Jon Zehner: Davos conclusion and Buckingham Palace

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Jon-Zehner-JLL-96I am back in London and trying to sum-up the last day of Davos and maybe Davos overall.  My theme is Buckingham Palace as all roads in the United Kingdom seem to lead to Buckingham Palace and Queen Elizabeth II generates such positive global acclaim due to her ability to listen and respond in a cool, measured fashion to all of the issues and challenges that are thrown at her.  In many respects, it is what the World Economic Forum is trying to achieve; better understanding and judgement through quality dialogue.

My first concluding comment relates to one of many dialogues about climate change with the comment that energy subsidies are disastrous to the climate and that many expressed the hope that more countries would cut or eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels as the oil price has dropped so much.  The other comment from, Paul Polman, the Chief Executive of Unilever is that we must work hard in everything that we do in our companies to do our business in a sustainable manner.  A New Climate Change Economy report was referred to repeatedly.

My second snippet comes from a  discussion entitled Let Food Be Thy Medicine.  The panel consisted of three doctors and a sophisticated Spanish chef.   I learned a lot about how some chefs work with scientists to create food that tastes great and is actually good for you (Tony the Tiger would be proud).  Although there was some disagreement on some of the details, I liked the summary prescription from one of the doctors to Eat Well; Move More; Love More and Stress Less.

My concluding comments come from discussions on the Military and on Intelligence (of the Security type).

The military panel commented on the role of militaries in building social cohesion, which was appropriate in country like Switzerland which has mandatory military service and where the Swiss Chief of the Defence Staff was in the room.  The panel also commented on the need for today’s militaries to  have the intellectual agility to work with the full spectrum of a country’s national security enterprise.  This is particularly true as more conflicts seem to be within countries, not between countries, and are thus more complicated and harder to win.  Lastly, there was a consensus that governments and militaries have done a poor job of predicting what is coming next in terms of types of conflicts.

The intelligence panel discussed the merging of national and international intelligence operations and the consequent need for close coordination and communication between a country’s security services.  They also discussed the difference between mass collection of data and mass surveillance and that the increasing technological sophistication of the bad guys required a strong focus on cyber security by the intelligence services.  Ultimately, all agreed that the trust of the civilian community must be built through strong governance and a clear legal framework.

Overall, the intellectual richness of Davos was amazing and the opportunity to hear experts on issues where I am clearly not an expert is eye opening.  The overall mode in Davos was positive, but cognizant of the many challenges that the world faces and with a sense of urgency that the time is short to address climate change, the economic growth challenges in Europe and the terrorist threat in the Middle East and in many other countries (among other challenges).

Before signing off for this Davos, I would like to correct a mistake in one of my previous blogs in which I referred to a lack of deflationary pressure rather than inflationary pressure which seems likely to keep interest rates low for some time.  My colleague Jacques Gordon was good enough to catch the error (he was reading the blog!).  I apologise.

Given my Buckingham Palace place theme for this blog, I would like to conclude by saying thank you for reading my Davos blog and Long Live the Queen!