Twice a year, the Forum gets together its grandly named Davos Global Issues Group (DGIG). Its a brainstorming group of 20-odd, the core of which has been together for nearly five years now. DGIG has become a key staging point in putting together the programme for Davos. The spring meeting, nearly nine months before Davos, is broadranging and unscripted. The autumn meeting, when the Davos programme needs to firm up, is far more focused and practical.
Like most members of DGIG, I look forward to our biannual colloquies with real eagerness. Its rare to spend 24 hours with a diverse band of intelligent folk who feel thoroughly comfortable in open and honest discussion of the key issues in the world today.
It’s impossible to summarise the dozen hours of discussion, but here are a number of points to mull over. First, Japan. For the last few years, to the frustration of DGIG member Hiro Takeuchi, there has been relatively little interest in DGIG or Davos at large on Japan. This year, Japan excited some of the most vigorous debate around the table. Some of the interest is economic (do Japan’s decade-long woes prefigure what the west will experience), but it’s more an urge to get to grips with Japan in all its aspects. One well-travelled Asian DGIG member reckons Japan is the most foreign society on earth.
Second, anti-Americanism. I’ve referred to this before, rather eliptically (not everyone wants to be Silicon Valley). Some of my DGIG confreres are rather more forthright. “After the American century, the anti-American century,” suggested one. One of the fascinating aspects of anti-American sentiment is that it is virtually unperceived by Americans themselves. Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto climate change treaty may come to symbolise a new wave of anti-Yankee feeling.
Third, intellectual property rights. This emerged in numerous guises, perhaps most compellingly in one remark: “IPR has become the defining divide between north and south in trade policy and in the globalisation backlash.”
Needless to say, the direction of the US economy, the course of the Bush administration and a host of wholly evident issues also emerged. But it is always the less obvious subjects, the ones that appear at the interstices of disciplines and concerns, that make for the most interesting debates.