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Leuenberger welcomes WEF critics to Davos

Leuenberger attends meeting of the Public Eye On Davos, an organisation fiercely critical of the Forum

(Keystone)

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, has courted controversy at the World Economic Forum for a second consecutive day.

Twenty-four hours after speaking out against the inequalities and injustices caused by globalisation, Leuenberger on Friday attended a meeting of the Public Eye On Davos, an organisation fiercely critical of the Forum.

Leuenberger said he wanted to welcome the Public Eye campaigners to Davos in the same spirit that he had on Thursday welcomed the official Forum delegates. But the move is bound to upset some Forum members especially after his opening speech.

In that speech, Leuenberger said that globalisation was increasing divides between rich and poor and that the benefits of the process must be better shared. He repeated that message on Friday and said governments alone could not guarantee social progress.

"Politics has a democratic legitimacy but that doesn't guarantee that particular interests will be dealt with independently," said Leuenberger. "Even democratic countries can be selfish in following their own interests at the expense of the environment and the rest of the world."

Leuenberger said that non-government organisations (NGOs) such as the Public Eye On Davos had a key task in campaigning for social improvements but he said they didn't have a monopoly on solutions.

"As I said on Thursday, NGOs have an important role to play in raising issues but they don't have a monopoly on the answers."

Leuenberger's speech didn't go down well with all sections of the audience and there were hisses from some. He was also given a rough ride from the platform itself when Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth criticised the decision to ban demonstrations in Davos for the duration of the Forum.

He also said police were actually preventing people from entering the town.

"Many of us have been unable to arrive in Davos because of what we might benevolently describe as over-sensitive policing," Juniper said.

He said one of his colleagues, Adam Ma'anit, had been detained by police at Landquart and deported from the country.

Leuenberger accepted a copy of a resolution calling on the authorities to allow free expression but said anyone with complaints against the police should follow the proper procedures.
Juniper and two colleagues later dressed up as wealthy businessmen and tried to leaflet Forum members outside the Conference Centre. They were quickly led away by police in riot gear and were detained for some time.

But if that is the extent of the demonstrations that police have to face this weekend they will be more than happy.

by Michael Hollingdale


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