The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has opened the 11th Crans Montana Forum with an appeal for the benefits of globalisation to be spread to all.
Ogi said that global economic progress had to be accompanied by social responsibility. He also called for the creation of a small council, similar to the United Nations Security Council, to put into practice the resolutions of conferences like the current Social Summit in Geneva.
The Forum features discussions on some 50 topics of international concern. These include the fight against corruption and the underground economy, the reconstruction of the Balkans and the former Yugoslavia, the future of European democracy, and the prickly issues of the food industry; biotechnology and genetic modification in agriculture.
Attending the five-day meeting are numerous high-level participants, including the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Mike Moore, and the United States diplomat, William Holbrooke.
Switzerland is represented, both on the political and economic levels. In addition to Ogi, the economics minister, Pascal Couchepin and the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, are attending.
There are also representatives of the Swiss-Arab Chamber of Commerce - a sign of special interest in the Arab world, not least because of the re-emergence of Libya into the world community. It's also no coincidence that Libya has sent a large trade delegation.
Libya, and other developing countries, are counting on the Forum to provide a venue at which to attract international investors. Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi, said that "Africa has enormous natural resources. We have many virtues, which we want to the world to know about."
The resort of Crans Montana is well suited to the event. It's situated high above the Rhone Valley in the mountains of Canton Valais, offering the hundreds of participants a lofty perch from which to consider some of the world's loftier, but also weightier problems and issues.
The Forum began in 1989 - the year the Berlin Wall came down. At the time, its main concern was the future of Europe after the Cold War.
But over the years, the emphasis and focus have changed, and have become more international in scope. The Forum has also developed a reputation for initiating discussion on the issues of tomorrow.
by Bob Zanotti