UNITED NATIONS. DAVOS, THE MAN

 

1 FEBRUARY 2013

DAVOS, THE MAN

'Tis the Davos season. Any official worth his or her prominence; businessmen worth his or her bank account; or divas worth his or her public exposure, were making their way from the Zurich airport (preferably) through the Alpine snowy roads to the former ski resort that has become the symbol of accomplishment.

Microsoft's Bill Gates and his mentor, the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, blend with Mexico's Carlos Slim (now considered richer than both); newly-introduced billionaires from the former Soviet Republics like Georgia and Azerbaijan -- let alone Kazakhstan; German executives (recognized for the morning ski runs); senior government officials from everywhere followed by a specific group of journalists who are seen but not heard there -- they merely listen and report, with the haughty aura of the newly arrived.

The U.N. Secretary General is always there; his Spokesman -- every Spokesman -- dutifully reporting every handshake or head nod to no one in particular, though -- of course -- for posterity. Most Gulf oil-rich chieftains compete for the honour of shivering all the way from Geneva (more pleasant, similarly discreet, bankers). Newspapers, television and video around the world chronicle not only the varied themes of discussion, but the worthwhile movements of participants from Germany's Angela Merkel to California's Sharon Stone.

Very few outside the valley know that not all those reported participants are actually in the same central location. The most valued by the Management are placed in a central Hof where only registered guests can roam unchecked by very polite yet firm guards talking to their sleeves. The less important are spread nearby. Pompous columnists pretending to be the centre of the universe are mostly placed on the outskirts; their access to the glorified areas measurable by the tone of their reports. One of the most competent Public Relations firms handles public events.

What is really impressive is not the number of influential and prosperous people that assemble in a tiny snowy village in the middle of Switzerland's fierce winter.

The most impressive accomplishment is actually that of the initiator of Davos, Professor Klaus Schwab. Single-handedly, with little help from his friends, the German enterprising businessman/thinker managed to build the most influential global network -- and an intriguing conspiracy theory that goes with it -- where the most powerful men and women compete for the exclusive significance of being there, even if it meant paying over $100,000 per head for finding out what other people really looked like with snow boots!

Reportedly, the non-profit enterprise started in 1971 with the main aim of introducing European companies -- particularly in Germany -- to the intricacies of the American prosperous business and its influential political scene. Eventually, it built on the interest of American companies to rush out to Europe, then extended to the newly-emerging Asian "tigers," particularly Japan and Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, then the big prize a few years ago, of having Chinese officials join the show. It was brought to international prominence when Professor Schwab succeeded in persuading Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev (and his late wife Raisa) in leading a debate of obvious interest to U.S. and Europe on his perception of Perestroika, Glasnost, and prospects of change. High-level participation by curious senior officials opened the gates to one of the most interesting -- and enterprising -- ventures.

The Chinese are quoted as saying that everyone gets three chances in life; but if you see one, seize it right away -- you may have overlooked the other two. The opportunity offered to Professor Schwab was seized, evolved, and well-managed.

From an article describing a "Stakeholder Theory" as a professor at the University of Geneva, followed by a new approach to the "concept of global competitiveness," Dr. Schwab managed to pursue and consolidate his perception of Spaceship Earth. Millions of potentially impressive enterprises faded away, even with more money and brain power than the initial gatherings in initially obscure Swiss locations. Regardless of all other definitions, Davos is an exceptional example of a good opportunity managed to a constant better. If Professor Klaus now is able to sit back -- even for a moment -- and watch the world's most updated rich and powerful glide by, he has earned it the old fashioned way: he worked for it.