Davos attendees headed to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum are preparing to participate in the forum’s most popular event, in which attendees crawl on their hands and knees and pretend to be refugees fleeing from an army.
The World Economic Forum, which brings together prominent journalists, business titans, celebrities, academics and philanthropists, is slated to start Tuesday and will last for two weeks, providing entertainment and networking opportunities, but also happenings like the aforementioned refugee live-action roleplay scenario, The New York Times reports.
At the resort town in the Swiss Alps, 2,500 people are scheduled to attend the conference, hailing from 90 different countries. While it’s unknown exactly how many of the conference goers will crawl on the ground, the event is a popular mainstay.
The event is called “A Day in the Life of a Refugee” and is run by the Crossroads Foundation. As the event notes, “This programme is not a talk or a video. It invites participants to take a few steps in the shoes of refugees, through a simulated environment which re-creates some of the struggles and choices they face to survive.”
Refugees helped to design the simulation to make it as real as possible. The idea of the event is to develop empathy in global leaders. Once the event is over, former refugees will discuss with participants how they can get involved to tackle issues like ethnic conflict and displacement. This sort of experiential learning, according to event organizers, is integral to building political will.
This year, the president of China, Xi Jinping, will be in attendance at Davos, along with other world leaders. Jinping’s presence marks the first time a Chinese president has ever stepped foot inside Davos.
“Responsive and Responsible Leadership” is the topic of choice for this year’s conference. As such, the meteoric rise of Donald Trump and worldwide surge of populist movements coalescing around strongmen will be a central theme of discussion, since these occurrences have shocked and puzzled political pundits and other election experts.
Moises Naim, a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Reuters that the world is in the middle of an upheaval, but what caused this political upheaval and how to manage it is a mystery.
“There is a consensus that something huge is going on, global and in many respects unprecedented,” Naim said. “But we don’t know what the causes are, nor how to deal with it.”
Guy Standing, an author set to take part in a conference panel regarding the concept of basic income, said that more people are being persuaded that free market capitalism needs major reform. Standing coined the term “precariat” to describe a growing class of people for whom job security and stable earnings are no longer within reach.
“The mainstream corporate types don’t want Trump and far-right authoritarians,” Standing said. “They want a sustainable global economy in which they can do business. More and more of them are sensible enough to realize that they have overreached.”
But while there are plenty of serious academic panels and discussions, the World Economic Forum will also build in time for refugee roleplaying and raucous parties.
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