Davos Notebook

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?

The WEF itself thinks so. It claims some notable successes over the years, particularly on the diplomatic front. A draft agreement on Gaza and Jericho was hammered out by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat at the 1994 meeting, according to the WEF’s website.

Davos may have even helped stop a war. At 1988′s meeting, Greece and Turkey turned back from the brink of war over a naval incident in the Mediterranean, producing the so-called “Davos Declaration”. The talks marked the beginning of a rapproachment between the countries.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Groundhog Day in Davos


The programme may strike a different  note — this year’s Davos is apparently all about Shared Norms for the New Reality — but much of the discussion at the 41st World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos this month will have a distinctly familiar ring to it.

Last January, the five-day talkfest in the Swiss Alps was dominated by Greece’s near-death experience at the hands of the bond market and recriminations over the role of bankers in the financial crisis, as well as worries about China’s rapid economic ascent and a lot of calls for a new trade deal.

Fast forward 12 months and not much has changed.

Ireland has joined Greece in the euro zone’s intensive care unit and Portugal and  Spain are getting round-the-clock monitoring. The annual round of bankers’ bonuses is once again stirring up trouble. China looms larger than ever on the global stage, after overtaking Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second-biggest economy. And trade ministers who signally failed to make headway last year say they really must get down to business when they meet on the sidelines of Davos this time round.

Davos, Google and Chinese walls

schmidtOne big item nowhere to be seen on the official agenda in Davos this year was the delicate matter of Google’s clash with China.

So was the censorship row censored in order not to offend the Chinese?

That’s not the way the Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, sees it.

“We raise issues where we know we can make a positive contribution to them,” he told Reuters. “This is an issue that is still cooking and we don’t think we could have made a positive contribution on it.”

Watch Felix Salmon interview Nouriel Roubini

Yesterday evening Reuters.com streamed an interview with renowned economist Nouriel Roubini live from our studio at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Reuters columinst Felix Salmon presented the interview and all the questions he put to Roubini were sent in by visitors to our Davos 2010 live blog.

Greece’s economic woes, U.S. GDP and the trustworthiness of statistics coming out of China were just some of the issues being discussed. If you missed it, or if you want to see it again, watch the interview in the player below.

Stingy Italians

berluscoiA black mark for Italy in the doing-good stakes.

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, took a swipe at the Italian government in Davos for being “uniquely stingy” when it comes to foreign aid.

The good guys are Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg — all of which give 0.72 to 1.0 percent of GDP as foreign aid.

But Italy gives a paltry 0.21 percent, following a decision by Silvio Berlusconi’s government to cut its help to poor countries by more than half.