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Davos, The Slow Melt Into Irrelevance

The Davos Forum was once a true shaper of our collective future in a globalized world. Today it is beyond its expiry date, even if global solutions to global problems are needed more than ever.

photo of snow at Davos with a sign to the Davos Forum

A snowy 2018 edition of the World Economic Forum in Davos

Xu Jinquan/Xinhua via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — For almost three decades now, perched in the Swiss Alps, has been the sunny face of a globalization that works.

It was the place, in the 1990s, where I understood for the first time the impact of the digital revolution. Davos was a place where one could meet Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk or Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, up close, and far away from South Africa or the Middle East.

It was also there that the new democracies of Eastern Europe took their first steps into the free-market economy and where emerging countries could be paired up with international investors.

This era, we must say, is now truly over. The dream-like world of Davos, the world of the free flow of goods and capital, the world of globally integrated supply chains, and technology designed for the common good, has run into perils it did not or could not predict.

The world has fractured, walls have reemerged, and the 2023 edition is being held on the same continent as the first high-intensity war in Europe since 1945.

The WEF mistakes 

The last truly notable initiative of Davos will remain a historic error: the red carpet rolled out to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2017, to allow him to present himself as the savior of the global system of free trade. It was a clever move with new U.S. President Donald Trump moving into the White House, yet misguided in the face of the evolution of Chinese power.

The Davos Forum is like a cartoon character that keeps running

COVID-19 and geopolitical rivalries in the world have exposed the expiry date of a certain model of globalization. Davos accompanied the rise of China as "the world’s factory" in its ability to provide cheap goods for export, but did not see the growing demand for the regionalization of production, or even "decoupling" with China on sensitive technologies.

The Davos Forum is like a cartoon character that keeps running even when the ground disappears beneath its feet, only to realize too late that it is running into the void.

The annual meeting in the Swiss resort remains a good networking opportunity for big business, but it has lost the compass of globalization that it had once embodied with delight — and profit.

Photo of F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shaking hands at the Davos Forum in 1992

F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January 1992.

World Economic Forum

A new Davos?

Paradoxically, the Alter-globalists, whose rhetoric had been in direct opposition to that of Davos, have also experienced a simultaneous loss of relevance: the parallel society they had promoted has run out of steam.

We are wedged in an unsettling inflection point. Globalization has some worthy remnants, but it is more the legacy of the last 20 years than a promise for the future. Climate change and current geopolitics make this all too clear.

Tomorrow is hard to envision because of the current high political tensions. What will our relationship with China look like in three or five years? What will be the impact of our decisions — or non-decisions — on climate ? And most urgently, how will the various scenarios for the war in Ukraine influence our world?

It is safe to say that the answers to these existential questions won’t be provided by Davos: it is no longer its role. What is left to do is to invent a different kind of Davos for the 21st century that is less elitist, more inclusive — simply more human.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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