Davos 2008 Final Day

On my final day at Davos I am invited to participate in the Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWEL), a private meeting of heads of state and government, senior government ministers, heads of international and regional organisations and select private sector representatives. It is an “off the record” discussion on ‘The Responsibility to Protect: Human Security and International Action’ and centres on the importance of international action against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

We talk about what the international community has learned from gross human rights abuses and humanitarian crises in places such as Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo and what capacities are lacking in the international system to respond effectively to them.

I also attend a session entitled ‘Death, Disease and Dirty Water’ which focuses on the links between water and diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever and cholera. A panel made up of scientists and NGO leaders discussed how climate change is shaping patterns of waterborne infectious diseases and the need for a holistic, multi-faceted approach to tackling these threats. Solutions can range from the simple provision of mosquito nets to research into insect genetics and vaccines.

There seems little prospect of these diseases being eradicated in the short term, and the effects of climate change may indeed make them an even greater problem. The work done by humanitarian organisations in the field, such as Caritas, will therefore continue to be an important part of efforts to combat disease, particularly in the poorest countries of the world.

My last meeting of the day is a discussion on the future of global governance, which looks at the need for reform of international institutions such as the UN Security Council, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.   There is general acknowledgement that such organisations could be made more representative, particularly of developing countries and civil society.

As the day draws to a close, I reflect on my initial reactions to my first World Economic Forum annual meeting. It has been an incredibly intense four days and it will take some time to fully digest all that I have seen and heard, but my first thoughts are mostly positive ones. I arrived in Davos with a degree of scepticism but I leave with the view that CI needs to be there and has an important role to play.

Out of more than 2,000 participants in the World Economic Forum, fewer than 40 are leaders and Chief Executives from the NGO and civil society community. The fact that CI has been invited is therefore recognition of the respect that exists among world leaders for the work that we do and the contribution we can make towards creating a better world for all people.

Media attention on Davos this past week has focused on the threat of economic recession and, as always, on the wealth and glamour of many of its participants. There is indeed much wealth and glamour here, but it is clear that not everyone at Davos is a multi-millionaire intent on making even more money. There are also many scientists, academics, politicians, religious leaders and representatives of non-profit and civil society organisations present.

There are many small meetings taking place, that are not reported in the media, at which some very clever people have the opportunity to jointly apply their minds to the world’s problems.

Despite the preoccupation with the week’s financial news, Davos has produced some serious and encouraging words on both climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. The challenge for us in CI during the coming year will be to keep up the pressure to ensure that the commitments made in Davos are translated into real financial resources and action.


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