By Maria del Mar Logrono Narbona, Senior Adviser, ARDD
The conveners at Davos have failed once again to acknowledge that the current paradigm cannot address the challenges facing the world.
Held under the title “Cooperation in a Fragmented World,” the meeting focused on the impact of political divisions on the global economy, rather than on the socioeconomic fragmentation that current fiscal policies or climate change are having on the population worldwide. One would have expected a more in-depth reflection on the meaning of the title.
Shadowing Davos, OXFAM’s report on inequality explained how since 2020, the wealthiest 1% of the population has accumulated nearly twice the amount of wealth of the rest of 99%. (Oxfam, 2023). At the same time, climate activists warned once more that without urgent and steadfast action we are headed to self-destruction, and reminded us that climate change already endangers populations in most vulnerable habitats. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself highlighted climate change as an “existential challenge,” amidst a generally pessimistic reflection on the current state of the world that is witnessing widening inequality, raising costs of living, lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply-chain disruptions, and more.
Yet, Davos ended up being what it has always been: an elite meeting for self-serving purposes. As many intellectuals around the world have said in opinion articles in the past days, this club is for the world’s rich, and although it claims to be interested in human development, participants merely discuss how their profits will increase and how nations should be shaped to serve their goals. Some critics, have gone as far as stating that Davos “was — and is, a corrupt circle-jerk” (Jill Abramson, former editor of NYTimes).
For Middle Easterners, it was most painful to witness the intense focus on the support governments should give one country and one conflict, Ukraine, with participants seeming to forget that many other countries in the world, including Yemen, Libya and Syria in the Middle East, have for years been affected by destructive conflicts, and they also deserve attention. More worrisome, talk centered on supplying weapons, increasing military readiness, and offering large aid packages to Ukraine, without a thought for peace-building efforts and fighting the thriving global arms trade.
It was also disheartening, although by no means surprising, that no mention was made of the cost of the Israeli occupation, or of the social cost of large aid programs that, in the absence of debt-relief measures now threaten developing and poor countries with serious default on debts and inability to meet their obligations to their citizens, ultimately risking internal unrest.
As elsewhere around the world, governments in the Arab world are not willing, nor capable, to subdue powerful financial lobbies, be they transnational companies, banks or international financial institutions. Their incapacity and/or unwillingness means that average citizens in the region find themselves incapable of building democratic institutions and processes, as the economic interests of the few turn most other countries into sources of cheap labor, places where there is a gradual but steady deterioration of the working class protection systems .
Self-serving interests of the few control policies of entire countries, giving no consideration to human values and development goals that aim to ensure better living standards for people.
As climate activist Greta Thunberg stated with regards to climate action: “The changes that we need are not very likely to come from the inside (of the Davos meeting), rather I believe they will come from the bottom up Without massive public pressure from the outside, at least in my experience, these people are going to go as far as they possibly can. As long as they can get away with it, they will continue to invest in fossil fuels, they will continue to throw people under the bus for their own gain.”