Forum. My name is Trevor, and I am one of them.

The new Medicis and a new medieval world

HUNGARY/I spoke with Parag Khanna, author of “How to Run the World” and a young global leader of the World Economic Forum, about global imbalances and creating better corporate citizens. The following are some excerpts of our conversation:

KH: Parag, what’s the key issue for you this year at Davos?
PK: The key question is this: whether the WEF can succeed in repositioning itself as an organization about risk issues.

KH: What would the WEF need to do in order to reposition itself?
PK: They can start by looking at their prescriptions for what to do about the risks – do they have awareness networks and early warning systems for serious global issues like food security and access to water.

What’s threatening the world?

Ian Bremmer discusses the World Economic Forum’s global risk report:

What has Davos done for us?

DAVOS/For more than four decades, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has pitched its annual shindig in Davos as a chance for powerful leaders in business, politics, media and academia to convene in one spot to trade ideas on how to solve the pressing global problems of the day.

And for about as long, critics have dismissed the invitation-only event as nothing more than a glorified networking get-together for elites, or, as U2 singer Bono once called it, a meeting of “fat cats in the snow”.

But are critics right to so quickly trash the Davos meeting? Haven’t there been at least a few tangible achievements along the way?

What Davos can learn from BP

OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSION

By Christine Bader, who worked for BP from 1999-2008. The opinions expressed are her own.

Next week world leaders will gather in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum to discuss topics ranging from climate change to global risks and economic growth. Looming in the background will be last year’s massive Gulf oil spill, which has serious implications for all of those issues.

In the postmortem analyses of the spill, my former employer, BP, looks like the opposite of a model corporate citizen, having apparently contributed to 11 deaths, numerous other injuries, and the release of over four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Why Davos is not pretentious

Former editor in chief of Business Week, Stephen Adler, explains why Davos is such a gold mine for journalists and talks about his encounters there with Vladimir Putin and Jane Goodall:

from Felix Salmon:

Top tips from Davos spouses

Just as the most interesting sessions at Davos are the ones you know the least about beforehand, the most interesting people tend to turn out to be the ones you've never heard of. If you do happen to find yourself talking to Bill Clinton or Bono or Dmitry Medvedev, you'll probably be part of a large crowd of people and the conversation is likely to be superficial at best. On the other hand, if you just sit down on a random couch in the Congress Center, there's a really good chance that sitting next to you will be a fascinating and very useful person to know.

And of all the attendees at Davos, the very best to get to know are often the spouses. There's a smattering of Davos Deville types, of course, swanning down the Promenade in their fur coats, but many of the spouses are very smart, very engaged, very interesting in their own right -- and tend to feel a bit left out, given the rigid Davos class system. Log in to the exclusive in-house social network, for instance, and they don't even turn up.

Many Davos spouses have been going for years, and know the ways of the town and the conference very well. They also tend to be able to keep things in perspective, and realize when it makes sense to blow off a session on the state of global manufacturing to enjoy the blessedly empty slopes.