I’m glad that I have to revise my dim views about Davos on the Hudson. With the opening plenary this evening, some of the spirit of Davos was achieved — and more important, a truly moving, wonderful plenary resulted.
Plenaries, in general, are the low points of Davos. But this was the best opening plenary I can remember.
It was introduced by comments from Klaus Schwab, president of the Forum, governor Pataki, president Villiger of Switzerland, and mayor Bloomberg. None overstayed their welcome, but more important, there was some funny interchange and some emotional moments.
After president Villiger said Switzerland looked forward to welcoming the Forum back next year, first Pataki and then Bloomberg made their pitch for New York. “We should do our skiing in Switzerland, but this is the place for the Forum,” said mayor Mike.
More meaningfully, he ran through a litany of the countries, faiths and talents present at the Forum. Then the clincher: “It’s just a normal day in New York City.”
But the local politicians were followed by a panel entitled “For hope”. Elie Wiesel, Desmond Tutu, queen Rania of Jordan, president Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines, Bono and foreign minister Abdullah of Afghanistan were questioned by Charlie Rose, a US television presenter.
Tutu had the most optimistic view. “All of us need to be told that the evil, they are the aberration.” Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, noted, “We admire the good people, but the bad people admire the bad people. And there are so many of them.” But even he said hope was fundamental to human nature: “It is possible to cling to hope precisely when hope seems so fragile.”
But when Rose asked what should result from the Forum, the discussion moved to a different plane. I was sceptical about Bono, leader of the rock group, U2. I know he has been a strong campaigner on debt relief and Aids, but he also showed that he has a deep understanding of the issues.
“We have to prove that the developed world really cares about the developing world by deed. If this is just a talking shop, then it’s a bit too close to Marie Antoinette. There’s a window of opportunity here. In a globalised world, we have global responsibilities.”