Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Days in Davos

The World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland has to be one of the most fascinating events on the planet. Apart from the fact that it is in Davos, Switzerland (one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world, and I speak from personal experience), it is filled to the brim with an amazing line-up of guests and speakers. A parade of glamor, power, fame, and fortune. Where else do you find leading politicians, academics, trade unionists, business leaders, pop stars, NGOs, all gathered together to discuss (not solve) the problems of the world? The assumption is if you are there, you've already arrived. "The great thing about Davos is this assumption that you must be interesting, just because you are here." OK, I guess that means that the rest of us might be interesting, but no promises. For more on who goes to Davos and what they do there, see here.

The agenda for this year "The Creative Imperative" and here is a list of discussion topics. Short summary of the topics: (1) Bill Gates has another half-billion to spare; (2) There is no energy crisis; (3) Africa needs Western farmers; (4) Annan offers more blather about UN reform; (5) Disaster preparedness is important; (6) The U.S. consumer is weak; (7) The Arab world is backward; (8) China is hungry; and (9) Europe is lazy.

The happy news is that the good and great at Davos have opened their doors for session summaries, webcasting and now... live-blogging. All of this is quite a remarkable development given that the events are supposed to be not-for-attribution. If you visit here, there is a short blog summary of the discussion at various events. One of my favorite anecdotes is this:
At today's session on global challenges, an invited speaker told us a candy story: While in an African country, he took a bag of candies to the street and distributed them to kids there. The bag went empty soon. He went back to the hotel and brought more. As the candy news had gone around, this time a crowd of excited kids rushed to him, kicking and pushing one another. Then a woman came to him, asking to help distribute candies. He gave her a bag, but she just grabbed and ran away. He asked why and the woman's reply was she wanted to sell the candies in exchange for something productive. The speaker's conclusion: the current western aid policy for Africa is seriously flawed. Aid agencies sometimes do not understand how to give aids, corruption occurs in the process, and the way that aids are given may not be truly productive.
Oh really? Good thing we went all the way to Davos to learn that foreign aid needs reform. Well, at least the good and great are gathered together to earnestly listen to such truisms. And if the world's glitterati is listening together, it must be important.


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