Monthly Archives: February 2000

Clinton's final answer

After his speech on the Saturday of the Annual Meeting, president Clinton responded to a few questions from Klaus Schwab, president of the World Economic Forum. Many of the Davos participants thought Clinton’s speech was a good one, but his final answer was the highlight of his visit. This is an unedited transcript of the president’s remarks.

Schwab Mr. President, to conclude our session, you have in front of you the 1,000 most influential business leaders. What would be your single, most important wish towards them, at this moment?

Clinton My most important wish is that the global business community could adopt a shared vision for the next 10 to 20 years about what you want the world to look like, and then go about trying to create it in ways that actually enhance your business, but do so in other people as well.

I think the factor about globalization that tends to be
under-appreciated is, it will only work if we understand it genuinely means interdependence. It means interdependence, which means we can, none of us who are fortunate can any longer help ourselves unless we are prepared to help our neighbors. And we need a more unifying, more inclusive vision. Once you know where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to decide what steps to take to get there. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can work like crazy and you would be walking in the wrong direction.

That’s why I think this forum is so important. You need to decide.
The business community needs to decide. You may not agree with anything I said up here today. But you have to decide whether you really agree that the WTO is not just the province for you and me and the trade experts. You have to decide whether you really agree that globalization is about more than markets alone. You have to decide whether you really agree that free markets, even in an age of free markets, you need confident, strong, efficient government. You have to decide whether you really agree that it would be a good thing to get the debt off these countries’ shoulders if you knew and could require that the money saved would go into educating children and not building weapons of destruction.

Because if you decide those things, you can influence not only the decisions of your own government, but how all these international bodies, including the WTO, work. So the reason I came all the way over here on precious little sleep, which probably undermined my ability to communicate today, is that collectively, you can change the world. And what you are doing here is a mirror image of what people are doing all over the world. This is a new network.

But don’t leave the little guys out. You know, I come from a little town in Arkansas. I was born in a town of 6,000 people, in a state that’s had an income just about half the national average. I’ve got a cousin who lives in Arkansas — he’s a small businessman, he works for a small business — who, two or three times a week, plays chess on the Internet with a guy in Australia.

Now, they’ve got to work out the times. How they do that, I don’t know. But the point I want to make to you is, he thinks he knows as much about his life and his interests and how he relates to the Internet and the world, as I do. He thinks he knows just as much about his interests as his President does, who happens to be his cousin.

So we need these networks. And you are in an unbelievably unique position. So my one wish for you — you might think I’d say China or this or that and the other; it’s nothing specific — develop a shared vision. When good people, with great energy, have shared vision, all the rest works out.

Thank you very much.

Davos Newbies Home

I should have done this earlier, but I’ve posted the full text of president Clinton’s answer to Klaus Schwab’s final question to him: what’s your single most important wish for the business leaders gathered here. Clinton’s summing up: “When good people, with great energy, have shared vision, all the rest works out.” But the entire answer is worth a read.

When you have read Clinton’s answer, you should also read Dave Winer’s exegesis of it, in terms of the Internet.

If you want an evocative reminder of the final day of the 2000 Annual Meeting, have a look at the photo of the Schatzalp lunch posted on Scripting News.

I think Dave needs to work on his German spelling, but it’s the spontaneity that counts.

Davos Newbies Home

One of the main stories of Davos 2000 was the world post-Seattle. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had a higher profile in Davos than in past years, and business participants seemed far more interested in engaging with the NGOs.

One of the NGOs “outside” the Congress Centre was Berne Declaration, a group that, among other activities, has decided to monitor the World Economic Forum and Davos.

Berne Declaration has just issued its report on Davos. I’ve posted it as a story without editing or comment. But I’ll offer a brief comment here.

Unlike the WTO or any other UN organisation, the Forum is a private foundation, responsive to its members — the world’s foremost 1,000 companies. But we recognise that meeting our goal of “improving the state of the world” means certain responsibilities. We need to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. We want to be open and transparent. There is nothing new with our inviting NGOs and trade unions into Davos: Klaus Schwab invited them to the first Davos 30 years ago.

