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Buzzword bingo at Davos

Becker Andreas Kommentarbild App
Andreas Becker
January 25, 2019

The World Economic Forum is pretty much like an executive summary of the state of the world. Each major topic has its buzzwords. If you think about them for too long, you can get a bit cynical, says DW's Andreas Becker.

Three men talking to an audience
Image: Colourbox/Studiostoks

Buzzword bingo, sometimes also dubbed "BS bingo," is an easy game that all can play. Each player draws up a list of executive-speak words, which they believe will be mentioned in an upcoming debate. The one to cross out all the words on his or her list first is the winner. Shouting "bingo!" is optional.

The World Economic Forum in Davos seems to be the perfect venue for playing this game. The business and political elites gathered there are so deep into using buzzwords that a high hit ratio is almost guaranteed.

Globalization 4.0 has to become more inclusive, fairer and above all more sustainable. Environmental damage has mankind faced with big challenges. The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises a high growth potential. But it also creates new problems, which have to be dealt with by the leaders in a proactive way, if countries want to remain competitive.

In all of this, a multilateral approach has to be found to arrive at win-win situations. This particular point was mentioned so often in Davos that US President Donald Trump must have felt as if he was being addressed personally (but he most likely wasn't listening).

Moral 4.0

Klaus Schwab, founder and master of ceremonies of the World Economic Forum, even demanded a remoralization of globalization. The question is where the code of morals has been in all the decades of celebrating buzzwords and slogans at Davos, with the world around us moving toward the state it's in right now.

But you'd have to be a cynic to be really enjoying the buzzword bingo in the Swiss Alps. The topics raised there are no doubt important, and the problems at hand are serious.

DW business editor Andreas Becker
DW business editor Andreas Becker

But when, finally, can the forum come up with genuine solutions, given that it's not even in a position to achieve its self-proclaimed goal of raising the number of female WEF participants well over 20 percent.

The forum may aspire to improve the state of the world (after all, this is its official motto), but companies would hardly pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership fees if the event were only about that.

For executives, Davos is the perfect place to meet each other and talk about potential business contracts without losing any time. On top of that, they can talk to heads of state and government to push public-private partnerships, another of those buzzwords.

Policymakers like to be here to meet their counterparts, convince investors and simply to be in the limelight and enjoy the extensive media coverage of every move they make.

Place of contradictions

Is Davos just a waste of time and money? Not entirely, perhaps. Participants have finally got the memo that something needs to change. WEF 2019 has seen the presentation of an astonishingly large number of environmental projects. Sometimes it felt like being at a forum of globalization critics demanding a new world. Davos is a place of contradictions.

Is anyone there actually changing their opinion because of all the grand debates in Davos?

Asked about why he had discussed his new documentary on climate change in Davos of all places, British nature filmmaker David Attenborough said without a trace of cynicism that given how many influential people were present at the forum, it would have been simply irresponsible not to use that opportunity.

Becker Andreas Kommentarbild App
Andreas Becker Business editor with a focus on world trade, monetary policy and globalization.