Young global leaders: What it means to the common man

Published: March 15, 2013
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Marym Nawaz (L), Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (R, top) and Shehrbano Taseer (R, bottom) among four Pakistanis on the WEF list. PHOTO: FILE

An author from Counterpunch says,

 “After all, despite the pretentious claims of improving the state of the world, Davos is really little more than a posh mountain retreat held for global elites hell-bent on preserving their own privileged class positions.”

Likewise, YGL is about picking leaders who will perpetuate the inequities of the world through an anti-poor economic order governed by neo liberal philosophy of privatisation, taking subsidies away from the poor, and making the world an association of large global malls and corporations.

Thus the question is wrong.

“Do the four chosen from Pakistan (Maryam Nawaz, documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, founder of Pakistan Innovation Foundation Athar Osama and journalist Shehrbano Taseer) deserve to be on the list?”

The forum is not an equal opportunity contest of merit, talent, and ability from the third world – it is geared to select, groom, and cultivate leaders who represent the political, cultural, and financial elites of the world.

By virtue of their privilege (earned by work, social standing, wealth, land, or birth), they will be in the best position to legitimise the neo liberal agenda of the World Economic Forum – and serve as powerful mouthpieces for it in the future, while also lending it credibility that comes with diversity and openness.

Hence, it makes perfect sense that people like, the Prince of Dubai or even Irshad Manji were invited.  It also makes perfect sense that Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva was invited.

Activists and NGO workers who profess liberal ideas about gender, sexuality or show concern about deforestation and global warming – the hope is – will be so thoroughly overwhelmed by the prestigious invitation that they will acquiesce to the larger right winged neo-liberal focus of the project.

They are not coming as rousers or protestors who will seriously upset the neo liberal agenda. They are brought in to provide free speech and diversity credibility to the project as they are allowed to do their non threatening soft talk – which will hardly have any impact given that the conference and its participants are, by and large, people who are ultimately interested in destructive corporate expansionism.

In Pakistan, with a weak left, crumbling unions, and a diminishing public sector, we’ve seen how international corporations are allowed to usurp profits with little regulation. We’ve seen Monsanto make inroads to cotton farming, we’ve seen attempted sale of farmland to corporations, we’ve also seen privatisation of public institutions under the myth of efficiency, and we’ve seen tremendous outsourcing to cut cost.

All this comes at the expense of the poor, who have become increasingly vulnerable, unemployed or under employed, and food and health insecure.

Rather than caring about whether or not the chosen few are a badge of honour and a source pride for us as Pakistanis, a dose of the much needed fiction of positivity, a break from the cycle of negativity – question the YGL, the WEF and their underlying economics and politics – and see whether these projects further the dreams and aspirations of the common person.

Do they allow farmers to live and grow sustainably?

Do they enrich local enterprise?

Do they protect workers and provide them social safety nets?

Or, do they present an ultimately ruthless, corporate agenda?

Read more by Abira here , or follow her on Twitter @oil_is_opium 

Abira Ashfaq

Abira Ashfaq

A law teacher in Karachi who works with human rights organisations. She tweets @oil_is_opium. (twitter.com/oil_is_opium)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.