Davos: Focusing on What Really Matters

03/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So we've finished the first day in Davos and the mood at Davos 2010 is incredibly different from Davos 2009. Last year the doom and gloom that permeated the entire forum was overwhelming. People outdid each other with predictions of how dire things were going to be as we entered what many expected to be the worst financial crisis since the great depression, if not ever.

This year the buzz and optimism is back. There's more talk in corridors and more smiling faces. Well, that is true of course unless you're afflicted with the leprosy of being a banker.

While everyone else has emerged from the negative spiral, the bankers are firmly stuck within it, as from one global leader to the next, the full responsibility for everything that went wrong economically is placed on the bankers' shoulders.

Don't get me wrong, they clearly played the starring role in Economic Armageddon 3, but they weren't alone. For an unpopular and under pressure politician such as the UK's Gordon Brown, it's far better to try and blame everything on the financial sector than accept responsibility for having created the system that allowed and encouraged it to function in the way it did.

And it isn't just the world's political leaders who are attacking the bankers. They are also shooting themselves in the foot quite nicely. Yesterday the CEO of one major global bank who had pocketed multi-million dollar bonuses over the years, criticized, yes, you guessed it, the size of bankers' bonuses. Slightly surreal, but true.

Against this context, it's maybe not surprising that financial regulation has been the biggest theme at Davos on day one - it was the subject of President Sarkozy's opening speech, the subject of several of the day's sessions, the key question from all the journalists in the interviews I did today, and was the main thrust of the general chatter in the halls.

Yes, it needs sorting. Yes, it's important that we remove the risk of the entire financial system collapsing. But there are bigger and more important issues facing the world. There is also a genuine danger in over-regulating and stifling innovation, entrepreneurialism and growth in the banking sector. There's a danger in the piecemeal and national responses to the issue. A big learning from the GFC (the Global Financial Crisis as the Australian's call it) is that it was global. So it needs a global solution. Yet individual country leaders are coming out with their own individual un-coordinated piecemeal solutions rather than a coordinated global response. Another big danger is that an entire generation of smart young people decide that they don't want to go into a profession and be called "bankers." A danger France's President Sarkozy underlined when he said "Banker isn't a swear word." It wasn't, but it has become one. And while they may not always be our favourite people, bankers are pretty essential on a number of levels.

From a personal perspective, it's a disappointment that so much focus in Davos was being given to the issue on day one. Sarkozy opened his speech today by saying "We are all responsible for this crisis and we are all responsible for the world we leave behind for our children."And if the next few days at Davos are going to be successful we need to spend more time on the second half of that sentence.

A lot of things need fixing. And I would focus on two of them.

Firstly, there's clearly an immediate and urgent need to address the crisis in Haiti. So much remains to be done. I was lucky to be part of a small private session for the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders with President Clinton. While the specific content is off the record for blogging, it is clear that he is taking the role very seriously and focusing on genuine and tangible action. Tomorrow he and Klaus Schwab will talk publicly about Haiti and call on Davos to act and deliver. Hopefully it will move the conversations beyond financial regulation and the banks.

The second key issue I would focus on is climate change. Having led Kofi Annan's tck tck tck campaign for Copenhagen, I was desperately disappointed with the outcome in Copenhagen. We had 15.2 million people join us as climate allies - very powerful and tangible proof that the people of the world wanted our world's leaders to act - but rather than doing so, they let the people of the world down. Instead of working to reach a global, fair and binding climate agreement, they played politics, got into irrelevant debates about developed vs. developing nations and were generally out of touch with the world's people. The fact that China, the world's largest polluter, left the talks happy spoke volumes about their lack of success.

Davos is a key opportunity to make progress on this issue and it can and should be seized. So, as Davos day one comes to an end and we start to focus on day two, I personally am hoping that we will see the focus shift from the albeit important issue of financial regulation to the bigger issues of Climate Change and of Haiti.

And the bankers are probably hoping that too.

Although probably the best way for them to help with that is to start writing big checks for Haiti. Can you imagine the impact if every one of the world's major banks agreed to donate all of the money they were supposed to be paying in bonuses for 2009 to Haiti. Now there's an idea!

David Jones is one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders, the co-founder of One Young World, the leader of Kofi Annan's Tck Tck Tck campaign for Climate Justice and the Global CEO of Havas Worldwide .