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Rich, Powerful Gather in Davos, Switzerland for World Economic Forum


Many of the world's most powerful political, business, religious, and cultural leaders will attend this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. From January 23 to 27, this small Alpine village will play host to more than 2,500 people from 88 countries. They will come together to discuss some of the most pressing issues of the day, including the economy, terrorism and climate change. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.

This year's participants includes 27 heads of state, 113 cabinet ministers, and more than 1,000 CEO's of the biggest companies from around the world.

Discussions will be dominated by the economic challenges facing the world in the aftermath of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis, the transfer of capital from energy consuming to energy producing countries, and growing inflationary pressures.

Another critical issue is that of climate change. Leading that debate will be former U.S. vice president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Al Gore. Terrorism, which continues to be a global threat, will also top the agenda.

Founder and executive chairman of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, says these issues are interconnected and must be looked at holistically. For example, he says tackling climate change involves multiple activities.

"In order to combat energy consumption, which contributes to climate change, we are moving into biofuels," he said. "This has an impact on water management. This has an impact on how we use arable land. It has an impact on food security. We have seen food prices growing substantially which leads to quite some social issues, because the poor will be more hit than those with higher incomes."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will address the issues of climate change and terrorism in a keynote address at the opening session.

As in previous years, informal meetings on weighty political issues will take place away from the glare of the media spotlight. High-ranking Israeli and Palestinian representatives, for the first time, will be in Davos together.

Humanitarian issues also will be addressed. Managing director of the Forum, Richard Samans, says an informal gathering of world leaders will discuss the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

"A couple of years back, the world's leaders unanimously agreed to take action, not withstanding state sovereignty, when there is a gross humanitarian and human rights crisis within a country," he said. "And, that certainly happens to be the case that we see with Darfur. So, we will have a special luncheon, an extended session where the prime minister of Japan will open it. Kofi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary-General will set the stage for the discussions."

Samans says a number of important African and world policymakers will explore the steps needed to take that promise of human rights action and turn it into reality.

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