The Davos Forum has been intensively criticised since its creation in 1971 for being too elitist and for show-casing the will of the few (the financial elite of the world) to the detriment of other stakeholders and social partners. Although the list of participants has been recently diversified to include also civil society, social actors, academia and media, the Forum continues to give a voice to just the few, while disregarding the huge social disparities worldwide and the majority of the population concerned. As the prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau mentioned in his 2018 Davos address: “We cannot neglect our responsibility to the people who matter most – to the people who aren’t here in Davos and never will be.”
This being said, it is important to acknowledge the role that illuminated leadership can have in the world and what change could be brought forward if ideas, resource and political will are brought together. The Davos encounters are unique because they facilitate public-private partnerships and they showcase a different outlook on issues such as growth, welfare and sustainability. They foster innovation, but at what expense? For example, it is worth mentioning the approach to growth of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:
“GDP may say your country is thriving, but it’s not thriving if it’s also degrading the environment and contributing to CO2 emissions. (…) “This year, for the first time, we will be undertaking a wellbeing budget, where we’re embedding that notion of making decisions that aren’t just about growth for growth’s sake, but how are our people faring. How is their overall wellbeing and their mental health [and] how is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.”
This perspective should be promoted more. “A stronger voice should be given to social actors and trade unions at Davos”, CESI Secretary-General Klaus Heeger comments. “We know by now that equality is an important element for growth and sustainability. Let’s see how to achieve it more.” After experiencing the Gilet Jaunes protests against an increased government-tax on fuel it is clear that balancing labour, taxation and income distribution is very difficult. Precisely for this kind of reasons CESI President Romain Wolff supports “the idea of more trade-union representation of workers in all forms of dialogues and negotiations in order to reach more consensuses and goals.”
CESI continues to follow the agenda-setting taking place each year in Davos and calls for more substantive discussions on matters of general interest such as social dumping, precarious work and persistent broader socio-economic and gender inequalities.
Picture: Davos sun © weflive.com 2019