DAVOS, Switzerland — Much of the news, when it comes to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum this year, has centered on Occupy WEF. The encampment — a five-minute walk from the Hotel Seehof, and hidden in a parking lot behind a snow bank — housed a mixture of both press and occupiers. Two yurts, a small igloo and a temporary shed were adorned with banners in English and German. Buses and cars were parked nearby as a light snow fell.
When I arrived, I found David Roth, a participant in the movement who also serves as president of the young Social Democrat Party in Switzerland.
“It’s really necessary to do an Occupy movement here,” said Roth, who has been featured frequently in news reports chronicling the movement.
Asked about the Global Shapers — an international community of social activist leaders under 30 — attending the conference, Roth noted that some had come to the camp, with Shaper Jeronimo Calderon making a particularly distinct impression. But a few good impressions and extensions of good will on the part of some of the Shapers was not enough to warm Roth to the idea of the Forum.
“I wouldn’t go to this WEF; it makes no sense,” said Roth, blaming WEF founder Professor Klaus Schwab for not being willing to meet with the occupiers outside of the fenced and guarded conference center where most of the events were taking place with world leaders.
“It’s been really confusing,” said Edward Sutton, an American expatriate participating in the Occupy WEF camp. He went on, calling the indirect communications with the Forum “hilarious.” Sutton, originally from Minnesota, preferred not to disclose the details of his expat status — a status he said he didn’t regret until the Occupy movement started this past fall.
Asked about the Global Shapers, Sutton did not sound impressed. “I really feel like that’s lip service on the part of Klaus Schwab,” he said, calling the number of Shapers in the Forum insufficient.
“If they were really dedicated to improving the state of the world, you guys would outnumber them,” said Sutton, referring to the Forum’s older members. “He’s gotta put his money where his mouth is.”
“My message to Mr. Schwab,” said Laurent Moeri, another member of the movement, “would be to come and have a look at how we communicate. We don’t need barbed wire, we don’t need 5,000 police officers to bring our message through. We communicate with the heart. We might not be what he regards as A-players, but we are the majority and we are finding a way of discourse that is led by the heart and not by the rational mind.”
But money, meetings, Shapers, security to protect world leaders and even Schwab aside, both camps exist on common ground when it comes to new ideas. “Let’s try to find solutions from the bottom up,” said Moeri — a conclusion rendered all the more profound given a prediction made by New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman on Saturday morning.
Moeri’s wish, according to Friedman, is already coming true.
Friedman said, during one of the conferences main gatherings, that the “sweet spot” for innovation in politics and policy was moving down.
The shared sentiment also serves as proof that, from cozy meeting rooms ensconced behind barbed wire to cold igloos in the middle of a Davos parking lot, there is a common understanding that the old definitions of global power are quickly fading for both young and old.
Kolawole is a Global Shaper attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. She is the editor of Ideas@innovations and On Giving.
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