Pressure groups launch campaign against World Economic Forum meeting

Two Swiss lobby groups have launched a campaign to make the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos more transparent

This content was published on January 11, 2000 minutes

Two Swiss lobby groups have launched a campaign to make the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos more transparent.

The Berne Declaration and Pro Natura say the present informal format of the Davos meeting serves only to encourage a deepening of the rift between the rich and the poor, and is harmful both to democracy and the environment.

Under the title "The Public Eye on Davos", the groups are organising a number of events to coincide with the annual meeting, which attracts some 2,000 opinion leaders and decision makers from around the world.

Together with Friends of the Earth in the United States and the Globalisation Challenge Initiative, the project aims to monitor future activities of the Geneva-based Forum.

One of the events, outside the official programme, will feature a panel discussion including the founder and president of the Forum, Professor Klaus Schwab.

The non-governmental organisations accuse the Forum of being "undemocratic" and "élitist" and argue that the organisers are selective in their information policy in denying some parts of the media access to meetings.

"The annual meeting is of global importance but it is a closed shop. The 2,000 participants meet among themselves. They discuss public affairs but without any public participation," says Peter Bosshard from the Berne Declaration.

"People who are being marginalised by the globalisation processes or who represent the interests of the environment aren't usually admitted. We feel this is no longer acceptable in today's world," he added.

The NGOs are calling on the Forum to introduce new "rules of the game" in Davos. The event should become an open forum and all sections of society should be represented. Themes discussed must have a broader base and the consequences of economic growth in the industrialised world must be critically analysed and just solutions found.

"If the Forum is not prepared to open up and to change the rules of the game, we think it should go back to being a management forum and should discuss purely economic issues which don't have an impact on society at large," Bosshard said.

The participants at the 30th WEF annual meeting (January 27 - February1) will be reminded of the NGOs' campaign by posters that will be put up in the resort. They appeal to them live up to the WEF's claims of "credibility and accountability" and to open the doors of the Forum.

They also appeal for broader representation so that the people who pay the price for the globalisation process can raise their own voices.

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