Does Davos do any good?
As the super-rich decant from Davos – some, seriously, by private jet – it’s time to reflect on another year of the elite World Economic Forum. Does it do any good?
Davos is mostly a place for businessmen (there are annual concerns expressed about the gender balance of attendees) to do deals and cement networks: a business speed-dating site. But it also allows campaigners for a better world to shine a light for a few days on issues that really matter. Inequality, largely thanks to Oxfam’s media-friendly statistics, has dominated coverage of the week for a second year in a row.
That means that trade unions, for one, have been able to use the week to demand practical alternatives to the current, broken model of global capitalism, rather than just critiques. Frances O’Grady and Sharan Burrow from the International Trade Union Confederation have both used the week to make our case that the world needs a pay rise, for example, and that the economic stimuli such as the European Central Bank’s recent, long overdue foray into Quantitative Easing is just an adrenaline surge that shocks the patient back into consciousness temporarily without addressing the underlying illness.
And it also allows the leaders of the global trade union movement to lobby the leaders of international institutions like Christine Lagarde of the IMF and Angel Gurria from the OECD (and some of our friends in government like Swedish PM and former metal-worker union leader Stefan Lofven, who met up with Frances and others on Friday.) The global union team even took the opportunity to talk to International Olympics Committee head Thomas Bach, who is taking the IOC on a more worker-friendly path than Sepp Blatter’s scandal-ridden, buck-passing FIFA: Frances briefed him on the difference that trade union engagement made to London2012.
But tonight’s news from Greece, where Syriza have won a historic election victory – and maybe even an outright majority – is more of a challenge to the rubbish economic system that Davos represents. As ever, the point is to change the world, not merely interpret it.