Davos Newbies Home

While the attention of most of the world’s media is focused on Florida, some significant events are happening almost without notice. How many western news followers knew that dozens of people have been killed in the last week in the Indonesia province of Aceh? That 39 people died in violent protests in Mozambique?

Neither may have the obvious geopolitical consequences of the breakdown in the Middle East peace process, but both are tragedies in the making. Mozambique, since the 1992 resolution of its 16-year civil war, has been one of the most successful sub-Saharan nations. Under president Joachim Chissano, there really seemed a chance for one of the world’s poorest countries to make significant economic progress. Mozambique had been particularly successful in attracting foreign direct investment. Even the disastrous floods earlier this year, although a terrible setback, did not seem to knock the country off course. One of the best analyses I’ve found on events in Mozambique is by Todd Moss on the admirable ecountries site.

Indonesia does get far more attention than Mozambique. At the start of this year, it seemed that president Abdurrahman Wahid would bring intelligence and humanity to the country, as well as democracy. But the tensions of what is probably the world’s most diverse country look insuperable for Wahid, who — however personally impressive — has proved lacking in the leadership and political skill necessary for the task. Aceh is spiralling out of control, and the Timorese situation remains unresolved.

The Web provides ways to keep in touch with these events, but the mainstream media needs to do a better job of alerting people to what is happening.

***Davos insight
A Davos-attending friend emailed me to ask about Forum Fellows. Who are they, how do you become one, and how can you meet and collaborate with them. The Forum Fellows are the experts invited to Davos for specific, programmatic reasons. Most of them are academics and artists: the 2001 crop includes economists like Robert Mundell, Joseph Stiglitz and Jeff Sachs, museum curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Thomas Krens, novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, Pill inventor Carl Djerassi, and superstring theorist Brian Greene. And about 200 others (including me).

A handful of the Fellows are actually business people, horror of horrors. This has always been somewhat contentious within the World Economic Forum: if Bill Gates pays to come (and he does), why shouldn’t all the less exalted executives? The answer is a selfish one, from the programme side. There are some people each year that are just so right for the programme, that you just have to have them. One person who qualifies this year (I think) is Kleiner Perkins partner Vinod Khosla.

Kleiner Perkins is not a member company of the Forum, and, as far as I know, no one from Kleiner has ever come to Davos. If you want to have an interesting discussion about the new economy, the role of venture capital, the nature of Silicon Valley, and a host of other pertinent topics, you need to have one of the absolutely top VCs in the world. That’s Khosla.

If you’re lucky enough to be going to Davos, how do you meet and collaborate with the Fellows? You can, of course, organise meetings when you get to Davos, or you can rely on serendipity. But if there are some people you are truly intent on spending time with, you should certainly get in touch with them before you head for the mountaintop, and fix a time in your schedules.

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