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WEF to Address Underlying Global Challenges
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The World Economic Forum annual meeting at Davos is dedicated to addressing underlying global challenges such as climate change, said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the gathering, on Wednesday.

Bright economic prospects are accompanied by many underlying problems, Schwab told a press conference on the first day of the annual meeting.

"On the one hand, we have an economy which is doing very well -- prospects for this year are very promising. On the other hand, we have so many underlying imbalances, inconsistencies, weaknesses, fragilities."

The annual meeting is aimed at addressing these challenges, he said.

High on the agenda would be climate change, globalization, the Doha round of negotiations under the World Trade Organization and the Middle East, he said.

He would not comment on possible outcomes of the talks on the Doha round at Davos, saying the forum is not pushing any specific issue. The annual meeting, rather, provides a forum to allow important persons to interact, he said.

Some 2,400 participants will debate under the theme of "The Shifting Power Equation," said Schwab.

There is shift of power in many ways, including the geopolitical changes being brought about by the rise of China and India, and the shift of power to consumers and shareholders from business leaders, he said.

The world is facing fundamental changes in how organizations work, as the planet is becoming increasingly inter-connected, said Schwab. Without ample discussions, organizations would fail to respond to the changes, he said.

This year's annual meeting is more relevant to Davos itself than ever, with climate change being high on the agenda.

Participants, who arrived on Tuesday, might have been surprised to see significantly less snow in the ski resort compared with the previous years. The situation was mitigated by a bit by a fresh snowfall on Tuesday night.

With 17 sessions on climate change, this year's annual meeting will be the "greenest" ever at Davos.

"We are getting huge demand from our members to place climate change and issues of environmental security at the very heart of the program of the World Economic Forum," said Dominic Waughray, head of the forum's Environmental Initiatives, on Tuesday.

"The forum has already been instrumental in getting business voices heard at the very center of global decision-making on climate change but the program at this year's annual meeting shows just how crucial business leaders believe these issues are and just how serious they are in finding real solutions in partnership with governments and leading NGOs," he said.

The companies represented at the annual meeting have a combined turnover of around US$10 trillion -- nearly a quarter of the world's total gross domestic product, said Waughray.
Schwab said half of the 2,400 participants this year are business leaders, including 800 chief executive officers and chairmen from the world's leading companies.

Around 250 politicians are attending the annual meeting, including 24 heads of state or government and over 80 cabinet ministers.

The most prominent political leaders are German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Merkel is expected to address the opening plenary session of the annual meeting later on Wednesday.

Unlike last year, no names from entertainment circles were invited. Schwab explained that they were invited in the previous years simply because they were relevant to the issues discussed.

"It is not our policy to invite stars. It is our policy to invite people who can make a contribution to specific sessions," said Schwab.

He said 250 people from civil society, such as trade unionists, NGO people and religious leaders, are participating this year.

(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2007)

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