In Swissinfo’s helpful roundup of Davos, Klaus Schwab makes the strongest statement yet that the Forum will move to a World Bank-like three-year cycle (as forecast on Davos Newbies a year ago), with two years “at home” (Davos) and one year on the road.
The Financial Times reports that Friends of the Earth is considering suing the World Economic Forum. Apparently FoE’s Tony Juniper, a previous Davos participant and an expert on rare birds, was barred from entering the Congress Centre because he was carrying letters for 150 participants. According to the Forum, Juniper was not wearing the necessary security pass to get into the centre — which is an absolute no-no for anyone, including Forum staff.
It’s true that the Forum has generally frowned on distribution of “unauthorised material” in Davos, but I can recall scores of instances where corporations, academics and others have done their damndest to skirt around the restrictions. I don’t think anyone has ever suffered for trying. At my remove from Davos, it’s hard to tell whether the Forum’s version — it was a cheap publicity stunt — or the FT version — a legitimate participant was barred from entry — is correct.
In his closing statement at this year’s Annual Meeting, Klaus Schwab said, “The original idea [for the Forum] is even more valid today than ever before. What we have to do is bond together and jointly define our problems. Once we have bonded, we can look together for solutions. We are all part of a global community of destiny. If we dont address poverty and AIDS, we will all suffer.”
I know there is a lot of cynicism about the Forum, but those closing words do truly sum up the motivation of most of the people in the organisation. That ideal may be difficult to realise, but — pace the protestors — it’s surely worth striving for.
Paul Krugman quotes an administration official he spoke to in Davos: “I thought Paul O’Neill wasn’t suited to being Treasury secretary; he’d have been better off running a railroad. Now they’ve picked a man who ran a railroad.”
As I write this, my friends in Davos will be making their way up the mountain for the annual highlight of the meeting: the Schatzalp lunch. The lunch is on the “snow terrace” of the Schatzalp Hotel, which has the faded grandeur you’d expect of the former sanitorium and setting of Mann’s Magic Mountain. Sadly, it looks like today there won’t be much of a view.
I often thought the Schatzalp should be the end of the meeting, and this year that’s what’s happening. In the past, there were a series of generally poorly attended plenaries in the afternoon, and then a closing plenary, which generally attracted a good crowd. The danger with ending at lunchtime, however, is that too many people will schedule their flights out of Zurich on the day, and you’re stuck with sparse attendance in the morning and at lunch. I’m sure some of my friends will let me know how the Schatzalp fares.
I’ve heard the odd report that Davos is future is going to have a significantly different schedule in any case. Instead of running Thursday through Tuesday, there is talk that the meeting will open on Tuesday and close on Sunday. The advantage of this in scheduling terms is you can end with the heavy hitters, since many of the political figures only want to come on the weekend.