Davos is not only home of the super rich this week, there is also a strong contingent of humanitarian organisations. Their representatives rub shoulders with top executives in a bid to challenge the narrative, raise awareness and ultimately to eke out resources for their causes.
Food for thought for Davos
It is the 10th year at Davos for the United Nations World Food Programme.
The number of malnourished people worldwide is estimated to be close to one billion – nearly a seventh of the global population. The WFP’s mission is to reduce that number to zero.
That goal cannot be achieved without a huge increase in participation from the private sector – as the programme’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin explained to euronews.
“That’s why it’s so important that we are here, that we are visible, that we have the opportunity to not just engage one-on-one with the private sector, but to get them into the discussion about what it will take, and how they can help, to achieve the goal of a zero hunger world,” she said.
Critics of the World Economic Forum say that the elitist, cloistered gathering only reinforces the inequality of today’s world that the conference is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
But some leading humanitarian organisations, the World Food Programme included, believe that Davos can make a real difference.
An educational lesson from Hollywood
It is not just humanitarian organisations who come to the event to throw light on important causes. There is also a smattering of socially responsibly stars who come to raise awareness over a whole host of issues. This week Hollywood actress Goldie Hawn is in town and we spoke to her.
euronews: “Goldie Hawn, you are here to promote your educational initiative which tries to help kids find the emotional and social skills to succeed in life. What do you want to achieve in Davos?”
Goldie Hawn: “Well first of all, what we have done for 12 years is we have been very, very successful. It is an evidence based programme so there is no guess work anymore. Our children learn how their brains work, they understand how to take a brain break during the day, they understand stress, they become self-aware and they have a neurological corelet now because their emotions now have context. So they can regulate their emotion, they can handle their stress and they understand how to become empathetic and engage in the classroom.”
euronews: “You said you started this initiative 12 years ago. What made you do it, what was the trigger?”
Goldie Hawn: “The trigger really was looking at the symptoms our children were showing. These kids were opening up fire in their own classrooms, there was an advent of depression, there were more suicides than there ever should be with small children. There has been an advent of a tremendous amount of psychotropics that are being given to children today to calm them down. I don’t know what the longitudinal studies say or if there even are longitudinal studies on what these do to the developing brain. Kids are dropping out of school, there is a sense of malaise. We have too many things with our kids today to not look at this.
“We can’t look away anymore because we can’t drug our children completely because they are mis-behaving. We have to tend to the problem not the symptom.”
euronews: “So you are thinking about the skills children can leave with or enabling them to get those skills when they leave school. What are the fundamental skills you think children and young adults need to succeed in what is a very changing world?”
Goldie Hawn: “Actually it would be a much more optimistic look at things, realistically it is less reactive in terms of how you react to a situation, how you handle conflict resolution and ultimately how you begin to have compassion and understanding for a person sitting next to you. Creating community building, problem solving and that creates peace making.
“So if we want peace makers we have to give them the tools to regulate emotion, understand other people’s emotionality and know how to look at the whole picture to solve a real problem.”
euronews: “So here we have a huge business community as well as political leaders. How receptive are they to these new ideas?”
Goldie Hawn: “The wonderful thing that is happening in Davos today is an example of how this is actually basically exponentially grown so now we are working in the work place – so many corporations and businesses are implementing mindfulness techniques. Now we have all the data we could possibly need that takes us out of some strange stigma that this has to do with some strange religiosity which it doesn’t.
“It is a neurological construct. The brain has plasticity if you make the decision to live a healthier and happier life then there are modalities in which you can achieve, do and access to do so.”
euronews: “This programme has obviously absorbed your attention massively. There are also rumours of a possible comeback to Hollywood. Is there anytruth in that?”
Goldie Hawn: “Yes I am looking and doing things. But this has probably been the last 12 years of my life. It’s taken my heart, you know I have been working in the industry for a very long time and this has taken me to worlds which have created such happiness. I feel this functioning, this programme – I have to say we were one of the first that had it for children, we were one of the first that really looked at children, researched them under all of these things. Their cortisol levels we measured for them, their executive function capability we did so much so I am inspired by doing this because this creates change.
“I can go and make a movie and I can make somebody laugh, I can make somebody happy, I can make somebody and those of us who can do, but I think it is service, it is different doing what I am doing.”
Making the world a fairer place
So what has made an impact on delegates at the World Economic Forum, the heartfelt cry of humanitarian organisations, a particular lucrative business deal, or the sheer fact of being in Davos?
A key theme of this year’s event has been looking at how to ensure that the global economic recovery makes the world a fairer place.
But do participants believe Davos can push the big business agenda and help combat inequality at the same time?
“If you look for compassion, you can find it. If you look for cash, you can try and find it. I think Davos is the world’s greatest gym. We should all try and make the most of it,” opined Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Senior Advisor with the private equity firm Blackstone.
“I think businesses are putting cash into their compassion. And you see this every year – the commitments that are made at Davos. And they continue to make those commitments throughout the year,” said Kathleen Lacey, Senior Managing Director with Teneo Strategy.
Delegates are drawn to Davos by the big issues — but many also find it a uniquely sociable conference – made up of personal highlights and for Janet Payne, who is Group Manager for Investor Relations with Leighton Holdings, the attraction has been the energy.
“It’s what I expected, but more, more so. It’s just amazing – the number of people here, the variety of sessions you can go to. Just the vibe, the energy that’s there as well – it’s just fantastic,” she explained while for Angelo Pauperio, a Board Member at Sonae, it was a particular and unexpected meeting.
“Probably the moment when I met a good old friend that I didn’t imagine that I could meet here. He is now CEO of a large company. We met in other lives – but it was a very good moment, a very emotional moment,” Pauperio said.