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An unbiased, non-corporate perspective on what it was really like to attend the World

Upon arriving in Davos, I involuntarily felt intimidated; I had yet not even gotten out of the car that had brought me into this small Swiss village 2.5 hours from Zurich. I don’t know if this apprehension was a foreshadowing of the overwhelm and awe that I would feel in the next three days or just sleep deprivation from jetlag, but retrospectively, I suspect the prior.

This year, the World Economic Forum celebrated the 50th anniversary of their “commit(ment) to improving the state of the world.” This mission, in theory, sounds riveting and this year’s theme, “stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world”, particularly tickled the liberal bone in my body. It might be relevant to note here that I have fairly progressive views on most socio-political issues; at the same time, though, I do not endorse extremism in any policy decision. I prioritize solutions that aren’t simply overarching or conceptual but instead anticipate and resolve for the economic and societal implications trickling all the way down to an individual level.

Much to my dismay, unfortunately, the propositions by global leaders at WEF, while forward-thinking, were notional and by activists were factual but impractical. At a panel, for instance, an activist demanded Amin Nasser, the President & CEO of Saudi Aramco, the company with the world’s second-largest crude oil reserves and second-largest daily oil production, to close all coal mines in order to reduce their carbon footprint. In response, Nasser acknowledged the problem but argued that it is a transitional process. Yes, closing all coal mines is ideal but unrealistic and yes, the claim that reduction in coal-reliance is transitional is true but intangible.

I could give you a hundred other examples from WEF20 wherein, on the one hand, campaigners called for extreme, non-viable measures to combat an issue and on the other hand, business leaders made almost scripted abstract comments, dodging their responsibilities and protecting their interests. There was no middle ground: no actionable next steps were discussed, let alone agreed on. As an objective spectator hoping for concrete actions for advancement, the entire exercise seemed futile. Everyone had come to push their own agendas instead of pushing for actual, practical solutions.

Although disappointed in the undertakings (or lack thereof) at the forum, the silver lining is that I learned a lot about leadership, patience, organization, and a significant number of new, current buzz words.

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