Angela Honegger (31) is a “Global Shaper”. As one of 50 selected young people, she was allowed to take part in the WEF.
Sarah FrattaroliDeputy Head of Economics
The world population is on average 29 years old. Decision-makers from politics and business are on average 55 years old.
This is also reflected in the WEF, which ended on Friday: there were many gray hairs in the congress center. Angela Honegger (31) stands out from the crowd. The hair is brown instead of grey, the blazer is cream instead of black. “I’m not here in a black suit on purpose,” says the young woman from Basel.
“We are considered the coolest squad here.”Angela Honegger
She was one of 50 participants at the WEF to bring the perspective of the younger generation to Davos. The group is called Global Shapers Community, was initiated by the WEF, the youngest participant is 22 years old this year. “We were often asked to be the coolest team here,” says Honegger with a laugh. “A large part of the WEF is still male and much older than us.”
Does the WEF practice “youthwashing”?
The Global Shapers talked to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (55) and ECB boss Christine Lagarde (67) this week. “I was surprised that these people spoke to us as equals. They took us seriously,” says Honegger, who studied at the University of St. Gallen and now works in the health sector.
She and other young WEF participants feared exactly the opposite in the run-up: that they would only be invited to the forum as a “quota boy” but would not be listened to at all. Pratik Kunwar (29), a global shaper from Nepal, calls it “youthwashing”. Based on “greenwashing”, with which companies paint themselves green without actually acting sustainably.
Honegger disagrees: “It is an honest effort of the WEF to involve young voices.” Nevertheless: The 50 Global Shapers around Angela Honegger represent a negligibly small proportion of the almost 3000 participants.
“Only the usual suspects at the WEF”
The question is how great their influence is on the decisions made by the elites at the WEF. And anyway: whether decisions are made at the WEF that improve the state of the world, as the organizers promise – or whether it is not just a big Cüpli meeting of the powerful.
Skepticism about the visible and measurable success of their meeting can also be felt among the WEF participants themselves. “Who is at the WEF?” asks the Zurich environmental entrepreneur Renat Heuberger (46) rhetorically. “It’s the usual suspects: the big companies.” The majority of the 600,000 SMEs in Switzerland are staying away from the WEF. They provide the majority of jobs in the country. Their influence is correspondingly large, for example when it comes to gender equality in the workplace or CO2-Emissions of the economy goes.
WEF is too expensive for SMEs
Most SMEs do not stay away from the WEF out of lack of interest – but for cost reasons. Participation costs tens of thousands of francs. “The SMEs don’t hear anything from the discussions here at the WEF,” criticizes Heuberger. «We have to bring the WEF topics into the broader world. Otherwise the discussions will bring nothing. »
The young WEF participant Angela Honegger thinks so too. However, she sees less the WEF than the duty of each individual. “You do the WEF an injustice if you ascribe too much authority to issue instructions.” Above all, the WEF is a platform for making contacts and generating new ideas. “But then you have to make something out of it.”
“In 15 years we’ll be in the top post. Hopefully we can do better then.”WEF participant Mariam Nourya Koné
In addition, the annual meeting in Davos, which lasts less than a week, is just the tip of the iceberg. “90 percent of the work takes place during the year,” argues Honegger, who has been involved in the Global Shapers network for several years. “It would be asking too much to leave Davos after five days with a concrete plan, a signed contract.”
She sees the annual meeting as the starting signal. The WEF made her heard and opened doors. Now it’s time to go through them.
Next year, Honegger and her colleagues will no longer participate as Global Shapers at the WEF – 50 other young people from the network will receive a ticket. But maybe they will come back one day – as ministers, CEOs or NGO representatives. Or, as Mariam Nourya Koné (27), a member of the Global Shapers from Ivory Coast, puts it: “In 15 years we will be in the top positions. Hopefully we can do better then.”