DAVOS (SWITZERLAND) / MUMBAI (INDIA) – Business leaders will gather in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos from January 21 to 25 for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), for the first time since global trade talks collapsed last September.

In the preceding days (January 16-21), tens of thousands of civil society representatives meet for the World Social Forum, held this year in Mumbai.

The World Economic Forum [1], which paved the way for the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), this year hosts selected WTO members for closed-door meetings aimed at trying to kick start trade negotiations following the dramatic collapse of trade talks in Cancun (Mexico) in September 2003. Corporate interests are at the core of the Davos gathering and this year business leaders are stepping up their efforts to expand the remit of the WTO and gain access to new markets.

Friends of the Earth International will be keeping a close watch on the World Economic Forum from the independent ‘Public Eye on Davos’ [2], an open (January 21-23) conference co-organised with the Berne Declaration to provide a critical analysis of the WEF corporate-driven globalisation agenda.

This year, the ‘Public Eye on Davos’ will be opened by former United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. In an effort to diffuse criticism about its secrecy, the WEF organised its own ‘Open Forum’ that will run in parallel to its traditional closed-door meetings.

“The World Economic Forum claims to act in the public interest. This year it will focus its annual meeting on the themes of security and prosperity. But behind the closed doors and the WEF’s public relations gloss there is a different reality,” said Tony Juniper, vice-chair of Friends of the Earth International.

“Prosperity for the World Economic Forum means prosperity for the huge multinational corporations who write the rules of world trade – rules that help them, but often hurt the global environment and the poorest people. It is deeply worrying and quite wrong for world trade policy to be decided in secret and while dissenters are excluded,” he added.

At the World Social Forum (a yearly gathering traditionally held in Porto Alegre, Brazil) meeting in Mumbai (India), Friends of the Earth is involved in organising conferences on corporate accountability and trade liberalisation (among other issues) as a contribution to the World Social Forum’s attempt to challenge and formulate alternatives to current thinking on corporate-led economic globalization.

Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation with 68 national member groups in as many countries and more than one million individual members.


In Davos (Switzerland, January 21-25):

Tony Juniper +44-(0) 7712 843 207 (mobile)
Miriam Behrens +41 79 2160206 (mobile)

In Mumbai (India, January 15-21):

Ronnie Hall +44 7967 017281 (mobile)


[1] WEF website: http://www.weforum.org
[2] Public Eye on Davos website: See http://www.evb.ch