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What happened (and didn’t) when Davos disappeared

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In recent years, questioning the continued existence of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos has become almost as much a ritual as the event itself. Every January, the mainstream media will post headlines like “Is Davos still important?”, “Is the World Economic Forum in Davos still relevant?” and “Does the world need Davos?”even as the same publications sent their reporters to report on all the hot air being spewed over the Alps.

Now, at last, opponents have a chance to test their arguments. For the second year in a row, the annual face-to-face meeting in Davos is removed because of the pandemic. An IRL collection has been announced for Last Maybut the relative last-minute cancellation makes it easier to gauge what until recently was a hypothetical debate: Would it matter if Davos had just left?

At first glance, the answer seems to be: Not so much.

Defenders of Davos over the years have argued that the conference, with so many global media in attendance, is a unique venue for fostering conversation about how to improve the state of the world. This is where the stakeholder capitalism movement – ​​which urges companies to look beyond profits – has gained traction, where globalization finds its most ardent champions and where there are monumental documents like “Declaration of Davos,” which calls for companies to be more responsible, come out.

However, even without the usual press breakfast and cocktail party, many press events arranged traditionally to coincide with Davos are still taking place this year. Edelman, the public relations firm, still publishes Trust Barometer. (Spoiler alert: These days, the public doesn’t trust anyone.) BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink, remains release his annual letter. (Stakeholder capitalism still matters, he claims, but so does profit!) And it was the World Economic Forum that decided to go ahead by abbreviating it. virtual program There is a gathering of heads of state and executives.

Others have seen Davos as one of the few places where governments, companies and nonprofits come together to tackle climate change and global health. Organized by World Economic Forum Rainforest Alliance, a collaborative effort to stop deforestation. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was founded at the forum’s meeting in 2000 and was instrumental in bringing vaccines to poor countries. And in 2020, the World Economic Forum announced an initiative to restore and plant a trillion trees by 2030.

However, Davos isn’t the only forum making ambitious commitments to pressing causes, and these kinds of commitments haven’t disappeared after the live event. For two weeks in November, in temperatures almost as low as those in the Alps, thousands of politicians, executives and charities gathered in Glasgow for COP 26, the conference on Transformation. United Nations climate policy and make climate policies. Many countries and companies have announced ambitious commitments to reduce their emissions.

Still others make the case for Davos pointing to its history as a forum for important diplomacy. In 1988, this is where Greek-Turkish relations were normalized. A year later, representatives from East and West Germany discussed reunification, and a few years later, Nelson Mandela appeared for the first time at an international meeting with the president of South Africa, FW de Klerk.

But diplomacy isn’t dead this January, it’s just moving on the road. The Russians, Americans and Ukrainians were actually in Switzerland this month to negotiate to avoid war, but the setting was Geneva, not Davos.

And if a Davos purpose is simply to talk about Davos and worry about income inequality, it still happens. My colleague Peter Goodman has published “Davos Man,” a critique of business and political leaders, such as Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff, who regularly hosts annual meeting. A satire is produced by Davos Deville a music video sent during the week but not. And the patriotic millionaires, a group of wealthy people who want to pay more taxes, used Davos as its patron in a new campaign calling for higher taxes.

What didn’t happen this month was the veritable gathering of 10,000 motorists and shakers or more, crammed together in the Alps for a week of networking, bluster, swapping ideas, skiing, partying dance and dance. What looks like superfluous society can be an effective exercise, says Mr. Benioff.

“You could say it was an elite conference, with nothing being done, just a bunch of parties,” Mr. Benioff said. “But you have to look at all the good that has come out of it. It’s just that there aren’t many places where business, government and religious, cultural and nonprofit leaders and the media get together and have a real multi-stakeholder dialogue.” .

It is the blend of private and public sector leadership, big money and big ambition, idealism and capitalism, that makes Davos Davosand, depending on who you ask, the point of the whole thing, or the point of it.

At least, that’s the part that proved to be the hardest to reproduce via Zoom.

What do you think? Conferences like the fruitful forum in Davos for world-changing ideas? Or a waste of resources? Let us know: dealbook@nytimes.com.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/22/business/dealbook/no-davos.html What happened (and didn’t) when Davos disappeared

Fry Electronics Team

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