News Column

Davos Forum to Tackle Economic Resiliency

January 21, 2013

By Paul Davidson

The planet's largest annual gathering of corporate titans, heads of state, celebrities and thinkers -- the World Economic Forum -- kicks off Wednesday with a mission of re-energizing a global economy battered by shocks from both nature and the financial system.

The 43rd annual conference in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos will feature several leaders from recession-bruised Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The five-day conference is also generating its usual buzz for rising luminaries attending for the first time, including Perry Chen, CEO of crowd-funding website Kickstarter; Matt Mullenweg, founder of the blogging and website platform WordPress; and choral composer Eric Whitacre. All three are slated to speak at a session on how digital collaboration aids artistic creativity.

Another Davos neophyte is actress Charlize Theron, a vocal advocate of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The meeting is taking place in a more stable economic environment than last year, when the debt crises of Greece and Spain threatened financial panic. Sessions then tackled subjects such as "fixing capitalism."

Although those nations are still struggling to cut their deficits and stimulate growth, fears of a meltdown have eased.

The conference will explore ways to better safeguard world economies vulnerable to unforeseen events -- such as Europe's debt crisis, the U.S. housing crash, Superstorm Sandy and Japan's earthquake -- and to propel them from the extended downturns resulting from such episodes. The theme: "Resilient Dynamism."

"We face a new reality of sudden shocks and prolonged global economic malaise, particularly in major economies experiencing economic austerity," Klaus Schwab, the 74-year-old founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement. "Future growth in this new context requires dynamism -- bold vision and even bolder action."

Among the more than 2,500 conference participants are nearly 50 heads of state or government and 1,500 business leaders. Attendees include European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.. and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan.

Conference coordinators are using digital and social media more than ever to help Davos devotees follow proceedings. Main events, interviews and news conferences will be webcast, and event content and commentary will be posted on Facebook and Twitter (http:/twitter.com/Davos/ Davos2013).

As usual, the conference's more than 250 sessions will grapple with a head-spinning variety of momentous topics. Session titles include, "The past and future of the universe," "The Next Generation Workforce," "Shaping Syria's Future" and "Cancer: Myths and Truths."

One recurrent theme is rampant joblessness around the globe, particularly among youth. A session called "Unemployed or Unemployable" aims to explore whether it's up to the jobless, employers or policymakers to solve the crisis.

"The idea is not people giving speeches," says session moderator Peter Cappelli, a Wharton School management professor and author of Why Good People Can't Get Jobs.

"It's conversations in the room and trying to get competing points of view," Cappelli says.

Peter Corbett, 32, CEO of iStrategyLabs, is among about 50 young "global shapers" attending. He's speaking at several sessions, including one on how innovative types of collaboration can sidestep partisan gridlock.

"For (world leaders) to hear from a thirtysomething CEO about building entrepreneurial communities, something that they can put into practice -- how else does that happen?" Corbett says.


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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013


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