I welcome the scrutiny of Berne Declaration, and for the health of Davos we need to keep an active dialogue with NGOs (or at least those that want a dialogue, rather than those that want to trash the local McDonald’s).

My personal view is that free trade is a very good thing for the world economy, and particularly for the developing world. I find it ironic that Berne Declaration should castigate president Zedillo of Mexico, who is the democratically elected leader of a major developing country. I don’t think he’s been duped about free trade (and I know I can expect responses about how the PRI in Mexico is minimally democratic. You can substitute almost any elected head of state globally for Zedillo).

On globalisation, Davos of all places has been central in promoting the debate about how to ensure that the benefits of globalisation (which is a fact that is not going to go away) are spread widely. The inequalities that have attended globalisation “part one”, to pick up a phrase from Davos 2000, need not be the model for globalisation part two.

It is the society that matters, not the economy. That’s what we hope is one of the major themes participants should take away from Davos 2000.

Davos Newbies Home

It’s little more than a week since Davos 2000 ended, and it is already clear that there were at least two important issues we didn’t discuss.

First, the rise of far-right parties in European democracies. The Jörg Haider crisis in the European Union has truly serious implications. The phenomenon is not confined to Austria: Switzerland, Italy and Flanders also have growing, powerful ultra-reactionary parties. I think this was an omission on the scale of the 1999 Davos not mentioning Kosovo.

Second, the potential for large-scale disruption of the Internet. In all the e-uphoria in Davos, no one discussed the vulnerability of sites. I don’t think the Yahoo!, Ebay, E-trade, etc sabotage of the past few days will derail the expansion of e-commerce or other Internet-related activities. But it does add another element of uncertainty — and another need for infrastructural development and planning — to the scenarios of businesses that are moving into the Internet economy.

Davos Newbies Home

Back in Geneva, it’s interesting to gather the insiders’ views of Davos 2000 and how we can improve for next year.

We tried where possible to add “spice” and do the unexpected. This came off wonderfully well with the Tony Blair/Michael Dell duet on Friday. But too many sessions for my liking where still populated by the usual suspects. On the programme team we’ve concluded that we should start our work by concentrating on the spice, rather than adding it in the closing months (we may need to find a new metaphor as well).

The standard of moderation of sessions was again considered to have improved, but we need to move still further. This is particularly true in plenary sessions, where a good moderator actually can create interaction and debate. The less skilled moderators seem to freeze up in the plenary hall and let panelists have the run of the session with their all-too-preprogrammed statements.

Polarity might become our watchword for 2001. There’s been a lot written about Davos Man (and less about the under-represented Davos Woman). We need to work very hard to ensure that sessions don’t become a parade of Davos consensus. If there aren’t disagreements on topics, why should we give them time on the programme?

Umberto Eco in Davos

In the opening plenary of the Annual Meeting 2000, Italian historian and philosopher Umberto Eco provided his “vision of the future”. Time constraints meant the vision was necessarily abbreviated, but here is the full text of his intended remarks, exclusively for Davos Newbies.

***Visions of the future

There are three reasons which entitle one to make forecasts about the future. One is to be a prophet, divinely inspired. The other one is to be Nostradamus and to be able to write predictions which are so vague and ambiguous to apply to any possible event.

I am not divinely inspired and I am not a scoundrel like Nostradamus.
Nevertheless I think that everybody has the right to think that, if things go according to common sense, tomorrow this or that event could happen, in order to be prepared to face it. One can be wrong, it is natural, but it is always better to foresee a possible shower and to go out with a raincoat, than to catch a cold.

Once I�ve made clear that I am not a prophet, let me try to foresee a few possible courses of affairs for the next century (since I am not prepared to go beyond that timeline).

