The World Economic Forum and Global Poverty
In the realm of international relations, there are countless organizations that have complex acronyms and unclear operations. The biggest and best-known organizations are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which often obfuscate lesser-known organizations, such as the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum and global poverty link which this article will explore while addressing the organization’s purpose.

What is The World Economic Forum?

The World Economic Forum is an international organization that emerged in 1971, congregating leaders in politics, business, culture and society to address issues and facilitate solutions on a global, regional and industrial scale. The pinnacle of the organization occurs every January in the form of an annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland at the organization’s headquarters. Global elites gather at the Swiss ski resort and discuss all manner of topics, ranging from the latest in technology and innovation to critical issues like rising global income inequality and global poverty generally.

Despite its standing as an independent nonprofit, people often confuse or associate the World Economic Forum with the United Nations, partially due to its focus on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These ambitious objectives range from broad, borderline idealistic ones such as No Poverty and End Hunger to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Reduced Inequalities.

What Does The World Economic Forum Do?

In places like the World Economic Forum, world leaders and officials access the progress of the SDGs and evaluate what their statuses are and what they need for the future. For instance, a September 2018 article emphasized the success of the World Economic Forum’s initiative in reducing poverty, reducing the total amount of people living on less than $1.90 a day to 655 million people, or about 9 percent of the world’s population. The article cautions against too much hope, however, forecasting that the goal of ending poverty by 2030 will fall 480 million people short, or about 6 percent of the population. These figures come from a World Bank report portioning some of the blame on many countries failing to meet a U.N. target of 0.7 percent of economic output on aid, a sentiment that the London-based Overseas Development Institute supports.

How does the World Economic Forum intend to combat this shortcoming? In an October 2019 announcement, the forum proclaimed a theme for the January 21-24, 2020 meeting: Stakeholders in a Cohesive and Sustainable World. Reinforcing its commitment to the SDGs and the Paris agreement of 2015, participants will solidify a meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ a principle that companies should meet the needs and requirements of all of its stakeholders, including the general public. The World Economic Forum will emphasize six areas including Ecology, Economy, Technology, Society, Geopolitics and Industry, in an application of this philosophy. All of this will align with the forthcoming Davos Manifesto 2020, mirroring the Davos Manifesto of 1973, which founder and Chairman Klaus Schwab believes will “reimagine the purpose and scorecards for governments and businesses.”

Conclusion

Some criticize the World Economic Forum for being an aloof, exclusive assortment of billionaires and powerful people, exactly the kind of people global inequality directly benefited. Participants at Davos do seem to be aware of this, identifying rising inequality, protectionism and nationalism as byproducts of the globalization that they supported. Klaus Schwab, The World Economic Forum’s founder, realizes that globalization created many winners, himself included, but that the losers now need recognition and assistance. It can be difficult to attribute any direct action to the World Economic Forum, as its participants act mostly independently of it, though informed by discussions and insights gained at it. However, given the overall rhetoric and specific support of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals, the World Economic Forum and global poverty clearly intertwine as the organization positions itself as a beneficial actor for the entire globe.

– Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr