The WEF were kicked out of Switzerland this year due to the high cost of policing the rampant protests that have clouded previous gatherings. They seized the opportunity for a PR coup by shifting the meeting to New York so that they could proclaim the move as a “show of solidarity” to New Yorkers, who are still picking themselves up after September 11.
To drive the point even further, the WEF invited apologists from a wide array of dignitaries from wealthy society to proclaim that “we’re not doing enough” including Bono, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Queen Rania of Jordan.
I don’t think it would be possible to assemble a panel of pundits who are further disconnected from the ills which befall downtrodden peoples from around the world. Of course, those folks probably couldn’t afford the airfare and the motorcade to get them to Manhattan.
What’s most disturbing is that not a breath of “helping other people” is mentioned outside of the context of the violence directed toward the Western world. All that these folks are reinforcing is that a slap in the face such as September 11th is a healthy spark for discourse on the subject of world equality.
Anyway, as Shakespeare said, it’s an event “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Monday February 4, 11:46 am Eastern Time
WEF Speakers Criticize America
Some World Economic Forum Speakers Assail America As Smug Superpower, Decry Policies By JIM KRANE Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — They came in solidarity with this terror-wounded city.
But since they arrived, speaker after speaker at the World Economic Forum has lambasted America as a smug superpower, too beholden to Israel at the expense of the Muslim world, and inattentive to the needs of poor countries or the advice of allies.
With the forum wrapping up its five-day session Monday, some of the criticism has been simple scolding by non-Western leaders. But a large measure has come in public soul-searching by U.S. politicians and business leaders.
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., cited a global poll that characterized Americans as selfish and bent on arranging the global economy for their own benefit.
“We’ve not done our fair share to take on some of the global challenges” like poverty, disease and women’s rights, Clinton said Sunday. “We need to convince the U.S. public that this is a role that we have to play.”
Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT – news) Chairman Bill Gates warned that the terms of international trade were too favorable to the rich world, a disparity that feeds resentment.
“People who feel the world is tilted against them will spawn the kind of hatred that is very dangerous for all of us,” Gates said. “I think it’s a healthy sign that there are demonstrators in the streets. They are raising the question of ‘is the rich world giving back enough?”’
At a press conference at the forum Monday, representatives of humanitarian groups had differing views on how much their messages were resonating with corporate and political leaders.
“Today I think there is broad recognition that no business concerned with its brand name can afford to be indifferent to human rights and social issues,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch Group.
Others said that the rich and powerful are listening to the needs of the poor, but that it’s unclear whether the forum will prompt any changes.
“We are swimming against the tide within a meeting like this…especially when you’re talking about the rights of homeless children, but at least we are swimming in the same river,” said Bruce Harris, executive director of Casa Alianza, a Costa Rica group that helps street children.
Held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos in its first 31 years, sponsors decided to move this year’s forum to New York to show support for the city after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
About 2,700 corporate and political leaders, clergy and celebrities came to discuss the world’s problems, and have spent much time dissecting U.S. foreign policy, its possible role in breeding terrorism and the potential harms of globalization.
Few protesters turned up Sunday near the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, site of the forum, on the fourth day of the conference. But mostly peaceful demonstrations miles from the hotel generated 159 arrests — the largest in a single day since the conference started — and one case of vandalism was reported.
The total arrested so far during the meeting grew to over 200, mostly for disorderly conduct. Two demonstrations were planned Monday afternoon by a group promoting a wide range of causes, from environmental protection to the cancellation of developing countries’ debts.
In a curious convergence, the titans of business and politics at the meeting have seized on many of the same socially liberal issues that they have been accused of ignoring at past gatherings.
The forum’s agenda may have taken some of the steam out of street protests, which were sparse except for Saturday’s turnout of about 7,000 demonstrators, and has even paralleled issues under discussion at the World Social Forum, an anti-globalization conference under way in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
In Brazil, speakers on Saturday condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, with one comparing the practice to apartheid-era South Africa’s creation of “Bantustans,” which were economically poor areas designated as homelands for blacks.
In New York, guests heard a similar message Sunday.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security adviser, warned that Palestinian violence risked evolving into large-scale urban terror, while Israel’s response “will slide into a pattern of behavior that resembles the South Africans.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II called for “international intervention to help steer the parties from the brink,” arguing that the “burning injustice of Palestine” had “fed extremism around the world.”
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chided his colleagues in Congress for giving too much foreign aid to Israel, the largest recipient of American help, and said too little aid flows to the neediest.
“I’ve been critical of the aid we’ve given to Israel,” Leahy said in an interview. “But the same complaint could be made of a number of wealthy Muslim countries. They’re not giving aid to the poorest of their own people.”