This year's Davos buzzword: G-Zero

I've made the G-Zero my buzzword for Davos this year. Mostly because the G-20 doesn't work.

So while there's an abundance of economic optimism at Davos this year -- the latest indicator being PricewaterhouseCoopers' annual CEO survey, which showed their respondents' investment sentiment is now as positive as it was before the financial crisis -- it's coming against a backdrop of a world with neither the capacity nor the inclination to provide the leadership to respond to increasingly troubling global challenges (trade, currency, climate, proliferation...). 

A few reasons for this: 1) The world moved to a larger number of countries at the table (harder to coordinate) with 2) economic values that don't line up (harder still). With all this happening 3) in the context of the old G-7 nations consumed with domestic economic turmoil -- Europe struggling to maintain the eurozone, japan absent from global strategy, and even in the now rebounding United States, two years on, there's no Obama doctrine. And with 4) emerging markets wanting to continue to be emerging markets, it's not a recipe for a new world order.

For the year after the financial crisis, collective panic got you something that looked like a G-20. But once the panic subsided, the "new reality" that is the topic for this year's Davos agenda, is an absence of direction and coordination.  

Apparently the G-Zero term is making the rounds. After a meeting this morning, my buddy Fred Kempe(president of the Atlantic Council) buttonholed me to say that at the opening economic plenary, Martin Sorrell (Sir Martin as it turns out, CEO of the global advertising firm WPP) was talking about the lack of global governance and the G-Zero. 

It got more fun a couple of hours later, when Bloomberg's Tom Keene, chairing a session on global resilience, pulled me out of the audience to talk about the G-Zero, saying that I was "ruining the day" of panelist Il Sakong, chairman of the South Korean presidential committee for the G-20 summit. It hadn't been my intention. We got into it for about 10 minutes, with Dr. Sakong finally asking "well, if the G-20 doesn't work, what do you want us to do?"

Hey, I'm a political scientist, not a politician. I said the G-Zero isn't aspirational, it's analytic. Unfortunately, it's also where we are.