x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Davos lacks windows to the real world

Delegates are cloistered in a world of artificial light for at least eight straight hours each day.

Davos // The World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual bash in Switzerland is supposed to provide a window to the world.

Nowhere else can you find such a range of participants, from presidents to chief executives to charity workers from as far afield as Sweden and Somalia, converging in one place to debate the world's problems.

Wander around the sprawling complex and you may find Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, sipping coffee, or the Barclays boss Robert Diamond tapping on his mobile, or David Cameron, the British prime minister, striding along a corridor.

Yet, as you walk around the centre that is home to the highbrow gathering you may notice something else: there are hardly any actual windows. Delegates are cloistered in a world of artificial light for at least eight straight hours each day.

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Perhaps WEF is trying to avoid the risk of delegates catching a glimpse of someone enjoying themselves skiing down one of the resort's alpine slopes.

After all, they might say, why do you need to look outside when you're able to connect with what's going on from the comfort of your swivelling leather armchair via Twitter on your iPad?

At times, however, the lack of windows augments to the feeling of a "Davos bubble", in which politicians and professors are cocooned. There they sit wrapped in their causes celebres, some seemingly without a care for what is happening beyond the forum's four walls.

At this year's gathering on Friday, delegates were calmly listening to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, talking about sustainable development. Outside, in the real world, more urgent and uncertain news agendas played out in Egypt and on markets around the globe.

Perhaps next year the WEF should get the glaziers in to remind the delegates that their theories and policies must be designed for the world outside.

tarnold@thenational.ae