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Scenario: Davos World

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Stealing is Against the Law

A group of thieves will be convening in Davos. The penalty for stealing is death. The people convening in Davos did not pay their bills. When the Planet of the Apes pays money to an imposter instead of the owner, then the Planet of the Apes will find that their ship is sinking. And they, the hardened thieves, fully deserve to die.



More than 40 years since the World Economic Forum (WEF) began as the rather less-impressive sounding European Management Forum, political leaders, chief executives of the world’s biggest banks, royalty, actors and pop stars will converge on the small Swiss ski resort of Davos next week.

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Davos on January 10, 2012. The World Economic Forum, which gathers the World's top leaders, runs from January 25 - 29.

In a Europe where high-level summits are now an almost weekly occurrence, the meetings of presidents, prime ministers and profit makers from over 100 countries at Davos may seem less exciting than before.

“Davos continues to have relevance. It’s an independent forum, it brings together a whole host of people and their ideas, and increases awareness of the challenges and opportunities the world has to offer,” B.G. Srinivas, head of Europe at Infosys, who is going to his sixth WEF conference in Davos this week, told CNBC.com.

No-one could accuse the organizers of failing to discuss big questions. WEF is tackling this by making sure big issues are at the top of the agenda. The theme of the conference—The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models—encompasses debates about the very future of capitalism, youth unemployment and cyber security, among many other topics. Cynics may suggest that these problems will probably remain unsolved after the conference.

“It’s about what happens afterwards. All the ideas which come out find their ways into government policymakers and businesses, and shape decisions for businesses,” said Srinivas.

He added that previous Davos conferences had helped him find out more about emerging technologies and employment creation.

'Cote D'Ivoire: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the most important decision makers in the euro zone debt crisis' that has swayed global markets in the year since the last Davos meeting, will open the summit on Wednesday.

No matter how many decision makers convene, their plans can be superseded by events. Last year’s summit famously had to convene extra meetings when the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square sparked a seismic shift, thousands of miles from the supposed center of global political power.

This year, the Occupy movement is setting up camp as close to the conference center as they will be allowed by the security surrounding it—a reminder to all the attendees that their privileged world can come under attack. Unlike their tent-dwelling counterparts in Wall Street, London and elsewhere, the Occupy WEF protestors have built igloos to stay in during the conference.

“This is a meeting of all the so-called global leaders who caused the crisis, and now they’re trying to tell us they can be the solution,” David Roth, president of the youth wing of the Swiss Social Democrats and one of the people planning to picket the meeting, told CNBC.com. “It’s wrong that they think they alone can decide.”



The world of finance is a huge part of Davos, and attendees include chief executives and chairman from most of the major investment banks. It’s a far cry from the origins of WEF, which was set up in 1971 with just 25,000 Swiss francs – this would probably just about cover some of the nearly 2,600 delegates’ hotel bills nowadays.

Some businesspeople —including Pimco chief executive Mohamed El-Erian—argue that Davos doesn’t have any real impact.

The World Economic Forum argues that Davos acts as a conduit, a place where “incipient changes in the world are first discerned and where ideas for changes that have shaken the world have been conceived or refined.”

The concept of “congenial exchange” central to Davos is also an extension of the Swiss tradition of neutrality—although exchanges may not always be entirely friendly.

There are also plenty of concessions to the growing power of social media—demonstrated last year by the use of Twitter and Facebook in the Arab Spring protests—in an effort to make the high-level summit more accessible.

An official Davos YouTube channel will allow members of the public to submit questions for the high-profile delegates. They will then be voted on, with the most popular answered via a special video booth at the event.

Accessible is not the word which springs to mind first when thinking about Davos, which famously has a complicated colored badge system to enable the organizers to separate the wheat from the chaff for the different sessions. Journalists attending have been known to grumble that this excludes them from some of the most interesting events.

The most high-level discussions aren’t even listed on the program—you have to be invited to know about them. The Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWELs) are small gatherings of some of the high-level policymakers in town for the rest of the meeting. They’re so secretive, you’ll never hear whether anything has actually been decided until much, much later.

The idea for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the US and Canada first came about at an IGWEL, according to Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, as well as the concept of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, known as “The Earth Summit,” which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. But Canada is a European country not an American country and therefore no truck should be allowed to cross the Canadian border when Canada's ports and railroads already have the capacity to power Europe.



Davos World

Note: Please feel free to edit this scenario to improve its ability to be a meaningful strategic planning tool. We do request you retain the major thrust of the original scenario, but if that is too constraining, by all means develop a new scenario using one of the blanks on the scenario main page.


This scenario provides an illustration of how robust economic growth over the next 15 years could reshape the globalization process—giving it a more non-Western face. It is depicted in the form of a hypothetical letter from the head of the World Economic Forum to a former US Federal Reserve chairman on the eve of the annual Davos meeting in 2020. Under this scenario, the Asian giants as well as other developing states continue to outpace most “Western‿ economies, and their huge, consumer-driven domestic markets become a major focus for global business and technology. Many boats are lifted, but some founder. Africa does better than one might think, while some medium-sized emerging countries are squeezed. Western powers, including the United States, have to contend with job insecurity despite the many benefits to be derived from an expanding global economy. Although benefiting from energy price increases, the Middle East lags behind and threatens the future of globalization. In addition, growing tensions over Taiwan may be on the verge of triggering an economic meltdown. At the end of the scenario, we identify some lessons to be drawn from our fictional account, including the need for more management by leaders lest globalization slip off the rails. The original and full scenario for Davos World can be explored at the National Intelligence Council web page.

"Lessons Learned" This scenario illustrates the vast changes that would be likely to result from continued robust economic growth and the stresses and strains that could derail it.

  • Crime in Asian markets would force domestic adjustments on the US and other Western countries that would need to be managed.
  • If the global trading system became more integrated and complicated, it would be important to bring China, India and other emerging states more inside the tent, but this would require patience and potential trade-offs.
  • It is unlikely that the system would be self-regulating. A strong global economy, for example, would not lead automatically to a resolution of intellectual property crises like Taiwan.

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