For the first time in its 32-year history, the annual World Economic Forum , the preeminent networking conference of the rich and powerful, is not being held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. To show solidarity with post-September 11 New York, the meeting which opens Thursday has been shifted to Manhattan.

For the next five days, 3,000 influential decisionmakers from government and business will be cloistered in and around New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel. They will attend scores of seminars and presentations around the theme of leadership in fragile times. The participants include professors, presidents, politicians and corporate executives. The cost of the meeting is being borne by some 1,000 corporations from around the world.

While the principal topic is globalization, the war on terrorism and the increased violence in the Middle East feature prominently. Klaus Schwab, the head of the Geneva based Forum, says Davos has come to New York because the attack on the World Trade Center impacts all countries and Forum participants should experience, if only for a short time, what New Yorkers are going through.

It was the World Economic Forum in the early 1990s that popularized the term globalization, the quickening and often volatile movement of capital and jobs around the planet. Anti-globalization protesters promise the kind of demonstrations that have disrupted recent economic meetings in Europe and North America. But New York police say lawbreaking will not be tolerated.

Observers say, given the sober mood that is prevailing in America, this session of the Forum could itself be sober and even solemn. But whatever the mood, over the next week there will be significant media attention to such matters as third world debt, AIDS, the global economic slowdown, and monetary developments in Argentina and Europe.