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World - Europe

Small Swiss town draws big names to World Economic Forum


January 27, 2000
Web posted at: 11:31 p.m. EST (0431 GMT)

In this story:

Clinton, Arafat among those set to attend

Protesters will try to be heard


From wire and staff reports

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Every year it is the gathering place for some of the most powerful business and political leaders in the world. But many people have never heard of the modest ski town of Davos, Switzerland, home of the World Economic Forum.

CNN's Matthew Chance looks at the goals of the meeting, held in the small Swiss town of Davos.
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VideoAs the World Economic Forum gets underway in Davos, Switzerland, the memory of Seattle looms large in the memory of delegates and activists.
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David Pryer of the anti-poverty group Oxfam hopes for a change in the forum's agenda

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"I can do more work here in a week than in a year elsewhere," said one delegate. The forum also allows the delegate "to meet up with my American colleagues and my friends from Asia."

The scope of the six-day conference, which began Thursday, is unparalleled as a place for big business leaders to share ideas and look ahead to the future. Sessions this year will be dedicated to globalization and the technological revolution.

Clinton, Arafat among those set to attend

Increasingly the event has been changing from strictly business, to a mixture of business leaders and political figures.

Among those expected to attend this year's gathering are Microsoft founder Bill Gates and AOL's Steve Case.

But for the first time, U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to attend. Also set to take part: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Russian acting President Vladimir Putin. In all, 33 national leaders are on the event's invitation list.

Protesters will try to be heard

But less influential people have come to see Davos as little more than an opportunity for big business to promote its interests at the expense of ordinary people.

Protesters have arrived in the town this year in hopes of influencing the debate.

"What I would hope is that in a forum like this there will be serious discussion of the real issues," said David Pryer of the anti-poverty group Oxfam. "Perhaps the biggest one is poverty. A quarter of the world is still in abject poverty.

"You'd hardly know it in Davos today, but those issues -- the way Africa is left out of the equation -- I'd hope these issues will be discussed here."

Correspondent Matthew Chance and Reuters contributed to this report.

TIME Asia: Davos 2000: The Brilliance of the Brilliant
January 27, 2000

World Economic Forum
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