THROUGHOUT HISTORY, MANY mountain journeys have been heavily associated with pilgrimages. Every January, high in the Swiss Alps, there is one such pilgrimage, but while this expedition gets major attention, often negative, there is probably not much climbing.
For a lot of the attendees going to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, if they end up at the top of any peaks they could well have been chauffeured up the slope.
However, it is important to remember that for every star climber there are many more sherpas. A lot of hard-working staff that are heading up the mountain to Davos will have been preparing for what often is one of the hardest and busiest weeks of their working year.
Often the image of Davos is of one of fat cats in the snow, with a hat tip to Bono for the phrase. But a lot of important decisions are worked through and objectives accomplished during the World Economic Forum that do have a positive impact every year, and not just on our economies, but on our societies too. It is not all about money and finance.
The World Economic Forum programme is always geared towards attempting to solve, or at least discuss, the major issues of the day.
This year’s theme is ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’ and the top area of focus is ecology. The main aim is to assist governments and international institutions to progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals as set out by the United Nations.
While the perception of Davos is often a lot of hot air and bluster and little action, it is important to take note of what our recent enlightening and understanding of human behaviour has taught us.
Talking about your issues is an important step on the path to fixing them. Discussing your big issues as a country and as a society on a global stage, in an open environment, is much better and healthier than no coordinated conversation at all.
You could picture Davos as a sort of group therapy session for the world – albeit the expensive type, the sort that charges you to lie down on a comfy leather sofa before helping you at all.
What of the Irish there? Is it necessary for the Government, the IDA and Irish business leaders to attend? Is it worth the trip?
It is far more than just keeping up appearances. The IDA just recently announced it had surpassed all of its targets set out in its 5-year plan to 2019. It is no small coincidence that over those 5 years, the IDA has consistently had a strong presence at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
While such fantastic results for Irish FDI cannot be solely attributed to one event, its impact cannot be overlooked either.
Gatherings such as Davos that bring together a concentration of decision-makers for a meeting-heavy week can also bring about some very desirable results.
Despite the Taoiseach cancelling his trip due to the election, there will be an Irish political presence in Davos.
There is no shortage of decisions to be made and it is of vital importance that our lawmakers are present, not least due to the continually boisterous ongoings over Brexit.
It certainly feels that Ireland’s role in the world has been elevated immensely over the past 12 months, so its input into the discussions in Davos will play a vital contribution in securing the future of the country’s standing among our peers.
In a January that has started with Australia burning, turmoil in the Middle East and renewed political strife globally, the metaphorical mountain of the world’s problems looks more daunting a challenge than ever – which means Davos is more important than ever.
Seamus Conwell is an associate director at 150Bond and has attended Davos over the past few years as a journalist, producer and a consultant.