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Would you want to host Davos?

Stephane Perron writes from Whistler, Canada (lucky person), wondering whether the community should want to host the World Economic Forum. The message is provoked, I’d guess, from the persistent rumours that Canada is pushing hard to hold the Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2004 (in 2003, it will return to Davos).

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the question. At the moment, I believe the protests against the symbols of globalisation have matured. In Barcelona a week ago, for example, large protests that coincided with a European Union summit were peaceful and effective. Similarly, in New York in February, when the Forum held this year’s Annual Meeting, the protests caused no disruption. In both cases, however, a large police presence was mustered, which might be just about tolerable in New York or Barcelona. It would undoubtedly be vastly more disruptive in a small mountain community. And there is no way of knowing if the more extreme anti-capitalist protestors — intent on violence, rather than argument — will manage to reinsert themselves into the anti-globalisation movement.

On the other hand, I think the Forum’s Annual Meeting is a wonderful thing. It has, at a basic level, a strong commercial and political impact on its venue. Protocol generally demands, for instance, that all the political leaders who wing into Davos have a bilateral with their Swiss counterparts. More alluringly, it brings a pretty exciting crowd to the mountains. My heart doesn’t beat faster at the sight of massed CEOs, but the thinkers and artists gathered by the Forum are a very special group. I’d like to think the people of Whistler would find that interesting.

Incidentally, if I had to guess whether the Forum will leave Davos again, I’d bet on it following an IMF/World Bank kind of schedule: two years at home (Davos) and then one year somewhere else.

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