Social responsibility is the theme of the 13th Crans Montana Forum, which opened in the Swiss Alpine resort on Thursday.
Around 1,200 government and business leaders from around the world are expected at the annual forum to debate and exchange views on a range of subjects including European Union enlargement, security in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the role of women under Islam.
One of the key contributions is expected to come from the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, who is due to take part in a final plenary session on the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
As a result of travel restrictions imposed on him, Arafat is due to give his address via satellite link-up from his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.
Afghanistan's newly-elected government is also sending a delegation to the forum, but the country's president, Hamid Karzai, will not attend the meeting.
Organisers are devoting some of the conference sessions to the topic of social responsibilities in business, as well as the humane dimension of globalisation.
The American civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson, called on the Middle East to settle their dispute and find a "third power" to end the conflict. "We have to fight violence," he said in his speech.
Jackson said poverty was the main cause for violence and called for fair globalisation - in his words "a globalisation that would counteract wealth".
For the first time in its history, the forum is expected to draw large numbers of opponents of globalisation.
Anti-globalisation campaigners have called on their supporters to gather in Crans Montana on Saturday to express their opposition to the process of globalisation.
Clashes not expected
But the founder of the forum and its current director, Jean-Paul Carteron, said he did not believe the presence of anti-globalisation protestors would lead to clashes with police, as happened last year at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"Crans Montana is a forum which is critical of globalisation," Carteron said, referring to the forum's philosophy that every nation should have its own place in the global decision-making process.
Carteron said the aim of the meeting was to make globalisation more humane and described the right to protest as "sacrosanct".
He added that he would even take part in the demonstration himself provided it was constructive and the participants respected law and order.
The Swiss government will be represented at this year's meeting by the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss and the economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, who will lead sessions on social responsibility and Switzerland's relations with the Arab economies.