Over the decades anyone who's a mover or shaker, along with those wishing to be, appear in Davos in a fascinating attempt at reading the global tea leaves. We know who they are and their ranks have grown to include celebrities -- actors, singers, authors -- who mix with the traditional grouping of financiers, politicians, and non-profit leaders.
As international sanctions against Iran were lifted over the weekend and as U.S.-Iranian relations dominated the headlines, Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion implied on the sidelines of a Cabinet-level retreat that the Government is considering dropping its sanctions against Iran, a move that would align Canada with its closest international partners. That the government recognizes the economic and strategic disadvantages associated with its inherited Iran policy is a major step toward constructive re-engagement with Tehran.
To be sure, the Forum once again generated news and social content about business trends, societal needs, industry insights and new voices in the global economy. But the real conversations in the hallways were that global business leaders are more concerned over the threat of Euro collapse than debating problems of income inequality.
Oxfam will take on the most powerful and wealthy organizations and individuals in the world. And the voice on this occasion is Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam's international spokesperson, speaking to the global elite as they gather this week in their annual state of the global economy meetings in Davos, Switzerland. And does she ever have a story to tell, backed by research and motivated by a deep sense of social justice. Byanyima will hit those people present with a remarkable and troubling truth: as of next year, over half of the world's wealth will be owned by the top 1 per cent. This is staggering, perhaps even representing the end of the economic order we have known and which sustained the West for decades.
The vibe at this week's Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles was certainly more upbeat than a few months ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The difference is that Davos is a global event and world prospects are not necessarily a great story, while the Milken confab is distinctly American and the facts are that the U.S. is back on top.
I realize that the beautiful spot in Switzerland is where the supposed brightest and best gather for a few sessions, yet the gathered crowd appears to grow more incapable every year at solving the globe's biggest problems. Perhaps the reason is because those gathered are not only intelligent and connected, but are, in fact, incredibly wealthy -- remote and removed from the everyday problems faced by average citizens in both developing and developed nations. There seem to be no effective solutions for growing unemployment, the decline of democracy, the yawning gap between rich and poor, and a world financial system seemingly out of control.
I am in Davos at the World Economic Forum (WEF) where the top issues that world leaders must address are: unstable global economy, eurozone fragility; and financial system instability. Climate change only ranks as the 7th issue. To me, it's like a group of business leaders and "experts" on the sinking Titanic discussing the fragility of champagne sales. I am deeply concerned about the Alice-in-Wonderland perception of the environment's big picture.
"Severe income disparity" is the most likely risk facing business and political leaders according to the World Economic Forum's Global Risk 2012 Report. This finding really caught me by surprise. So while the Occupy movement isn't anywhere on the agenda, here at Davos, its impact has been very much felt.