Key speakers at WEF summit strike unusual note

Merkel and Calmy-Rey (right) point out the downside of globalisation Keystone

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of the risks of globalisation in her opening speech to the 2007 summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

This content was published on January 24, 2007 - 20:32

For her part, Swiss President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey called for dialogue and cooperation to ensure lasting peace in the world.

The wintry weather conditions affected the first day of the meeting. Helicopters could not land in the Swiss mountain resort because of heavy snowfall. But most guests arrived by car and made it in time for the opening ceremony on Wednesday evening.

Calmy-Rey asked delegates at the meeting to find practical solutions to problems posed by new types of armed conflict, terrorism and "mass starvation" - striking an unusual tone for this year's business-dominated summit.

"At a time when innocent people are targeted by suicide bombers or by armies equipped with high-tech weaponry, when children are abused as [child] soldiers, where do we stand with regard to our responsibilities?" she asked.

"Where does the responsibility lie for mass starvation that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of people every day, for neglect of the most basic human needs and for those who suffer the most from the injustices all around us?" added Calmy-Rey, who was instrumental in last year's founding of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Calmy-Rey did not mention the United States in her speech.

Reactions

However, she referred to the establishment of the Geneva-based council as well as the International Criminal Court and the 1997 Ottawa Convention - prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of land mines - as important developments made possible by coalitions of the world's leading countries.

Washington opposed the UN Human Rights Council's creation last year and has yet to join the UN-mandated court or sign the anti-mine treaty.

Calmy-Rey's speech was welcomed enthusiastically. "This is exactly what this audience needed to hear," Ricardo Young Silva of the Brazil-based Ethos Institute told swissinfo.

Mitchell Kapor of Kapor Enterprise said as an American he would like to hear more politicians like Calmy-Rey. "The speech was a real challenge for the people here," agreed his fellow American businessman Thomas Friel.

Mohamad Mustafa, an aide to the Palestinian Authority, added: "She addressed all the really important issues and highlighted the human dimensions."

Climate change

Germany's chancellor urged the world to exploit the positive aspects of globalisation. She told political and business leaders that battling climate change and securing energy supplies had to be among the planet's key priorities.

Merkel, who currently heads the European Union's presidency and the G8 Group of industrialised nations, spoke out strongly in favour of continued economic development, but warned against conducting business as usual to the detriment of the world's poor and unstable nations.

"I know that responsibility grows with economic success," she said in her keynote address.

Merkel touched on this year's main focus of the WEF summit: the world's economic and political shifting power equation as new nations and regions emerge to challenge traditional Western supremacy.

Such responsibility carries with it the need "to allow other regions to share in peace and prosperity and to keep our planet liveable for coming generations" she said.

swissinfo

Key facts

The 2007 WEF summit takes place from January 24 to 28.
There are some 2,400 participants, including 24 heads of states, 85 ministers and top business leaders, and more than 400 researchers and representatives of civil society.
The WEF and non-governmental organisations organise a sideline event called Open Forum Davos.
At the same time critics of globalisation stage an event called the Public Eye on Davos.

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Swiss government at WEF summit

Foreign minister and this year's president, Micheline Calmy-Rey, spoke at the opening of the five-day event.

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard will hold an informal meeting with 30 ministers from World Trade Organization members to try to kick-start stalled negotiations.

Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz will meet business representatives and hold talks with his German counterpart Peer Steinbrück and EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy.

Defence Minister Samuel Schmid will visit troops guaranteeing security around Davos and meet the US Homeland Security boss Michael Chertoff.

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