Just two perfect examples of obsolete hardware are associated with the World Economic Forum in Davos, maybe the place and global event most widely connected with the current top 1%. The World Economic Forum sees its role as ‘improving the state of the world’. But, until those attending Davos put more ‘genuine’ focus on fixing the world’s broken economic model, then political analyst Anand Giridharadas is right when he dubs Davos as “a family reunion for the people who broke the world”. Giridharadas’ statement is confirmed by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman who was invited to attend the 2019 event and observed “I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share,”. He went on to say he was surprise that there was only one panel at Davos dedicated to the topic of tax avoidance, “It feels like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water”.
I had a similar experience at the recent CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Geneva in August 2019. CITES regulates the legal trade in endangered species, but the legal trade data is not actually discussed at CoP. Over two weeks there was no mention of trade data, trends, trade analytics; anything that would allow linking the trade to the actual state of wildlife populations and the looming extinction crisis.
This ‘obsolete hardware’- these institutions – are not intrinsically motivated to change. And currently, too few people with the means to challenge them are focusing on anything other than wealth generation; as a result, there is no pressure for them to transform in to something more relevant to the changing context and needs.