The public eye is on Davos

Business and government leaders at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos should be under no illusion – the rest of the planet is watching.

This content was published on January 23, 2008 - 20:30

The message from non-governmental organisations Berne Declaration and Pro Natura (Friends of the Earth Switzerland) to the elite is clear – equitable globalisation requires more corporate responsibility.

The two NGOs have made the southeastern Swiss resort a venue to air their concerns about what they consider irresponsible corporations, which receive anti-awards (Public Eye) for "particularly nasty corporate behaviour".

"These awards are designed to put pressure on multi-national companies which misbehave for the most part in the southern part of the world, ecologically and socially," Oliver Classen, spokesman of the Berne Declaration told swissinfo.

"We name and shame them here in Davos right next to the Congress Centre where those responsible meet over the next days. It's exactly the place to get our message across.

"Our message is: Global players watch out. We're watching you. We are a threat to their reputations. They know that, and they should behave accordingly."

Serious story

Classen says that the annual awards are not a minor event but a serious story the NGOs are telling. "It will be heard better soon in the Congress Centre."

For the record, the French nuclear concern Areva received the Public Eye Global Award and Swiss-based natural resources group Glencore, based in the tax haven of canton Zug, was the winner of the Public Eye Swiss Award.

Speaking at the award ceremony prior to the opening of the WEF meeting, political scientist and author on poverty underdevelopment and debt, Susan George, did not mince her words about the economic summit.

"The meeting on the money mountain is useless in the sense that the people are there just to legitimise their own system.

"They have certainly not found any solutions to the [ecological and financial] crises they have created... I would say you have got to stop doing it all for yourselves and nothing for other people and if you won't, which seems to be the case, then we must get you under public control, to which they won't submit easily."

Long battle

George, American-born but a French passport carrier, said it would be a long political battle.

"They are fighting every step of the way to say that they can self-regulate and are perfectly capable of running the financial system, saving the world and its environment. We see the results. Politically we have to get them under control.

"We have to make sure they don't create further crises, which always hit the poorest and the most vulnerable."

George said she thought the WEF meeting in Davos was the "biggest party that was ever conceived."

"They're all there to congratulate each other. That's the main point."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Davos

WEF summit

The annual WEF meeting takes place in Davos from January 23–27.

Those attending include 27 heads of state or government, 113 ministers, the heads of several international organisations, 1,370 business leaders and 340 representatives from civil society (religion, culture and NGOs).

Six of the seven Swiss cabinet members will also be there. The exception is the newly elected Evelyne Widmer-Schlumpf.

Decision makers will discuss the economy, geopolitics, ecology, business, technology and society at this year's event, which has as its theme "The power of collaborative innovation".

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Public Eye awards

They are a kind of counter-event to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The awards are presented for the most irresponsible corporations in various industries.

On the plus side, Hess Natur (textiles) received the Public Eye Positive Award for an organic cotton project in Burkina Faso.

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