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World Economic Forum to Focus on Global Power Shifts

  • Lisa Schlein

World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab speaks with the press inside the Congress Center at Davos, Switzerland (2010 file photo)

World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab speaks with the press inside the Congress Center at Davos, Switzerland (2010 file photo)

This year’s World Economic Forum will explore the significance of shifting political and economic power from developed countries to emerging nations in the developing world. More than 2,500 business, government, and civil society leaders will gather in a Swiss alpine village next week.

The world is recovering from what is seen as the longest and deepest recession since the 1930s. What is emerging in this post-financial crisis is a more complex and interdependent world.

The founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, says the speed of change and technological innovation taking place is breathtaking and is creating a new reality. He says one of the most important factors of the new reality is the shift of geo-political and geo-economic power from North to South and West to East.

“This has not only political and economic consequences, I think the world will go through some shock waves of adaptation," he said. "I am very much looking forward to seeing the results of the present meeting between the presidents of the United States and China, which will be an indicator of how much we can build a harmonious world, despite this power shift. So, this will be a dominating issue in Davos.”

This changing reality is reflected in the composition of this year’s guest list for the forum in Davos, Switzerland. More than half of the 35 heads of government attending are from emerging markets or as managing director of the Forum Robert Greenhill notes, many of these markets already have emerged.

“We will be having people from every level of development," he said. "We will have ... Prime Minister Meles from Ethiopia. We will be having President Zuma from South Africa. We will have leaders from some of the key, fast-growing Asian countries. And, then, of course, we will have representatives of the BRICs as well.”

That is an acronym for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.

Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev will be the keynote speaker. Other G20 world leaders participating in the annual meeting include, Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel and President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hundreds of sessions on political, business, scientific and cultural issues will take place over a five-day period. These organized meetings go on in parallel with informal, private conversations among world leaders. These so-called corridor talks, sometimes result in important game-changing initiatives.

During the meeting, the World Economic Forum plans to launch, what it calls, a Risk Response Network. This is a mechanism to help public and private leaders recognize systemic risks so they can mitigate the risks before they turn into crisis situations.