French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, stands with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab before making the opening address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 27, 2010.
"Davos: What's the Point?"
Op-Ed, Washington Post
January 26, 2010
Author: Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
What's the point of Davos these days?
Joseph S. Nye, Jr. was one of five respondents to this question for the Washington Post's Point A—an occasional feature in which first impressions of a hot topic are solicted.
We live in a global information age, but we suffer from a "paradox of plenty." With information overwhelmingly plentiful, the scarcest resource becomes attention. Those who can seize our attention and guide us through the maze develop a form of soft power. Davos has convening power.
Davos is not alone in setting the agenda. The Sept. meeting of the U.N. and the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund play similar roles for governments. The Munich Security conference, with its mix of government and non-governmental experts, is the key forum for security specialists. But the Davos formula of mixing top corporate executives, government officials, and representatives of civil society has proven to be like honey to the media bears. Stories flow from Davos.
What good does it do? After attending nearly a score of annual meetings over the years, I have noticed that the conventional wisdom — whether gloom and doom or rise and shine — that summarizes each meeting often proves misleading. But to the extent that this little village in the Alps gets top leaders to raise their eyes above their inboxes and spend even a little time on global and humanitarian issues, it probably helps.
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