Davos, Switzerland: Compared with the 40 heads of state and hundreds of political and business leaders heading to the World Economic Forum (WEF), I only have a short trip in front of me. It is just 500km from my office in Geneva to Davos, although that’s a long journey within Switzerland.
For all of us, however, there will be plenty to reflect on while we travel. This year’s WEF takes place against a very gloomy, uncertain background.
It would be easy for what has been dismissed as a rich men’s club to be so preoccupied with their own problems this week that they ignore those of the rest of the world. My role as this year’s co-chairman is to help ensure this doesn’t happen.
It is vital for everyone that the discussions at Davos look outwards, not inwards. For what this unprecedented crisis has shown is no country, no matter how prosperous or powerful, can now alone protect itself against the challenges of an inter-connected world. We can only do this by working together. And solutions won’t be effective or lasting unless they are seen to be fair.
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So we need to ensure the poorest on the planet—who will be hardest hit by the financial crisis—are not forgotten. The US Congress is discussing a $825 billion (Rs40.34 trillion now) stimulus package for the American economy this week. This compares with the G-8 Gleneagles pledge to find an extra $50 billion by 2010 to tackle global poverty—a promise still not met.
Ground work: A file photo of a staff member at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos. The 2009 meet, which starts today, will focus on shaping the post-crisis world and see at least 2,500 participants. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
We need to coordinate the global economic response so it supports jobs, incomes and opportunities in Africa and across the developing world. There must be the same new collective approach, based on the principles of fairness and opportunity for all, to the other challenges we face including climate change, food security and Africa. In every crisis, there is opportunity.
At Davos, the task is to show we recognize our world has changed for good.
Kofi Annan is a former secretary general of the United Nations.
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