Sunday, 28 January 2007

Inside the WEF's Davos 2007

Some of the worlds most powerful and recognizable figures have been meeting in Davos, Switzerland over this past week discussing everything from climate change to currencies. Davos 2007 is a meeting of the World Economic Forum. At first glance it may just sound like a meeting of economists, albeit at one of the nicest ski resort areas on earth. When one takes a closer look one sees a conference with influence that can measure on a massive scale. The likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, rock star/activist Bono, United States' Sen. John McCain, the globally influential Google's Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, Microsoft head Bill Gates, US Sen. John Kerry, and German leader Angela Merkel are all in attendance at the WEF meeting, and are joined by non-Western dignitaries such as the Chinese economic minister in addition to Brazil’s re-elected President ‘Lula’ de Silva. I find it amazing how many blogs are talking about Davos, and how many of them are newsblogs not run by individuals, but by news organizations like the BBC, CNN Money, The Economist, The Guardian, Comment is Free, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Financial Times, and the International Herald Tribune, and the New York Times. Le Monde (translated) and the Wall Street Journal have also joined the party. Davos ’07, like the World Economic Forum itself, is obviously elite — which is why there has been opposition to it, just like there is opposition to the G8, WTO, and other governmental and economic conferences.

The World Economic Forum's meeting may now be over, but its reverberations still feel the news atmosphere and international zeitgeist. I said earlier in this post, climate change seems to be a topic on everyone’s mind at Davos. Global warming will have not only a disastrous human and environmental impact, but obviously an economic impact too — as the Stern Review confirmed. If precautions are to be taken against things like greenhouse gasses, it would be better for those precautions to be taken now than later, when they would be even more costly. If I was a political leader in country X, it would be more economically and otherwise effective to work to prevent the effects of human-caused climate change sooner rather than later; the cost — in money and lives — would be all the more higher the longer I wait. That being said I’d look for dampers on global warming sooner rather than later. Let’s say country Y waited 40 years until they took any action their climate change battle. By then the environmental consequences have a massive malevolent potential and the cost of working to save what has been lost by global warming and work against the problem at its core would be more expensive than if that country had done it 40 years prior.

One major story relating to Davos on the climate change front. BBC News:

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has told the World Economic Forum a major breakthrough on long-term climate change goals could be close.

Germany is taking center stage in the push for moderate globalization and has been a major player in European and world politics lately. Angela Merkel, the center-right German chancellor, has done well at balancing all the different forces of globalization — from human conflict and terrorism to climate change — in her recent agenda. Another international relations topic revealed more at Davos is that the United States is not nearly as ‘all powerful’ as it used to be, at least in regards to global economics. There’s a great IHT opinion piece on the matter.
This year's theme at the World Economic Forum annual meeting here — "the shifting power equation" — confirms the view of many participants that power is draining away from the United States to multiple centers as countries from Brazil to China move beyond "emerging" market status to establish themselves as major players on the world scene.

Far from some kind of conspiracy of the global elite plotting the future as they whisk down the Alpine slopes, Davos is in fact a back-end barometer of their evolving worldview. It does not break new ground but consolidates opinion. It does not generate new trends but codifies them into conventional wisdom. That is its power and its importance.

There is also hope for (BBC News) what is called the Doha round (The Guardian) of trade talks between the developed and developing nations. The Doha round ended without agreement earlier in 2006 and was seen as a failure of both sides of the developed/developing fringe. Skepticism should still be used for these trade talks, but if Doha does gain progress from the recent push at Davos, one may hope a positive outcome is reached. Some have gone far enough to say 2007 is going to be a ‘good’ year (BBC News) for economies in general. (As you can tell from the abundance of linking to the BBC News site, there is a lot of good Davos news there as well as at the afore-linked blogs and news websites.)

Updated with more links to sites covering Davos '07.

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