World and business leaders at Davos worried about Iraq war, global economy

The 2003 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos kicked off on 23 January, with the participants expressing their worries about the threat of a war against Iraq.

Some of the attendees of this year’s WEF include Microsoft’s Bill Gates, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brazil’s recently elected President Lula da Silva and former US President Bill Clinton. At their opening day, many speakers expressed concern about a possible war between the US and Iraq and its repercussions on the global economy.

 

The Forum's founder, Klaus Schwab, underlined that never in the event's 33-year history has the world been so fragile, complex and dangerous. "A war on Iraq could wipe out any fragile signs of growth", stated Gail Fosler, chief economist at the influential US-based Conference Board. Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who now leads the International Crisis Group strongly criticised American unilateralism.

More optimistic news on the global economy came from a study unveiled at the WEF summit byPriceWaterhouseCoopers(PWC). According the the company's sixth annual Global CEO Survey, international CEOs seem to be quite confident on the economic outlook for 2003, despite all the threats. PWC interviewed 1,000 business leaders in 43 countries and found that CEOs are:

  • gaining confidencein their own growth prospects if not in the economy as a whole. Yet that confidence is fragile and could easily be derailed by another major terrorist action or war in the Middle East or North Korea;
  • building trustamong investors, customers, employees and other key stakeholders. Yet that trust is provisional and could be eroded by more corporate scandals or high-profile bankruptcies;
  • claiming responsibilityfor being good corporate citizens and good shepherds of the global environment. Yet the dedication to corporate social responsibility is still relatively new and largely untried and will be put to the test in times ahead as leaders reconcile profitability demands with a more progressive commitment to sustainability.

 

This year's World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting (from 23-28 January in Davos) brings together around 2,000 business executives, economists and political leaders to discuss the theme of building trust in institutions, companies and NGOs (seeEURACTIV 21 January). At the same time, a World Social Forum is being held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a counter-summit to the Davos "Summit of the Rich".

 

The participants at the Porto Alegre Summit decided that the next World Social Forum in 2004 will be held in India.

 

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