A new spirit of thoughtfulness

On this, my fourth visit to Davos, I have been curious to see if the recession has transformed the attitudes of the captains of world capitalism who come here to network. My past World Economic Forums have all been dominated by a smug, self congratulatory mood of corporate success and boundless optimism for wealth creation in the future.

True, there have been attempts by the organisers to stimulate thoughtfulness on environmental questions and some fashionable social causes like the need for cheap generic drugs against aids.

But we have always struggled to get a hearing for trade union concerns about excessive speculation in financial capitalism, rising inequality, the vulnerability of many workers to the pressures of globalisation, and the need for checks and balances on the corporate sector.

So this year, will I and my trade union colleagues continue to be voices in the bleak Swiss landscape? Can I resist the temptation to goad the corporate titans, who, understandably, are fewer in number than in recent years, with taunts of “I told you so”?

Should I call – as I believe should be done – for criminal proceedings to be launched against those chief executives of failing banks who cashed in share options at the top of the boom, and for compensation to be paid to shareholders by others who failed abysmally but took handsome golden parachutes?

But most of all, I am looking for an end to complacency, and for a new spirit of thoughtfulness about inequality, building sustainable investments and jobs in the real economy.

Let’s see…

 John Monks is general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation

Davos blog 2009

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