DAVOS, Switzerland – The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting for 2014 in Davos, Switzerland from January 22-25. The official theme of the meeting was “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.” The focus of this year’s summit also touched upon the global economy and on pressing matters taking place in Iran, Syria and Israel/Palestine.
The World Economic Forum is a self-proclaimed “independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas,” with members from around the world who are established in both the public and private sector.
During its annual meeting, speeches were made from important individuals from all walks of life. These diverse individuals include the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, actor Matt Damon, Pope Francis, the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, and United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, to name a few.
In particular, Kerry’s speech attempted to dismiss the myth that the U.S. under the Barack Obama administration is detaching from the international community and the present issues.
He explained, “Far from disengaging, America is proud to be more engaged than ever, and, I believe, is playing as critical a role as ever in the pursuit of global peace, prosperity, and stability.” He also stressed the importance of using diplomatic strategies to help bring stability to countries, rather than the sole reliance on military power.
Although monetarily, the U.S. needs to increase their international affairs budget as an investment in the world’s poor, as it would turn them into our consumers, the Obama administration has recognized the major problem in the vast gap between the rich and the poor. Obama has mentioned previously that economic inequalities are a pressing issue both domestically and globally and that inequality “challenges the very essence of who we are as a people,” which was evident in Kerry’s speech.
Interestingly, a report by Oxfam, entitled “Working For the Few” was released about a week before the meeting in Davos which discovered the danger of the increase in the wealth of the richest people. The study found that 85 of the world’s richest people have the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest people in the world. The 3.5 billion people are also representative of half of the world’s population.
The study also discovered that the net worth of the wealthiest one percent of people in the world is $110 trillion, which is 65 times the amount of the net worth of the 3.5 billion poorest, which is again, half of the world’s population.
Correspondingly, the report reads, “This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems. Instead of moving forward together, people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown.”
Oxfam requested that the meeting in Davos focus on this major inequality and the threat it has on human advancement. It came at a convenient time and may have had an impact on the attendees at the meeting. Recommendations made by Oxfam include stopping tax skirting and avoiding the exchange of political favors for money.
The World Economic Forum did recognize that income inequality is a great risk to our global community, but whether or not results can come from this will be told with time.
Although Jon Stewart has comically called the forum’s meeting the “Money Oscars,” hopefully the meeting instills optimism in people with the monetary means to make a difference in alleviating global poverty.
Pope Francis described the intertwining of the messages from the report and the conference best, as he proclaimed, “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.”
– Danielle Warren