1. The end of the European nation states. The European nations (such as.we know them today) are a rather recent invention (a few centuries for France, Great Britain and Spain, a century and a half for Italy, and even less for Germany, not to speak of Latvia or Ukraine). The less stable European states are already in the process of collapsing. In the telematic universe which is being created, two towns, however far apart they might be from each other, will have the chance to be in immediate contact, according to their common economic or cultural interests. Thus permanent commercial and cultural exchanges will be set up in the four corners of Europe, through a network of associated towns, while the unit represented by the nation state will progressively lose power.

2. The globalization of migration. Migration has nothing to do with immigration. We have immigration when a reduced portion of a population looks for jobs in another nation, as happened with Italian or Irish people in America, or Italians and Spaniards in Argentina during the last century, and even more recently with Turk workers in Germany or Albanian refugees in Italy. Immigration can be controlled by laws and border police. Immigrees are regularly absorbed by the host nation, where they accept language and habits (even while they still cultivate their original identity).

Migrations are a different affair. There were prehistoric migrations of entire populations from Africa to Europe and Asia, and from Asia to America. There were migrations of German populations toward the Roman empire, and I would define as migration the European invasion of the American continent, from Canada to the Cono Sur. When there is migration the migrators do not accept the language and habits of the host. Either they are powerful enough to impose their language and their religion (think of the Arab conquest of part of Asia, Africa and Spain), or they merge, but to such an extent that the culture of the host nation changes radically.

We are today facing an enormous migratory movement from the third world to Europe (not to speak of the increasing hispanisation of various parts of the United States, which are already bilingual communities). Considering the differences in birthrates between migrating and host nations, it seems to me that in the following decades Europe will become a coloured continent. When I say coloured, I am not thinking (or I am not only thinking) of skin colour. There may also be coloured religions. Why not a Sunni Christianity, an Anglican Avicennism, a Buddhist Sufism?

This problem is strictly linked to my first point. Why should a Muslim citizen of Barcelona consider himself as belonging to a different nation from a Muslim citizen of Berlin?

3. The end of the notion of fraternity. To confront the growing world population it will be necessary to take measures like the ones the Chinese have taken: only one child per family. Thus notions such as sister and brother (as well as notions of uncle and of brother- or sister-in-law) for children of the next generations will become something like the fairies and ogres of our own childhood stories. Fraternity will, of course, survive as a metaphor, but it will be difficult to explain to a child what it means to love someone like a sister or a brother.

4. The end of representative democracy. A leader chosen for his communication skills will be elected (probably online) to govern each great global territory. Powerful groups will support candidates who have exactly the same qualities and the same programmes as the opposing candidate. Thus the citizen’s vote (which will be motivated not by political choice but by the requirements of show business) will become a formal gesture which will only sanction a choice made elsewhere (I’ve a tiny suspicion that we’ve already got there).

5. The end of ethics. Any moral doctrine consists in putting forward a model of behaviour which one must try to imitate. Hence the modelling function of the saint, the sage, the guru, the hero. The virtue of the model must be difficult to emulate, and that’s why ethics always was such a difficult art. Now, it so happens that television tends more and more to put forward as models normal people, so that it takes no effort to become like them. We want to become like them because they have received the grace of appearing on screen. In many case persons will become a model not because of their normal behaviour, but rather because of their spectacular sins (provided these sins gave them visibility and success). Thus Monica Lewinsky will be a stronger (and an easier) model than Florence Nightingale or Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

So ethical success (the pursuit of Good) will soon have no link with the pursuit of virtue, only with the struggle to be seen.

I have put my forecasts in order of improbability and desirability. If I have looked too optimistic, I apologise. In any case, estote parati, be ready to face the future.

Davos Newbies Home

Before memories of Davos become too stale, I thought it would be helpful to recall some of the best moments of the Annual Meeting 2000.

