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WEF says 2003 meeting to be held in Davos

Safety and other issues have been considered in the location for the WEF annual meeting Keystone Archive

The World Economic Forum (WEF) plans to hold its 2003 annual meeting in Davos if the Swiss government quickly implements a new agreement on conditions for the meeting.

Earlier, the Swiss government agreed to make contributions of up to SFr12 million ($7 million) for security over the next three years and a further SFr100,000 towards a parallel event for critics of the prestigious gathering of business and political leaders, according to a statement published by the economics ministry on Wednesday.

The cabinet also pledged to support the cantonal authorities with personnel and logistical backup, including helicopters.

More than half the funds for the WEF meeting are to be provided by cantonal, local authorities as well as the private organisers.

The government said it was in the interest of the country to host the annual meeting of the WEF again in Switzerland.

This year’s annual meeting is being held in New York City, a move that the WEF has said is a temporary step to improve security for delegates to the conference.

Gesture of solidarity

A final decision on whether the 2003 annual meeting of the WEF will be held in Switzerland is not expected before February 4. The president of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, has proposed alternating the venue between Davos and a location outside Switzerland.

The New York session opens on January 31. The organisers have said the change in venue from Davos, which has hosted the meeting since 1971, to the United States was a gesture of solidarity towards New York in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11.

However, the security concerns were also a deciding factor for the move. Last year’s annual meeting in Davos was overshadowed by clashes between security forces and anti-globalisation protestors.

Local citizens and parts of the business community in Davos have become increasingly disenchanted with the event. Critics also argue that the heavy presence of police and other security forces during the annual meeting of the WEF has turned the mountain resort into a fortress.

Spirit of Davos

As part of its effort to return the annual WEF meeting back to Davos the government is contributing SFr100,000 to set up an alternative event, dubbed “In the Spirit of Davos”.

The economics ministry said the aim was to provide a platform of dialogue among representatives of non-governmental organisations, personalities and experts from the world of politics, business, culture and religion.

The statement added it was important to get away from confrontational attitudes, foster dialogue between supporters and critics of globalisation, regardless of whether the annual WEF meeting will return to Davos.

Several non-governmental organisations, however, have expressed scepticism about the alternative event. They pointed out that such a platform should not be used as a pretext to ban demonstrations.

swissinfo with agencies

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