Opinions - 01.02.2013 - 00:00 

Global twittering fom Davos

The WEF assembled VIPs from politics and from trade and industry. How did student reporters experience the “Open Forum” in Davos? A contribution by HSG doctoral student Tim Lehmann and HSG student Nikolaj Fischer.<br/>


1 February 2013. Global, responsible and market-friendly: This is likely to be the best description of most of the debates in Davos. 80 per cent of discussions took place behind closed doors, which is frequently a reason for the continuing criticism of the WEF, which ever since the establishment of the parallel Open Forum has slowly been opening up.

A signal of geopolitical shifts of power: Political decision-makers from the USA and the People’s Republic of China were absent. Men, in particular (only 17% of participants were women), preached changes in global politics. For the sake of the investment climate, the WEF tried to present Africa in a positive light. There was not merely talk about development aid any longer; instead, reference was made to “De-Risking Africa” or “The Promise of Africa”.

Cultivating contacts and saving the world
The Novartis Group, which has been pilloried because of top salaries, released CEO Joseph Jimenez for a press conference organised by the WEF. Jimenez, Ruanda’s President Paul Kagame and the economist Jeffrey Sachs presented in a mere 15 minutes the ambitious project for a campaign to train a million health workers for Africa: one of the many contributions which the WEG demands from its participants every year.

And Switzerland? Public opinion presented itself with its customary ambivalence between pride and opprobrium. Yet the Swiss representatives felt at ease with the global stage in their own country, particularly when they could join in all the debates but were not primarily affected by the problems. With a large delegation, Switzerland was able to cultivate contacts in order to stem the onslaught of the “globalisation cavalry”.

Social media are opening up the platform
This year, Davos not did only serve as a platform for bilateral meetings. The WEF’s ambitious vision of solving global problems in “multi-stakeholder” partnerships, however, obviously also causes a great deal of talk. Increasingly, though, the WEF is becoming a meeting point for social entrepreneurs, committed young people and their communication channels: Under the Twitter hashtag #wef, up to 40,000 tweets were disseminated every day. And numerous Facebook contributions also ensured increasing transparency.

It is now up to the media to take up these digitally distributed ideas and to hold those responsible for them to account for their messages. The question remains exciting as to whether the Davos conference will implement concrete solutions to global problems. “The power and ability for change is not with prime ministers and CEOs. These are often powerless when confronted by global problems, limited as they are in their actions by political parties, bodies and shareholder interests,” said Pooran Desai, social entrepreneur and founder of Bioregional in the UK.

It remains to be hoped that in future, there will not only be more young people and social entrepreneurs at the Forum but that there will also be more reports about them: a responsibility which the media and the general public will be able to exercise in spite of frequently closed doors.

Photo: World Economic Forum (WEF)

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