Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its founder, Klaus Schwab, have become more famous than ever in the past few years – although not for the reasons they intended.

As COVID-19 spread and the world grappled with the pandemic, Mr. Schwab and the WEF, not to mention regular delegates like Bill Gates, became a hotbed of outlandish conspiracy stories, most of which Back to the base that they were. bent on world domination.

Aside from the lurid details of these stories, they seem to have missed the most important point, far from becoming more powerful than before. Davos is failing.

Before we go any further it’s important to point out that pinning down “what” Davos is is surprisingly difficult.

At its core, it’s a four-day long mountaintop meeting of businessmen, politicians, academics, campaigners and, yes, celebrities at a Swiss ski resort.

There are speeches by world leaders, forums where people talk about today’s big issues, from poverty to climate change to inequality, and countless meetings and parties outside the World Economic Forum office.

Bankers come here to meet potential clients and make deals in hotel suites, politicians hold quiet bilateral meetings with colleagues and businessmen.

Read more:
What is Davos and what happens at the World Economic Forum meeting?

But there are two main reasons why Davos matters. The first is: Convening Power.

It depends on whether he can persuade enough influential people to come here, so that other influential people can rub shoulders with him.

The second is something deeper: most delegates here benefit from a world where capital and trade move freely from one part of the world to another. This place is not a reflection of the globalization of the last few decades, but it has definitely grown in this world.

And things are not looking good for Davos on both of those fronts.

The German chancellor has quite a number of A-list delegates visiting the forum this year. Olaf Schulz For US climate envoy John Kerry, JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon and of course Bill Gates.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates (L) speaks with Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in 2008.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates (L) speaks with Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in 2008.

But this time the guest list looks a lot less heavyweight than usual.

No US President, no UK Prime Minister and not even Emmanuel Macron Giving the meeting the cold shoulder – surprisingly, these nations and many others are fighting wars. Living expenses Crisis back home.

The end of globalization itself?

But more important is the fact that the world in which Davos thrives is falling apart.

There is war in mainland Europe. Indeed, some have described the conflict as Ukraine Just as the initial movements in a world war.

Relations between China and the West are at a new low. Countries around the world are re-engineering their supply chains, and the era of unfettered globalization seems to be coming to an end.

Davos has been written about many times before (yours truly included) yet has managed to defy such predictions each time.

Many people thought. Donald TrumpHis election would spell disaster for the forum, yet he has attended it more than once, and was here at the last winter meeting in early 2020.

Yet there are two other reasons, in addition to the two above, why Davos faces her biggest threat yet.

COVID-19 hits face-to-face events

The first is the pandemic that broke out shortly after this past winter’s meeting, which has undoubtedly put a damper on such face-to-face events.

Davos may be a bigger and more influential league than most corporate jamborees, but it’s ultimately what the event is all about, and thanks to Zoom and remote working, the corporate jamboree sector is mired in a deep recession of its own. .

The second issue comes back to something that forum founder Klaus Schwab has talked about often before: the stakeholder economy.

The idea, conceived for decades, is that businesses do not exist in isolation: they exist at the nexus of many different groups, from shareholders to customers to employees and, for that matter, the state and society. in which they work.

Logo by World Economic Forum

The idea was that engaging more intelligently with each of these parties could bring all stakeholders together. The forum’s official motto is “committed to improving the state of the world” but it would have been better to borrow an old BT slogan: “talking is good”.

Yet given the cost of life crisis, these lines of communication seem to have frayed, or possibly broken down entirely.

There has been more industrial action in recent months than at any time in recent decades.

Communication seems to be failing.

On almost every front, then, Davos appears to be in deep trouble.

Far from gaining power in the past few years, it is more at risk than ever.

The coming days will be full of fanfare from this Swiss town: Ukraine, the state of globalisation, climate change – all these issues will be discussed by A-list panels here.

But quietly, almost imperceptibly, this place is becoming less important as the world around it changes.

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