You are shoved into a back room, shouted at, told you’re worthless and useless.
This wasn’t the welcome I was expecting at Davos. I know that ‘Davos Man’ has been somewhat derided in the past few years, but I felt this was going too far. Only this wasn’t part of Davos itself, or even the World Economic Forum (WEF), but an experience I had signed up for.
It had sounded innocuous, “Come and experience what it feels like to be a refugee”. Together with a few other members of the Global Citizen Forum (GCF) team, we were intrigued to participate in the simulation of a ‘Day in the Life of a Refugee’.
Ten minutes within entering the building, someone forcibly grabbed my watch and pushed me into a dark room. We were joined by a dozen other people. An old man next to me watched in horror as his wife was dragged away. All the men and women were separated. Men in combat attire pointed guns at us. It was terrifying. But it was powerful.
Every January, thousands of global business, government and civil society leaders use the pretext of the WEF to gather in the great Swiss alpine region. A picturesque landscape, and more figuratively, the summit of all places to be to meet the world’s greatest game-changers and decision-makers. This was our first visit, but it won’t be the last.
In Davos we announced the launch of the 2019 Global Citizen Forum, which will take place in October in Yerevan, Armenia. This year’s theme will focus on technology and how it can play a role in solving some of the issues surrounding migration and mobility. Distinguished guests at the announcement included Hashim Tachi, President of Kosovo, Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain; Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; and Wyclef Jean, the Grammy Award Winning Artist, and many others.
Hosting the Forum in Yerevan is very special for many reasons. Named by the Economist as the ‘Country of the Year’, Armenia was also home to my ancestors, and whose heritage I am very proud to embody. The city of Yerevan is an open-air museum that beautifully weaves modern cosmopolitan with ancient history, connects East to West with its rich cultural heritage and traditions, and I have no doubt that our guests will indulge in the energy and experience the city has to offer.
Among the many highlights in Davos, I particularly enjoyed my participation at the Blockchain Business Council event, where we discussed the potential of this exciting technology and sustainable ways it can help refugees and migrants around the globe.
Another notable event was the 2030 Project Everyone, a breakfast hosted by Film Director Richard Curtis, and Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF. Here we met with Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, Jacquelline Fuller of Google.org, as well as Marc Benioff of Salesforce. Only at Davos would you find such an eclectic, talented and connected crowd in a single room.
There are truly many astonishing things that make the Davos experience so unique. One minute you are in a room with Bill Gates and chatting with Luke Nosek of Paypal or artists such as Naomi Campbell, Bono, and Matt Damon. And the next, you are being tossed around a dark room to experience the horrors faced by many refugees in the world today.
Whether our time at Davos helped motivate us, spark new relationships, or made us reflect on the vital occurrences in the world, it did what it was meant to do: highlight the need for a proactive global community. In line with our mission, being part of this initiative with the Global Citizen Forum is something we look forward to continuing year after year.