Warming to the Global Agenda

Updated: Jan 24 2007, 06:34am hrs
Starting today, managing partner of Counselage India, Suhel Seth, reports exclusively on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, for FE.

The drive from Zurich airport to Davos is perhaps one of the finest in Europe. It easily compares with the one that you take from Naples to Portofino, but the only difference is that whoever is driving up to Davos at this time of the year is there to take part in the five-day World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, which begins from January 24.

But then it is from the local who drives you that you actually get a feel of what is about to happen.

So, it was not surprising for my chauffeur, Stephan, to comment pretty sardonically on the temperatures that Zurich witnessed this winter: around 15 degrees Celsius compared with the minus three degrees that normally prevailsnot exactly the Davos picture I had expected.

Davos is a Swiss Alpine village where every year some of the finest minds gather to discuss the state of the world and this year promises to be no different. Where the World Economic Forum has actually evolved is in the manner in which it discusses issues that we so often ignoreand to the credit of the Forum, the line-up this year, too, is fantastic.

The main theme for this year is creating a Global Agenda for change, which sounds pretty esoteric but in reality is something that needs to be addressed. Issues such as global warming are no longer the drawing room conversation pieces they once were.

The fact that you have George Bush still waffling especially with regard to the Kyoto Protocol, it is critical that the worlds composite body of thinkers and politicians commit themselves to serious issues such as this.

Like every year, this year, too, there are some real heavy-hitters, from German chancellor Angela Merkel, fresh from her Moscow visit, George Soros and BP CEO Lord Browne to our very own seasoned Davos regulars Rahul Bajaj, Adi Godrej and Anand Mahindra. The India story may not be as visible as it was last year when the India Everywhere campaign was showcased. But the fact is that India has a very substantial cerebral presence, not to mention 12 high-powered events ranging from corporate breakfasts, hosted by companies such as Tata Steel and Deutsche Bank, to evenings that will help people unwind with fashion shows and DJs going wild.

In sum, there will continue to be a strong India presence. The feather in the cap is that for the second time in a row, India will have a co-chair at the Annual Meeting: Sunil Mittal is doing the honours this year.

The Annual Meeting began, as it always does, with a charming reception on Tuesday hosted by the founder of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, followed by a typically Swiss Raclette dinner hosted by Collette Mathur and Lee Howell of the Forum for all the Indian delegates. The next four days will see 228 sessions and some amazing commitments, not to mention the usual dose of glamour and power in a heady mix as everyone in this Alpine village gets ready to save the world -- or whatever little is left of it!