Youthful swearing at Davos

By Felix Salmon
January 28, 2010
James Gibney's evisceration of Davospeak:

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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.

These young leaders have now started taking an oath which culminates with this:

7. I will actively engage in efforts to finding solutions to critical social and environmental issues that are central to my enterprise, and

8. I will invest in my own professional development as well as the development of other managers under my supervision.

As far as I can make out, this is essentially code for “I will continue to attend Davos even when I’m over 40 and no longer a Young Global Leader”. Or, to put it another way, it’s Davos’s way of getting these people to pay to come to Davos once they’re established, after flattering them with free passes in their youth.

“Young Global Leader”, to the World Economic Forum, is code for “people who will be in a position to spend large amounts of money on sponsorships in years to come”. But hey, at least they get an oath out of it.

Update: The Oath doesn’t just have a website, it also has a Twitter feed! Thanks to that, we can all now rest reassured that Stefan de Rothschild (typical tweet here) has accepted the Global Business Oath.

Over on his personal blog, the father of the oath, Ángel Cabrera, says that this project was five years in the making. Wow.

Update 2: Turns out Stefan de Rothschild is a hoax; he’s not a YGL, and he wasn’t at Davos. But David de Rothschild and Nathaniel Rothschild are YGLs. I don’t know whether they’ve taken the oath. (Thanks to commenter oscarlechien)

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