Klaus Schwab:The World Economic Forum 2012, scheduled for January 25-29 in the remote Alpine resort of Davos, will take place against the backdrop of the world’s somber economic and political realities. For her third visit at Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will deliver the opening address, possibly reinforcing the need for collective action in response to the situation in the Eurozone and concerns about high unemployment and fiscal imbalances worldwide. Prime Minister David Cameron who is also expected, will certainly bring his British view on the UE political crisis. The list of this year’s invitees includes heads of state, central bankers and leaders from religious institutions, NGOs and social entrepreneurs. While admission is officially free of charge for these leaders, the total cost for other participants usually ranges between $20,000 and $40,000. A high price tag for being included in the 260 off-the-record discussions set to improve the state of the world, which this year will focus on “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models.” With 2'600 expected participants, this 2012 edition will be the biggest such gathering since its founding in 1971.

Professor Klaus Schwab, shared his vision on the choice and the importance of this year’s theme. Referring to the Forum’s Global Risks Report 2012, which had identified the 50 most pressing global concerns, he highlighted the difficulties of confronting them while “still burdened by the sins of our past.” Schwab pointed to the growing state of “dystopia,” implying the possibility of a downward spiral of the global economy, accompanied by social disruption, rising protectionism and nationalism. These trends threaten to reverse the achievements of globalization and to precipitate the emergence of critical fragile states, comprised of both emerging and developed countries. In the report, the failure of global governance is identified as a key geopolitical risk; it is also the most interconnected with the other 49 risks discussed in the document.

Despite a rather gloomy global picture, Schwab believes that “we are living in a great transformation, driven by geopolitical, economic, social and technological forces.” The future of capitalism, according to him, would no longer be determined by the scarcity of capital itself, but rather by the global shortage of human talent. More than half of the world’s population is now below 27 years old, the majority of whom are urban dwellers with increasing access to Internet technology. This state of affairs should be reflected in revised models of leadership, which can no longer rely on hard power alone and are increasingly calling for collaborative forms of engagement. Consequently, in addition to the existing community of Young Global Leaders (individuals in their 30s), the Forum has recently introduced the group of the Global Shapers. Comprised of young leaders in their 20s, the members of this newly-formed community are expected to actively partake in this year’s meeting, where the overwhelming majority (among 1,600 participants) will still be senior business officers from the Forum’s 1000 member companies.  “My wish is that the Annual Meeting 2012 will be much more than an economic forum – it should be a forum for the future of humanity,” declared Klaus Schwab, soon to turn 74. "We are in danger of completely losing the confidence of future generations," he said. "The question is what can we do, and what should we do, without looking for scapegoats and easy answers."

(Photo © DR)