Davos v. Anti-Davos: Guess Who Wins?
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum begins tomorrow in Davos, the small chalet town that has now become synonomous with power in the era of globalization, a sort of latter-day collective Versailles. It does seem that the lead-up to this year’s meeting is getting less attention than in recent years (though we now have daily blogging from FP Passport, surely among others). Does that mean that the forum has jumped the shark, to use Dan Drezner’s characterization in an LA Times op-ed earlier this week? Or is it more a case of the novelty wearing off, and settling down to business as usual?
One thing’s for sure, Davos doesn’t have much to fear from the parallel World Social Forum, established in 2001 (“the first world encounter”) by way of protesting the exclusion of less powerful forces from the Davos gathering. From its Charter of Principles, the WSF is described as :
. . . an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neoliberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Humankind and between it and the Earth.
This year’s WSF has convened in Nairobi. My betting: not a likely source of “effective action.”
The fact is that you’ll find the top NGO leaders at Davos, not Nairobi. Here’s a list: it includes the heads of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace, Earth Policy Institute, and Oxfam. I imagine the likes of Ken Roth get kowtowed to at this venue as much as the CEOs and foreign ministers. Yet further evidence that NGOs have power and that the corporate and public sectors are coming to recognize it.