Davos Notebook

Greek PM on innovation

George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece, joins the Davos Debates to answer a question posted on youtube.com/davos. The Prime Minister discusses innovation and how it can help in education, as well as how governments can encourage technical innovation.

Royals in Davos

Among world political leaders and business executives, there are several royals who are making appearence in Davos.

Why are they here? I met some of them but didn’t dare ask.  Some have said that royals want to play a key role as opinion leaders to promote public debate in “rebuilding” the world — the main theme of the World Economic Forum this year.

The most high-profile would be the Queen Rania of Jordan, whose twitter updates have been followed by more than 1.2 million people.

Africa feels the heat on climate change

kilimaIt may have contributed less than any other continent to CO2 emissions, but Africa is on the front line when it comes to the impact of climate change.

Just ask Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

“It is a threat for us,” he told a panel at the World Economic Forum.  “On Kilimanjaro the snow is fast disappearing, sea levels are rising — we have one island that has already been submerged — and we’ve towns around the coast where we have to incur huge costs of adaptation to erect walls.”

In theory, Africa is also in a strong position, given its virgin forests that represent one of the world’s great carbon sinks. But setting up workable offset-trading schemes is easier said than done.  “I can assure you, it is so difficult to access these facilities,” Kikwete said.

from Felix Salmon:

Youthful swearing at Davos

I like James Gibney's evisceration of Davospeak:

Dr. Schwab and Company have made a handsome business out of enabling old-fashioned clubby capitalism by wrapping it in feel-good globoblather: "unprecedented multistakeholder, multimedia dialogue…look at all issues on the global agenda in a systemic, integrated and strategic way…intensify collaboration and develop innovative solutions…generate an unprecedented process of discussion and deliberation." As George Orwell tellingly observed, "When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink." The next time you hear "multistakeholder," remember that, in Davos at least, corporations hold the biggest stake.

It was probably unfortunate, then, that no sooner had I read that than I stumbled across the Global Business Oath of the Young Global Leaders. What is a Young Global Leader? You really can't make this stuff up:

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a unique multi-stakeholder community of exceptional young leaders who shares a commitment to shaping the global leader.

George Osborne discusses banking

George Osborne, finance spokesman for the UK Conservative Party, relays his thoughts on the discussion of the banking system taking place at Davos.

Behind the scenes at Davos

First day highlights from the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

David Cameron on Haiti

David Cameron, Leader of the Opposition in the UK, answers a question on Haiti at the Davos Debates 2010.

Abudullah Abdullah answers a question on education

Former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, joins the Davos Debates to answer the following question posted on youtube.com/davos: If education helps prevent disease and poverty rates, why do governments not offer more to help in developing countries?

from Felix Salmon:

Global financial regulatory reform falls apart

Is financial reform shattering into so many different pieces that it'll never become the strong, coherent, globally-unified project that it needs to be to get popular support and avoid regulatory arbitrage? I fear so.

For one thing, there are literally more representatives of Bill Clinton here in Davos than there are of Barack Obama. If the Obama administration is serious about its newest ideas for regulatory reform, especially the Volcker Rule, it would have made a great deal of sense to send Paul Volcker -- or at the very least someone like Austan Goolsbee -- to Davos, to try to get the rest of the world excited about it. But they didn't.

And even the president himself doesn't seem to wedded to it. Here's the relevant bit of his address last night:

from Felix Salmon:

How to give a Davos opening address

Nicolas Sarkozy gave a rather predictable speech to kick off the World Economic Forum today. He started out with fiery populism, talking about how "without state intervention, the world would have imploded", and how globalization had created, pre-crisis, "a world where everything was given over to capital, and nothing to labor, in which the entrepreneur gave way to the speculator". But then, after bashing excessive pay packages and warning of dire consequences if Davos Man didn't change his ways, he spent most of his speech becoming vaguer and vaguer, devolving into standard Davos platitudes, and talking -- as all Davos speakers do -- about being bold and tackling poverty and changing the world and so on and so forth. By the time it was all over, he had proposed absolutely nothing concrete, and the assembled plutocrats were happy to give him a loud ovation.

I suspect that what we saw with Sarkozy is Davos 2010 in a nutshell: while seeming to make a decisive break from the past, in reality it's just more of the same. Sarkozy will fly back to Paris convinced that he confronted the delegates with harsh new realities; the delegates themselves, meanwhile, will feel that they belong to the future rather than the past and that they're part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must dash. I've been invited to a fondue dinner being thrown by JP Morgan. I'm sure that no one there will feel in the slightest bit threatened by Sarkozy's pro-forma rhetoric.