'Occupy' protests reach Davos as world leaders tackle issues
Published 24/01/2012 | 05:00
THE 'Occupy' movement, which went global after protests against Wall Street last year, is camping in igloos to bring its argument with the super-rich "1pc" to Davos.
It is a reminder to the leaders of finance and industry at the World Economic Forum (WEF) of the resentment that is leading to questions about the future direction of capitalism.
"At meetings the rest of society is excluded from, this powerful '1pc' negotiates and decides about the fate of the other 99pc of this world," says David Roth, 'Camp Igloo' organiser and head of the Swiss centre-left's youth wing.
Mr Roth's group has set up camp in sub-zero temperatures and snow to "occupy" the WEF in a car park just outside the security cordon around the meeting that has become a byword for globalisation.
Few of the 2,000 visitors are likely to see the camp by the train station, many preferring to travel by private jet or helicopter from Zurich. A one-way trip costs 5,100 Swiss francs (€4,300). Police arrested two men suspected of scrawling 'SMASH WEF' on the walls of the Swiss National Bank in Zurich last week. They also stopped an unauthorised anti-WEF demonstration in the capital Berne on Saturday.
In its Global Risk Report earlier this month, the WEF warned that a backlash against rising inequality risked derailing the advance of globalisation and threatened growth.
Rising youth unemployment, a retirement crisis among pensioners dependent on debt-burdened states and a wealth gap have sown the "seeds of dystopia," according to the report, based on a survey of 469 experts and industry leaders.
Klaus Schwab, a former business school professor who launched the annual get-together in 1971, is calling for more humility from executives who, he says, "have still not learned the lessons from past mistakes".
"Dystopia, the opposite of utopia, could precipitate a downward spiral of the global economy, pulled by social disruption, protectionism, nationalism and populism," he said.
A survey of 1,200 experts that the WEF published yesterday showed fear of a major geopolitical disruption over the next year had risen significantly to 54pc from 36pc last quarter.
Ahead of this year's Davos meeting, based on the theme 'The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models', everybody is adding their two cents to the debate on the state of the world.
In a 'Call to Action' ahead of Davos, 11 leaders of international organisations, including IMF head Christine Lagarde, said economic growth, jobs and protectionism were the top worries at the start of 2012.
Absent this year will be Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Swiss central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand, Greece's former prime minister George Papandreou and UBS chief Oswald Gruebel, all felled in recent months. Rupert Murdoch is not expected. (Reuters)