The State of (Dis) Union – Insights from the WEF in Davos

January 30, 2023

A panel comprising the World Media Group’s top international journalists gathered in London earlier this week to report back on what went on behind closed doors at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. Chaired by Jonathan Birdwell, Interim Global head and Regional head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Economist Impact, speakers included Suzanne Lynch, Chief Brussels Correspondent, POLITICO Europe; Jeremy Kahn, Senior Writer, Fortune; Ayesha Javed, Senior Editor, TIME; and Dharshini David, Global Trade Correspondent, BBC News.

The goal of the session was to provide the audience who didn’t attend Davos with ‘finger on the pulse’ insights into the conversations that took place around business and the economy.

Click here to watch the full discussion and hear the panel’s point of view on the following:

  • The economic climate – recession or no recession?
  • The outlook for the Ukraine war
  • Tech and innovation – the development of Chat GPT and AI
  • The Net Zero transition – are we still on track?
  • Crypto – what is its current standing?
  • Does Davos give a platform for countries with questionable human rights standards?
  • Diversity and profile – is Davos still relevant?

Setting the scene, Suzanne Lynch described Davos as a very ordinary little town in the middle of Switzerland, transformed to the centre of power once a year. Journalists have unfettered access to corporate and political leaders with the boundaries removed as everyone’s ferried around the town together in little cars.

The theme for this year was ‘Co-operation in a fragmented world’. Birdwell asked members of the panel whether that resonated or what their own takeaway headline would be.

According to Jeremy Kahn, there’s still not a lot of cooperation going on. “I think there’s a lot of people talking about the need for cooperation. And yet, this kind of acknowledgement that they are geopolitics coming into play and borders going up between countries, and a lot of highlighting of the difficulty of cooperation given the current environment.

“Governments are competing with each other, both for things like semiconductor production that is considered of geostrategic importance, but also even in clean energy. There’s quite a lot of competition between states about who’s going to offer what subsidies to what companies to get them there. All that was happening even though the highlight was supposed to be about how we all cooperate and work together on some of these problems.”

Although that may be true of the public discussions, Dharshini David believes that what’s going on behind closed doors is more positive. “When you talk to some of the corporate leaders who were there you realise it’s a bit like COP 27 – that when we talk about cooperation, what really matters is what’s going on in those rooms that are tucked away; the things that we don’t really see or hear when we’re there.

“And that progress is being made at that sort of granular level with corporate leaders from different countries coming together or meeting senior government ministers and saying we need to work together on this. That makes me quite hopeful for things that are being achieved at Davos, and also what could be translated into the year ahead.”

Ayesha Javed agrees that it remains a place to network where important conversations happen. “The networking and the closed-door conversation are really where it is most useful,” she says. “I heard Keir Starmer saying on a podcast that he would rather be in Davos than Westminster because he felt the conversations were much more productive!”

Is the WEF in Davos still a key facilitator in driving important discussions around business and the economy? Watch the full video here and decide for yourself.