Davos Notebook

New reality at Davos

The theme of this year’s annual get-together of business and political leaders in Davos is “Shared norms for the new reality”.

One of the main examples of that new reality is the shift in political and economic power from West to East and North to South, according to Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum that organises the meeting. The change, cemented by the economic crisis, will cause upheaval, he told reporters.

This year it seems the new reality is striking close to home.

Among the 2,500 participants will be 25 heads of government and more than 80 ministers, with every G20 country represented at one level or another.

But look closely at the list and it is the absence of leaders from Brazil, China and India that stands out.

Brazil is represented by its foreign minister, central bank chief and head of the development bank BNDES. India has half a dozen ministers, including finance and home affairs, and China is limited to a minister and a few senior officials.

Davos: If your name’s not down, you’re not getting in

With only a week to go until kick-off, the organisers of the 41st World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, have just announced the programme based around this year’s theme: ‘Shared Norms for the New Reality’.

So who will be in the snowy Alpine resort of Davos to discuss this ‘new reality’ and, we hope, lead the way in putting forward solutions to the most pressing global risks of the day?

A popular ski resort at other times of the year, Davos is a closed shop to outsiders during the WEF. The barbed-wire barriers, endless security checks and snipers on rooftops are a reminder that, among the 2,500 politicians, businessmen and representatives from media, charitable organizations and religious groups, there are some pretty important people.

Jargon hunting at Davos 2011

SWITZERLAND/The annual shindig of the great and good from the corporate, banking and political worlds in Davos is always a rich hunting ground for connoisseurs of business jargon.

This year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum is no exception.

The theme of the meeting is “Shared norms for the new reality” — which translated means the world has got a lot nastier, or at least different, and how do we deal with all the new threats?

Speaking from the WEF’s Dr. Evil-style headquarters overlooking Lake Geneva, forum founder and chairman Klaus Schwab said the world was now facing “global burn-out syndrome”, whose symptoms, he told a news conference, include lethargy, withdrawal, and a tendency to be reactive and rely on firefighting rather than being proactive and thinking strategically.

Is Davos really a zoo?

Watch Reuters Global Editor at Large Chrystia Freeland and Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon debate the utility of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos and trade memories about their experiences at Davos over the years.

While Chrystia thinks Davos is a good hunting ground for journalism, Felix thinks it’s “mostly zoological.” Felix may have zero hope for the conference, but there are two topics Chrystia wants to know more about:

    global financial imbalances — and what the Chinese are going to be saying to the Americans about that? global income inequality, Chrystia’s “obsession,” and is that going to be a theme, too?

One question remains, will Felix maintain his solidarity and allegiance to the underdog? Or will he have a “frisson”?

Cherchez La Femme at Davos

DAVOS/– Elisabeth Kelan is lecturer in the Department of Management at King’s College London. The opinions expressed are her own. –

The World Economic Forum (WEF) publishes insightful research on gender in business, the economy and politics. Every year, for instance, the WEF releases a Gender Gap Report that measures how countries are doing in regards to  gender equality.

This always stood in sharp contrast to the annual meeting in Davos itself, where spotting a female face in the crowd was easier said than done. It might come as a surprise (then again, it might not), but  one of the most influential meetings around the globe has so far taken place with minimal female involvement.

Will Goldman’s new BRICwork stand up?

RTXWLHHJim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?

In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O’Neill told the Financial Times.

Hmmm.  Doesn’t quite grab you like BRICs, does it? The Guardian helpfully offers an amended branding banner of  “Bric ‘n Mitsk” (geddit?). But which ever way you cut it, it’s hard to see a flood of investment conferences and funds floating off under the new moniker.

from Felix Salmon:

The global risk that is Davos

Jim Ledbetter reads the 50-page Davos global risks report so you don't have to, and comes away with three and a half questions, all of which boil down to more or less the same thing: what if Davos is itself a global risk?

Reading the report, you get the strong sense of a circular argument along these lines: “My tools are broken. How will I fix them? I will use my tools!” About as close as the WEF gets to a solution for broken global governance is “a well-informed and well-mobilized public opinion sharing norms and values of global citizenship.” Yes, well … good luck with that.

The one thing that a Davos risks report can never say is that there's some non-negligible chance that the World Economic Forum itself will make things worse. Last year, when I went looking for contrition in Davos, I sought but did not find "an indication that much if not all of the crisis was caused by the arrogance of Davos Man and by his unshakeable belief that the combined efforts of the world’s richest and most powerful individuals would surely make the world a better, rather than a worse, place."

Celebrities and handshakes – is the WEF really working?

-Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is a British author, blogger, and advisor on technology, globalisation and corporate change, based in São Paulo, Brazil. The opinions expressed are his own.-

DAVOS AIDSThe World Economic Forum returns to Davos next week for the annual round of handshakes and backslapping between world leaders and A-list celebrities that aim to solve the major problems of the world. But when this blog (http://blogs.reuters.com/davos/2011/01/13/is-davos-still-relevant/) asked readers if the annual WEF meeting in Davos is still relevant, more than two-thirds of you said that times have changed and little will be achieved.

That seems a harsh judgement from the blog readers, so I asked my own network of online friends on Twitter (www.twitter.com/markhillary) and Facebook what they think.

Three-and-a-half questions for the Davos gurus

DAVOS/For the last several years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has published an annual report on global risk, as part of the run-up to the storied annual meeting in Davos. The 50-page report makes for gloomy reading: it is a dense collection of some of the major threats to the world’s security — from asset price collapse to weapons of mass destruction — and the interconnections between them. And they’re all carefully mapped in terms of their perceived likelihood and perceived economic impact.

You’ve got hand it to WEF: their report is thorough and sobering, and makes a great reference tool for later in the year. Last year’s report said that “there is a rising risk of sovereign defaults,” and that proved more accurate and expensive than anyone wished.

Yet for all its insistence on a big-picture, global perspective, the WEF risk report can seem internally contradictory or just hollow, as if pieces of cloth were produced in separate quarters with no one sewing them into a coherent quilt.
And so, for those who want the big picture to be even bigger, here are three-and-a-half major questions raised, but not answered by the WEF risk report.

Davos 2011: More people, fewer resources, big risk

Among the major issues global leaders will discuss at the upcoming annual World Economic Forum in Davos are the risks associated with the tightening of water, food and energy resources to meet the demands of an increasing global population.

The three interrelated resources impact both global economic growth and geopolitical stability and the Forum’s Global Risks 2011 report warns that “any strategy that focuses on one part of the water-food-energy nexus without considering its interconnections risks serious unintended consequences.”

Three recent news stories illustrate the risks associated with these precious resources.