Davos 2015: Final Report From the World Economic Forum

From kings to presidents, from chief executive officers to rock stars and from NGO executives to a few renowned artists, 2500 participants made their way this year with their 1700 jest to the overly guarded Davos.

 The theme of the annual World Economic Forum meeting was “The new global context”. It started on January 21th and went on for four days in the Swiss Alpine town. Trying to follow the event, I have come across an overwhelming amount of numerical illustrations, graphs, statistics and percentages of the four-day luxurious event. So many that I started writing down the most striking ones from the moment I got myself confusing the number of jets with the number of female participants.

Gender parity

Less than a fifth of the 2,500 participants that attended this year’s World Economic Forum were women. Although the percentage increased from last year’s low 15%, the number still remains extremely disproportionate.

More specifically:

  • Only 17 per cent of Davos’ participants are female.
  • 20 per cent of the participants in total were from Greater China, North America and Central and Eastern Europe. Between 15 -20 per cent of those attending from Latin America, Africa and Western Europe are female.
  • Around 10 – 15 per cent of participants from the MENA region, Asia Pacific (excluding China), South Asia and Russia are women.

These numbers might be striking but there is no such sharp contradiction if we reflect the percentage to the general female presence in leading positions and the job industry. Gender parity still remains a long distant dream even if we take into consideration the developed West.

In one of the panel discussions called “Ending Poverty through Parity” the American journalist Katie Couric reminded that only 13 women all over the globe hold their nations highest leading position while in the US only 20 per cent of the parliament members are women. For the sake of the argument, a WEF study that was conducted last year concluded that it will take at least 80 years for these numbers to reach 50%. Do you really think we should wait that long before we start taking action on our own?

Emma Watson, the Harry Potter star who attended Davos, unveiled a new gender equality initiative, saying the effort is aimed at bringing “an end to the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally”. The famous actress is already involved in the HeForShe campaign as the UN Women goodwill ambassador— which seeks to enlist men in the push for equal rights for women — since its launch in September in New York.

Now she announced the Impact 10x10x10 pilot project which is designed to promote gender equality by working with governments, corporations and universities “and having them make concrete commitments to gender equality,” as Watson said. 

The younger the better

The average age of a Davos 2015 participant is 53 for men and 48 for women. On the one extreme of the rank 50 participants of WEF this year were under the age of 30. The youngest of all was the 22 years old Cameroonian Alain Nteff, co-founder of Gifted Mom, a mobile health platform in Central Africa.

Many of those upcoming leaders are part of two special networks and arrived for the very first time in Davos. Global Shapers is a global community of leaders who declare commitment in saving and shaping the future of the world, all of whom are between 20 and 30 years old. The second is called the Young Global Leaders, also a community of young leaders under the age of 40. It is an integral part of the World Economic Forum and declares as their main objectives the values of collaboration, education and action. 

Who spoke about inequality?

“A richer world, but for whom?” This session chaired by BBC’s journalist Evan Davis was one of the many debated devoted to the global economic growth, inequality and poverty. The topic of inequality was one of the four major pillars at the 45th World Economic Forum Meeting. Members of the panel were IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and Winnie Byanima  Executive Director of the charity organization Oxfam International. The later had warned earlier this week that she will attend the event in order to make sure that the world’s leaders will have to face the uncomfortable realities.

The elite oligarchs declared worried about inequality. They claim that their goal is to “improve the state of the world” as the hanged posters all over the conference venue in Davos showed. Once can see how grotesque this statement sounds if we consider the latest facts revealed by the Oxfam report, indicating that in current trends the richest 1% of the population will hold more than the rest 99% put together by 2016. Income inequality has been growing in an unprecedented scale while 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population.

Although the world is getting richer and more advanced, not all people have the chance to feel it. North America and Europe account for 67 per cent of Davos participants, even though these continents are home to less than one-fifth of the global population. Bearing this in mind, Europe and North America still account for some 60 per cent of the world’s GDP. At the same time in Africa the absolute number of people living on less than 2 dollars a day has been doubled since 1981.

Laura Tyson, professor of business administration and economics at the University of California in Berkley, said in Davos that much good work had been done on many fronts since the global financial crisis in 2008. But addressing income inequality was not among them. This means that despite the accumulated wealth in the developed world, most of the countries have been deeply harmed by the last financial crisis. Wages are stagnated under this regime of privatisation, deregulation and low taxes on the rich.

The only exception to this trend in recent years has been Latin America. Progressive governments all over the continent turned their back on a disastrous economic model and foreign involvement took back resources from corporate control and slashed inequality. The number of those living on less than $2 a day has dropped from 108 million to 53 million in less than a decade. Now Europe faces a similar trend. The left-wing party in Greece called Syriza is the first to be elected in Europe in order to go against tough policies which the last 7 years threatened basic living standards in the southern country and elsewhere. Despite the assumption that was expressed in Davos the new PM Alexis Tsipras, will flinch and continue with the current economic policy, many more fed up countries are expected to follow the path of Greece in a boomerang effect

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