Friday, January 26, 2007

Change is what matters after Davos


The Jakarta Post

Opinion News - Thursday, February 01, 2007


Thang D. Nguyen, Jakarta

As world leaders from the business community, governments and civil society arrived in Davos for the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting this year, they did not see as much snow in this Swiss ski resort as they had in previous years.

Elsewhere across the world, weather patterns have been, and still are, more than unusual. In Boston, for instance, the temperature in December climbed to 20 degrees Celsius. Last Christmas, it snowed in Sydney. It also rained in Vietnam this month.

This is why climate change is a key topic on the agenda of the WEF's meeting this year, which takes place from Jan. 24-28. Under the theme The Shifting Power Equation, this year's meeting also focuses on other challenges, namely the Middle East crisis and world energy power.

And the list of world leaders who are in Davos this year is as impressive as ever, ranging from Prime Minister Tony Blair to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, DELL Corporation founder Michael Dell and U2 singer-cum-activist Bono.

As usual, participants in this year's meeting will get to rub shoulders with these shakers and movers over cocktails and dinners -- having paid a handsome fee of 30,000 Swiss francs (about US$24,000) each to get in.

As usual, these leaders will deliver keynote addresses or speak in plenary sessions -- offering solutions with which to solve the world's greatest challenges.

As usual, these leaders will get the most and best media coverage during their (usually brief) stays in Davos.

But what happens after Davos? Is the world better, or is it actually worse? Will there be any concrete change or action on the issues that are discussed so passionately in the WEF's Congress Hall in Davos?

Getting positive answers to these questions is the ultimate challenge for the WEF, which sees itself as an international organization that is "committed to improving the state of the world".


Among other things, the WEF has been, and still is, criticized as a prestigious talk shop where there are only talks, but no action.


This criticism seems, however, unfair for several reasons. For one thing, some of the challenges discussed at Davos are just too new and complex -- even for the experts.

Take the Asian bird flu for instance. And while there has been no cure for it, there is a threat that it could be transmitted from human to human.

Furthermore, it is hard to overcome the challenges discussed in Davos when some key players do not bother coming.

A case in point is the U.S. government delegation, which includes the trade representative Susan Schwab (no relation to WEF founder Klaus Schwab), Senator Joseph Biden and Senator John McCain.

While it is important to have Schwab in Davos for talks on reviving the failed Doha Round of the World Trade Organization negotiations, the U.S. delegation this year is inadequate and disappointing.

To be sure, President George W. Bush was busy preparing for his State of the Union Address on Jan. 23, but he could have sent a senior government official like the Secretary of State or an official with the Department of Defense to explain his new policy toward the war in Iraq, which looks increasingly like a second Vietnam War and for which he has requested some 23,000 more U.S. troops.

Bush could have sent also the most senior official in charge of the environment to talk about what the U.S. can and should do about climate change.

After all, the U.S. is the biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the key substance that causes global warming, or climate change. And yet, the Bush administration continues to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Finally, while the WEF can bring world leaders together, what they do or don't do after they leave Davos is beyond its control. This is like the old saying that "you can take a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink".

The writer is a former Manager for Asia at the World Economic Forum (WEF). More of his work can be read at
www.thangthecolumnist.blogspot.com. This is a personal view.

5 Comments:

Blogger tavanadaniel said...

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3:18 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

I like your writing. It's true that issues are hard to fix since some have no solutions to them and let's hope in time that a solution can emerge from all the talks.

Talking comes first and then the action.

Cheers,
Joy.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Socrates Rudy Sirait said...

Global warming on one side and global corporations' interest on another side.
Until those big boys find the best model for global corporations to participate on global warming solution projects.... they won't do anything meaningful...

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