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Alternative voices echo in Davos

An alternative to the WEF exists in Davos Keystone

Global leaders may be grabbing the headlines at the World Economic Forum summit, but the event is also a platform for those who want to change the established order.

This content was published on January 22, 2004 - 13:39

Anti-globalisation protesters believe their presence in Davos is crucial for highlighting issues such as corporate responsibility and the needs of developing nations.

Julien Reinhard, a member of the non-governmental organisation, the Berne Declaration, describes himself as a full-time activist.

“Our role is to show another point of view,” the 32-year-old told swissinfo. “We give a platform to the victims of prevailing [economic] policies and market values.”

The Berne Declaration is one of the organisations behind the Public Eye on Davos, a parallel event to the WEF summit. This year its focus is on the social and environmental responsibility of big business.

Reinhard does not believe that it is possible for NGOs to hold a constructive dialogue with the WEF.

“The WEF is a club…where business leaders can sort out their individual problems. The rest is just hot air,” he says.

“At least there are now other themes being debated at the WEF. But there’s a huge gulf between what [delegates] say and do.”

He also brands as “naïve” those campaigners who work in tandem with the WEF in the hope of bringing about change, for example by taking part in the Open Forum, the WEF’s independent platform.

Concrete results

Reinhard argues that NGOs have been successful in their own right in bringing about change in many areas, citing better access to HIV treatments in developing countries as an example.

“I think most people feel very powerless and they think that our efforts are in vain,” says Reinhard. “But our campaigns are worthwhile and they do lead to results.”

Part of this success is due to fact that many former fringe activists – like him – have turned into full-time campaigners with clear objectives.

But he firmly rejects the use of violence – a tool that some anti-globalisation protesters have used to make themselves heard.

“Violence is a sign of despair and it changes nothing,” he explains. “It also worries me that violent demonstrations lead to fear and that this is then used to undermine our causes.”

swissinfo, Pierre-François Besson

In brief

The Public Eye on Davos, organised by the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura, holds parallel events which give a platform to developing countries. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, attended the event.

It is increasingly competing with the Open Forum Davos, jointly set up by the WEF, the NGO Bread for All and the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.

Speakers include Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and the Nobel laureate for economics, Joseph Stiglitz.

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