Discussing Inequality with Billionaires: My First Trip to Davos


AO Center Davos, picture from the outside of the building in winter with snow, 2009

By Anna Macdonald, Control Arms Director

I’m on my way to the World Economic Forum for the first time. More accurately, I’m waiting to go to Davos, the mountain ski resort where the WEF takes place. I’m hanging around at Zurich airport for the shuttle bus, not being one of those travelling by private jet or helicopter (for whom the logistics pack provides some helpful landing information, giving insight into the profile of a typical participant).

Preparing to come here has been fascinating in itself. Davos boasts a bewildering array of discussions and panels to attend, with a participants list that’s basically a Who’s Who in global influence. But will discussions really come up with practical solutions to reduce extreme inequalities and conflict ? (Hint, ending tax havens for the super-rich and stemming arms flows would be a start for both).  It’s urgent to do so – Oxfam released a report on global inequality this week which reveals that the world’s 62 richest people (almost all of whom are men) own as much as half the world – 3.5 billion people, a figure so shocking in its extremity its hard to comprehend.

The level of humanitarian need is also overwhelming. Chronic conflicts in Africa and “newer” crises in the Middle East have stretched a humanitarian system that now has a $15 billion shortfall. I’ll be facilitating a discussion at the WEF on new ways to close this humanitarian funding gap, a challenge Ban Ki-Moon this week described as “solvable”, and am looking forward to the expert insights from some of the High-Level panel that examined this.

I’ll be blogging and tweeting this week on what its like as a Davos first-timer, what the discussions and panels are like, whether anyone actually follows the dress code of “casual” (seems very unlikely), and if engaging in discussions between the private and public sectors can generate some new and stimulating solutions.

Follow the discussions on Twitter at #WEF #WEFcivilsociety and #Davos.