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A forum going nowhere

  • Published at 11:35 pm January 3rd, 2019
Is it really? REUTERS

Eventually, nothing is really obtained

Every year enveloped in the snow of the Swiss Alps convenes the World Economic Forum at Davos, where the leaders of the world discuss the changing environment and the solutions to the new knots that seem to continuously appear. 

Last year, the theme was about the new industrial revolution, and how it will take off in the wake of an environmentally conscious (sans the US) world. Leaders’ speeches, chief executives’ promises, and different shades of opinions from activists were on display. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with most such summits, the non-binding nature means that eventually, nothing really is obtained.

In a way, Davos has been over-hyped into something it isn’t -- a decisive global summit. It doesn’t represent the world, and global issues are merely debated without ever offering any real solutions,  adding to the feeling that consensus isn’t always the way forward.

Summits such as the G7, G20, and Davos add fuel to the pipes being smoked by those who are disenchanted with the dwindling ability of the United Nations.

The Davos agenda steers clear of contentious issues such as climate change even though Al Gore got yet another chance to present his agenda before the world. It is an agenda that is at best idealistic because factors continue to ensure no consensus will be reached. 

Japan’s withdrawal from the Whaling Commission is the latest example of how nations put their short-term interests before that of the world.

Whales, already endangered, will be hunted down, and naturally, no one will go to war over it. 

Switzerland and Norway know best what climate change is doing to the world, and though Scandinavia is doing its best to recycle and push the world towards non-fossil fuel, their argument falls on deaf ears for countries such as India and China. Their factories -- and the billowing smoke emanating from their chimneys -- continue churning out products in increasing numbers. Once again it’s a matter of cheap fuel rather than the green future that prevails.

Chief executives of transnational companies jump at the opportunity to have their voices heard, promising eco-friendly solutions before returning back to their corporations to plan their next expansion venture -- including tearing the heart out of the Earth. They claim they can be part of the solution before even admitting they are part of the problem. 

Given the status quo, they have seemingly no plans to fight environment degradation, disease, and poverty. Rumours of a one-time treatment of diabetes are being kept carefully under wraps, and no one wants to take ownership of malnutrition in Africa and Yemen.

Yet these problems, massive as they may be, aren’t unshakeable mountains. 

The world’s population is growing in the wrong parts of the world, and negative growth countries are focusing more on conservation and recycling.

With ageing populations and low birth rates, they will be running short of people for whom all the fancy new processes are being prepared. 

Elsewhere, the struggle is to feed an increasing number of mouths against a backdrop of growing shortage of cropland and decreasing land fertility. There are some hard agricultural decisions to take, and the answers are not clear.

Davos will lose relevance unless it can redesign itself to being a forerunner of solutions that can then be perused at the UN General Assembly. Bloated with bureaucracy and a plethora of processes, the body is already feeling the pinch of a cutback of funds from its main benefactor the US. The cut is deep, both financially from the US, and the subsequent wound it inflicts on causes. Half of the bureaucracy adequately trimmed is perhaps one answer to the issue. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist. He can be reached at [email protected]