What Has the WEF Really Accomplished in the Past Fifty Years?

The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum ran from January 21 until January 24 in Davos. The WEF continues to be a key event for the rich and powerful, but the rest of the humanity still suffers from endemic poverty, writes Alan Ortiz, President of the Philippine Council on Foreign Relations.

To many realists like myself, dialogue and discussion are always a good thing, especially from a tactical point of view, because it allows one to take the full measure of the person across the table or speaking on the platform and to evaluate whether he or she is friend or foe, partner or adversary, and whether that person is in pursuit of a worthwhile objective. Surely, the optimists will claim, fifty years of high level interactions among world “influencers” must have generated more peace than war, more collaboration than conflict, and more harmony than disarray in world affairs.

On the contrary, the pessimists will argue. In the years since 1970, our world has seen a maelstrom of conflicts on an unprecedented scale: armed conflicts, revolutions, coups, terrorist attacks, invasions, assassinations, civil wars. The degree of human suffering and misery from mass migrations, human trafficking, ethnic cleansing, genocide, plagues, enduring poverty, and natural calamities are alarming and horrifying. The unremitting drug abuse, corruption, and the wanton destruction of our environment are taking us down the path of self-immolation. In all of these disruptions, did the WEF dialogues and discussions make a difference? From the available evidence, the record is mixed and inconclusive. Beyond the glitter and prestige of rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, and of making pompous, grandiose, and hifalutin statements about world peace and sustainable management, we must again ask the hard and basic question: What has the World Economic Forum really accomplished in the last fifty years?

Also from the records of the last fifty years, we discern that there is no paucity of good intentions, just a sheer lack of understanding that failure to communicate and collaborate is not an option. The spectacle of enlightened presidents, kings, prime ministers, businessmen, and civil servants partaking of the nippy air of Davos, seeking to imbibe the swirling winds of hope and wisdom, will continue year after year. And yet the tumult, and the chaos of world affairs continue unabated. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The greatest contradiction is that the WEF continues to be a forum for the rich and powerful...while the rest of the humanity still suffers from endemic poverty. The WEF needs to stand up and declare a total war against poverty and use all its resources to do so.

But for Russia in particular, the WEF can be useful. Through the WEF and other similar forums, the leaders of Russia can demonstrate to all that a New Russia has emerged. Nearly twenty years of stable political management have created a new nation, ready to re-assume its rightful place as a progressive, innovative, and visionary global leader.

Donald Trump’s Speech

We may not like Trump nor his methods, but Russia and its friends must learn that in this modern age of the 4th industrial revolution (as coined by the WEF itself), power and influence are generated by high technology and a highly-trained and motivated work force. Trump made a well-crafted speech full of self-serving hyperbole. But, the essence of President Trump’s speech must not be missed: To assume global leadership, the United States must take care of its own house first.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.