Founded in 1971 the World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international organization for public-private partnership. The Forum engages the foremost business, political and other leaders of society to shape global regional and industrial agendas. With globalization moving forward at a fast pace WEF has become to be one of the most influential international economic organizations. Membership is awarded to leading companies on recommendation. Truly independent and impartial WEF is not tied to any special interests or groups. The WEF works under supervision of the 7-member Swiss Federal Council, which constitutes the Federal Govt, serving as the collective executive head of govt of the state of Switzerland
Geopolitical shifts have created new challenges affecting global dynamics. Today non-state actors have reshaped their agendas, adjusted their capabilities and are able to challenge and disrupt not only national systems but global ones also. Focus is made during the Davos meetings on the rising public anger against global inequality and globalisation. Klaus Schwab believes, “to withstand this threat, countries cannot simply close themselves off. The only way forward is to make sure that globalization is benefiting everyone”. Nations must cooperate and interact on shared interests. WEF’s reputation for great integrity is derived from its commitment of being totally impartial. Not tied to any political, partisan or national interests and “committed to improving the state of the World”. Global leaders are called on “to renew the systems that have supported international cooperation in the past by adapting them for today’s complex, multi-polar world in ways that foster genuinely inclusive growth.” To quote WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab in 2017 “Responsive Leadership means recognizing the increasing frustration and discontent among those not experiencing economic development and social progress. Their situation will only become more uncertain with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on future employment”.
The annual meeting of WEF in Davos gives a platform to representatives of hundreds of companies, governments and social activists. Around the year different groups work and research on pressing problems of the world today such as climate change, corruption, migration and others. Members can engage in up to six different working groups. The Forum produces a series of research reports and engages in a number of initiatives that seek to tackle global challenges through public-private collaboration. Typically, more than 2,000 people are invited to attend, participate, or cover the event. Davos is a unique once-a-year opportunity bringing together the world’s most prominent politicians, heads of State and/or govt, business and industrial leaders, policy makers, academics and scholars, scientists, philanthropists, social workers, media personalities, etc under one roof to discuss and shape global and regional agendas relating to economics, health, environment, media, security, and a host of other topics. CEOs of multinational corporations mingle with world leaders and A-list celebrities to discuss a range of topics such as the global economy, commodity prices, environmental issues, etc.
WEF’s mission to “improve the state of the world” means engaging top global leaders to collaborate in shaping the global, regional and industry agendas. Davos gets your narrative not only heard but understood. While going there is important to make it happen you have to be heard in public sessions. A handful of Pakistani businessmen at Davos can never shoulder the burden of projecting Pakistan. Davos is a unique opportunity to showcase Pakistan, it is imperative that our major business leaders use the Davos platform to be counted as the outstanding entrepreneurs they are. The overwhelming consensus among the world’s rich, powerful and/or knowledgeable is that the WEF Annual Meeting at Davos truly remains the most important economic and socio-political event in the world calendar.
WEF’s “Partnership Against Corruption Initiative” (PACI), of which I am a member since 2013,gives strategic direction to WEF’s anti-corruption efforts, the meeting of this community of champions serves to promote business driven global and anti-corruption agenda, sharing best practices to improve their organizational resilience and joining forces to strengthen moves towards a more level playing field against corruption. More than 100 participant global leader companies and organisations such as Basel Institute, Transparency International, etc are in Vanguard. To quote David Seaton, Chairman and Chief Executive of Fluor Corporation (the former Chairman of PACI Vanguard), “it is time for leaders from businesses, govt and civil society to support game-changing initiatives to fight corruption and end bribery. We should align around a global agenda and a true multi-stakeholder partnership, creating a level playing field and supporting growth, competitiveness and trust in leadership. “Chatham House Rules” should not prevent mentioning the salutary role played by Secretary General OECD Angel Gurria. OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention represents the harmonized legal, regulatory and enforcement frameworks as the single most important initiative to help businesses operate on a level playing field against corruption. PACI intends working with govts at the national and social levels to reduce incidents of corruption in the life cycle of strategic infra-structure projects.
Pakistan’s private sector is represented – among others – by Pathfinder Group and Martin Dow Group, who have been organizing for many years events in Davos with the aim to promote a positive image of Pakistan. My son Zarrar Sehgal, a WEF Young Global Leader (YGL) represents the Group at Davos. The signature event is the traditional PAKISTAN BREAKFAST hosted jointly by the two GROUPs. Facing a serious crisis of image internationally, the PAKISTAN BREAKFAST has been successful in dispelling the negative perception before a very precocious audience. In 2018 former PM Abbasi was on the dot when he said, “There are two Pakistan’s, one is on the CNN and the other is the reality” reflecting that at times the international media has shown bias in very quickly disseminating any news that paints Pakistan in a negative manner. The many positive and good aspects of Pakistan are unfortunately overlooked or misreported many times. The huge gap between perception and reality was bridged by the Pakistan Breakfast. The guests at the event meet with senior Pakistan leaders in every walk of life to exchange views with a world audience in a very candid manner. Prime Minister Imran Khan was not able to grace the event this year.
It can be said without exaggeration that the current one day visit of the President of the WEF, Mr. Borges Brenda, formerly the Norwegian Foreign Minister, to Pakistan is closely related to the efforts that have been made over many years by Pakistani WEF members. Unfortunately, there has been a popular understanding that to spend so much money on so many people year after year is wastage. It even seems that the absence of PM Iran Khan this year was a sign of our government not understanding the importance that the WEF has come to represent. To quote from an earlier article of mine “Where it is the duty of our official diplomatic corps, aided by the government media machinery, to counter this negative perception, Davis is a living symbol of their continuing failure to cope with their primary task to work for Pakistan’s good in the international forums.”It is high time that this attitude is abandoned and the opportunities that may come from association with the WEF are availed of. Mr. Brenda’s one-day visit today even if for a short while – is important and should be an eye opener to Pakistan and the beginning of a fruitful cooperation in future. He will meet Pakistan Prime Minister Iran Khan and other members of the government, among them Omar Aye, Energy Minister, Nader Babar, Adviser on Petroleum to PM, Abdul Razzed Dagwood, Adviser to PM on Commerce, Adviser to the PM on Climate Change, Minister of Education Shafqat Mahmood and Zulfiqar Bukhari, Adviser to the PM on Human Resources as well as Sohail Mahmood, Foreign Secretary. This is the first visit of a high WEF official to Pakistan after almost twenty years and the names on the meeting list indicate the varied fields of interest that the WEF is having in view.
Along with the Chairman Martin Dow Group Ali Akhai, son of late Jawed Akhai, a visionary of extraordinary talent and a hard-core Pakistani Zarrar and I are hosting a lunch in honour of Mr. Brende in the course of which the guests will have an opportunity to personally meet the President of WEF and hear about the WEF agenda and how Pakistan can be included into it.
It is hoped that from the personal meetings with Pakistani officials new impulse is coming for better cooperation and integration of Pakistan into the global community economically, socially and in many other regards. On his part Mr. Brende will be able to personally understand the difficulties that Pakistan is facing and take away with him ideas for projects that could be started in future to Pakistan’s benefit.
The writer is a defence and security analyst