In a sense, Klaus Schwab and I are in the same business: we're both people who organize global meetings. I held mine at the U.N. Since 1971, Klaus, founder of the World Economic Forum, has been holding his in Davos, Switzerland.
A German-born economist, Klaus, 69, turned his meetings at an initially obscure and still hard-to-reach ski resort into an annual event that nurtures understanding and spurs collective action on global issues. With great single-mindedness, he built Davos into a meeting place of business leaders, politicians, religious figures, policymakers and, more recently, activists, celebrities and younger leaders.
Davos entered the global lexicon as a place you went to try out new ideas, confirm trends or launch initiatives. That's why, in 1999, I felt it was the right place to begin my campaign for a voluntary global compact between the U.N. and world business leaders on respect for human rights, the environment and labor standards.
Davos filled a need that was widely felt in a newly globalized world, but it also aroused suspicion among activists and demonstrators. Klaus deftly overcame much of that by inviting the protesters inside the tent. With the help of his wife Hilde, Klaus has kept Davos at the front of things. And, Klaus, as one meeting organizer to another, I must acknowledge that your meetings were often livelier than mine. But then you could also give better parties!
Annan served as Secretary-General of the U.N. from 1997 to 2006
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