A grown up theme for a grown up Davos?

Davos New Global Context: fragile and uncertain
Davos New Global Context: fragile and uncertain

Hallelujah! This year's Davos theme actually makes sense.

For years I have railed against the annual game of "guess what the Davos theme actually means."

I have suffered through "Great transformations -- shaping new models," "Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild," and my favorite bit of Davosian nonsense, "Resilient Dynamism."

The message seems to have got through at last. For the first time in a decade, the theme is in plain English, and might actually mean something. Davos will be discussing "The New Global Context."

The World Economic Forum's (WEF) explanation is that the new world order is fraught with "complexity, fragility, and uncertainty." (Davos was always good at stating the obvious). Many of those attending the forum this week are charged with taking on these issues on behalf of the rest of us.

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The context of this year's Davos is, of course, very different to that of recent years. Profound quandaries are everywhere. Even if they are not technically new paradigms they are, in blunt terms, damned difficult to solve.

Naturally, events in Paris will be on everyone's minds. In the most simplistic sense, how can journalists go about their daily business as usual? How can Jews quietly prepare for the Sabbath? A march in Dresden illustrates the rising tide of Islamophobia; and what of Hungary's prime minister railing against immigration?

Economically, we have the seemingly endless cycle of eurozone misery. As ECB President Mario Draghi readies the euro printing presses in a bid to get growth moving and create a bit of inflation, the U.S. is thinking about tightening policy.

China faces a slowdown, the effects of which no one truly understands (because no one truly understands China's economy), while emerging nations wait to see if they get clobbered by one superpower's policies or another.

Then there is oil: down more than 60 per cent since June. This fall might be a boon to consumers and oil importing nations, but such dramatic movement in such a short time is deeply destabilizing.

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Expect, also, hot air about two huge trade deals the U.S. is negotiating, one with Asia, the other with Europe. The Asian deal might get done before I retire; I am less optimistic about the EU deal. It certainly won't be signed before the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The geopolitical picture is the murkiest it has been for decades. Russia -- enfeebled economically, emboldened militarily, belligerent politically -- is unpredictable. An assertive China is grappling with the problem of a truculent Hong Kong. The vortex of Syria and Iraq continues to draw its neighbors into peril.

From economics to politics to security, today's world is a web of fraying strands, swaying in the wind of change. If that doesn't constitute a "New Global Context" I don't know what does.

Tidying up this mess is beyond the capabilities of the WEF in one short week. So the issue is, as always, what contribution can Davos make to putting us on the right road?

If delegates come to pat each other on the back, tut-tut at the state of the world, and then blame everyone else, they are wasting our time. If they come prepared to face up to the unpleasant reality, we stand a chance of at least making a start.

That Davos has sharpened its theme, and given us something that we can understand and use, is a sign of serious times. The New Global Context is real and, perhaps, Davos has grown up.

-- CNN's Richard Quest is anchor of Quest Means Business.

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