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Campaigners launch rival WEF summit

The Open Forum wants globalisation addressed at the WEF

(Keystone)

Seven Swiss non-governmental organisations and a number of church groups are to hold a rival summit at next year's World Economic Forum in Davos to raise concerns about globalisation.

They hope the event will foster improved relations and dialogue between the two opposing camps.

However, the move has attracted criticism from some anti-globalisation campaigners who fear it will paint the WEF in a more positive light.

In the past, the gathering of world and business leaders has sparked off violent protests. The Swiss authorities have already announced there will be a heavy police presence at January's event.

Organisers of the "Open Forum Davos 2003" believe closer ties could avoid a repetition of the violence and lead to constructive dialogue between the anti-globalisation movement and world leaders.

"We hope that some of the critical questions and issues concerning globalisation will be brought back to the WEF and discussed more seriously than ever before," Hans Balz Peter from the Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches told swissinfo.

The WEF is returning to the Swiss alpine resort after a one-year hiatus. Last year the event was shifted to New York as a sign of solidarity with the city following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Inaugural event

It will be the first time NGOs, including Swisspeace, Terre des Hommes and the Self-Employed Women's Association, have staged a parallel event in Davos.

The Open Forum has been welcomed by the WEF, which says it is keen to build a better relationship with campaigners.

"It was our wish to create a bridge between the discussions inside the WEF and the groups outside to discuss the very important issues around globalisation, its negative impact and what we can do to fight them," said André Schneider, the WEF's chief operations officer.

Around 150 political leaders, 150 leaders from non-governmental and other civil organisations, 200 experts and 40 senior religious leaders are expected to attend the WEF meeting from January 23-28.

But the parallel summit has already come under fire from members of the anti-globalisation movement.

"We are critical because it [the event] serves only the image of the World Economic Forum," David Berner of the anti-World Trade Organisation told swissinfo.

"The fact is there are hardly any NGOs that have been involved in past years that are present now. And that's no coincidence."

Anti-globalisation groups have already vowed to make their presence felt on the street of Davos next year.

swissinfo, Karen Kamp and Billi Bierling

Key facts

Seven non-governmental organisations and several church groups will stage the "Open Forum Davos" event at the same time as the World Economic Forum.
Last year the event took place in New York in order to show solidarity with the city.
The WEF will take place from January 23-28 in the Swiss alpine village of Davos.

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