South Africa


Davos is emerging as a space to engage with urgent issues, not just for socialising

Participants walk trough the halls during the 49th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, 24 January 2019. The meeting brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, corporate and political leaders in Davos under the topic 'Globalization 4.0' from 22 - 25 January 2019. EPA-EFE/GIAN EHRENZELLER

Sizwe Mbele (Daily Maverick, 23 April 2019) argues that structural change to the global economic system represents our best chance to build a fairer world: if he had ever been to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting he would know that this is something we have been doing, and helping bring about, for decades, writes World Economic Forum's Oliver Cann.

This is a response to Sizwe Mbele’s article: Is Davos a panacea or a pretext for elitism?

The world’s government institutions were never built to deal with climate change, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a multi-polar world or high and rising inequality. No wonder, then, that democracies and capitalism are under threat from the forces of populism.

The only wonder is why we should be so surprised to find ourselves in the state we are in. In the 1970s, the Forum’s idea that not just governments and business but also civil society needed to be at the table was hardly universally popular. Nor was our insistence that business bear social as well as shareholder responsibility.

In the 1990s, with the global economy embarking on its longest post-War period of growth, our focus had shifted to the as-yet-unseen risks of inequality. A decade later, we were bringing climate change to the top of the agenda followed by the risks posed by automation.

The best leaders use this knowledge to prepare for the future. In recent years, CEOs participating at Davos have reduced carbon emissions by millions of tonnes and provided new skills to tens of millions of workers. Making Davos less a safe space for socialising and more an awkward place to engage on issues such as tax or, as Greta Thunberg told leaders in Davos, our house-fire of a climate crisis, will define whether we will ever be able to fix our broken system. DM

Oliver Cann, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum.


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