On the opening night, Italian historian and philosopher Umberto Eco provided his vision of the future, on a plenary panel moderated by Paul Saffo. You can read the full text exclusively on Newbies, but here’s one of the fruitier passages: “Now it so happens that television tends more and more to put forward as models normal people, so that it takes no effort to become like them. We want to become like them because they received the grace of appearing on screen… Thus Monica Lewinsky will be a stronger (and easier) model than Florence Nightingale or Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

“So ethical success (the pursuit of Good) will soon have no link with the pursuit of virtue, only with the struggle to be seen.”

Davos Newbies Home

More interesting follow-ups to Davos are appearing. Dave Winer has a record-length Dave Net on Davos, How To Make Money on the Internet. Dave neatly ties together president Clinton’s injunction to “find a shared vision” with the necessity for those in the Internet community to do the same. One apposite quote that Dave missed from president Wahid of Indonesia: “The ordinary people are not ordinary.”

In characteristic style, Dave also has a riff on professor Klaus Schwab’s German accent. You’ll either love it or hate it. I’d like to encourage other Newbies (you’re all metaphorical newbies now, rather than actual ones) to post a Davos impression. Dave’s would be a good example to follow.

Dan Gillmor in the San Jose Mercury News wrote his final Davos column on the NGOs at the Annual Meeting. It’s a good summary of one of the most important strands of the meeting.

William Keegan in the UK’s Observer, like The New York Times’s Tom Friedman, makes the link between Seattle and Davos. It’s a well nuanced column.

On another note, following my thoroughly enjoyable experiences with Davos Newbies, I rashly promised the World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders for Tomorrow that they could have a website up and running within hours. The result, GLTNet, is now up and I plan to populate it in the coming days. Since there is a motivated, Internet-savvy community of GLTs, I think there are great prospects for this turning into a true collaborative tool.

Davos Newbies Home

Back home, I at last have some time to catch up on some of the Davos coverage. What’s remarkable to me is how many journalists have a deep-rooted animus against what they persist in calling Davos man. My impression of Davos 2000, and one echoed by many people I spoke to, was that full voice was given to alternative views on globalisation and Americanisation. In the programme itself, we stressed themes such as “It’s not the economy, it’s the society”.

The UK’s Observer seems to have missed this. Will Hutton, on the verge of leaving his editor-in-chief chair, found an atmosphere of complacency and self-congratulation. At least Hutton had the good grace to come to Davos to observe this for himself. In the same paper, the lazy Emily Bell wrote a whole column on Davos, even though, to my knowledge, she has never been to the Annual Meeting. She excused her nonattendance by writing that she doesn’t ski (I don’t think she was invited, in any case).

Newsweek’s Michael Elliott has a good summary on MSNBC. From a different angle, Walden Bello, one of the NGO heads in Davos, wrapped up the Annual Meeting for a Philippines newspaper. From the look of the URL, I fear that the link may “rot” over time. Here’s a sample of Bello: “Deeply disturbed by Seattle and the din of the rising global resistance to corporate-led globalization, the captains of business, industry and establishment culture, like Hans Castorp in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, came to Davos to draw on the intellectual and moral reserves of their caste.”

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen gave us details of his sleigh ride with Madeleine Albright, together with a rousing view of president Clinton’s triumph in Davos. Bruce Nussbaum in an oddly self-congratulatory Business Week article identified two Davoses: the rising waves of anti-globalisation and the new economy. Tom Friedman, in The New York Times, focused on what he termed the star of Davos, Seattle. I think Tom is right.

Davos Newbies Home

Where does Davos Newbies go from here?

In a few months time, I should be able to begin sowing some ideas for Davos 2001, but for now I’d like to use the site to continue some of the debates that were initiated in Davos. To make this possible, I’ll need your help as readers.

What were the sessions that most provoked you? Were there any that left too many unresolved questions? Are there initiatives that you think should spring out of the Annual Meeting?

If you have ideas spurred by Davos, post them on the Davos Newbies discussion group. Let’s try to continue the Davos dialogue.