So what is really happening at the World Economic Forum (WEF)? Several participants will send us regular Davos diaries, sharing their hopes, expectations and experiences.
Nandan Nilekani is the chief executive of Infosys, one of India's largest IT services companies. Gillian Caldwell is the executive director of human rights group Witness.
28 JANUARY 2006
We met Monica Seles and the CEO of the Women's Tennis Association early this morning and played some tennis.
I felt pretty good about it until Peter said it was like a cat playing with three mice. I guess she was taking it easy on us.
Then we rushed to a Reuters-sponsored skiing venture and managed to stagger our way down a few slopes and through a giant slalom course - I took a spectacular spill at high speeds.
Then rushed again for press which we are just wrapping up - CNN and Business Week.
As I said to Peter, every day is gruelling in its own way here!
I feel like I am about to faint. But it's been terrific and I think I am now a fully addicted blogger.
Need to rush again... to the train for Zurich. Thanks for sticking with me!
27 JANUARY 2006
The session on Out of Body Experiences (OBE) was a little trippy (pun intended).
Research indicates that 5-10% of the population has had an OBE, characterised by a sensation of feeling your body levitate several feet so that you are looking down on yourself.
Apparently, it happens most often when people are very relaxed, although people who have epilepsy, migraines, have had near death experiences (NDEs), or have experienced sexual trauma also often report having had OBEs.
Who knew there was a bunch of medical terminology for this? The scientist who presented his research on the brains of people who have had OBEs said that there is a particular location in the brain between two of the lobes which, when stimulated, will cause an OBE.
There was also a monk who commented in Q&A that they had done some research on the brains of people who were practising meditation forms, which involved visualizing themselves as various other shapes and deities, and that they had OBEs with similar brain activity.
I am sure my father (a doctor) will have something to say about all this. Let's see if he's paying any attention.
Lots more interesting meetings and conversations but I am fried.
I think I need to get some sleep because Peter Gabriel is suggesting that I play tennis with him and Monica Seles at 0830.
I think it could make for some good blogging fodder, especially since I did not bring tennis gear to the Alps and would need to be wearing my leather pants and boots.
PS: I second Nanik's complaint that there is not enough food for vegetarians around here.
I write day three having had similar conversations to yesterday - but with new insights that have inspired me.
Global talent is definitely becoming one of the most dynamic discussions of this Forum.
Today, I participated in another lively and engaging debate.
Moderated by Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD and participants such as Guy Ryder from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, this debate provided a completely different perspective to that of business corporations - which is extremely interesting!
It certainly reinforced my point of view - talent and leadership planning are the key requirements for any organisation with a long-term vision.
Talent must be aligned with a company's future business strategy if it is ever going to be meaningful!
So, day three of Davos this has definitely confirmed getting through this remarkable occasion requires an even dose of coffee, wine, and will-power.
Davos is as much about the physical endurance as it is the intellectual stimulation!
One of the most interesting interactions I had today was a closed-door session on technology.
Today's discussion helped me clarify what really causes disruption in business models - something I will take away and deliberate on as part of my thoughts on what the future landscape will look like.
In the afternoon, I was part of a very different discussion on the partnership between India and the US.
For the first time everyone agreed that the discussion hit a new level.
These two countries have a real shared sense of economic integration and value of democracy.
Interestingly, there was anticipation on the forthcoming trip of President Bush to India. The results of this will be something many people will be watching.
Tonight is the Infosys cocktail reception. After last night's successful India Everywhere/CII reception, we are recreating an Indian street scenario, with the help of Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar from Benares, London.
I'm sure tonight's cocktails will provide the guests of Davos with another experience of India's culture.
I just got the most heart-warming and thoughtful e-mail from a young man living in Zimbabwe who is responding to my blog and the idea of the Witness web portal. I won't mention his name, because it could cause him some serious problems in Zimbabwe these days.
He says, "I got excited by your idea of a video hub... this is a noble idea and would especially help people in these parts of the world." He goes on to ask some very good questions, specifically about whether the technical capacity in some of the key areas is available to make use of the hub, and what security precautions we will be taking.
His concerns are right on point - the hub will allow for anonymous transmission of content, although internet surveillance by governments is another matter altogether, and of course we are still facing a massive digital divide.
Cell phones are increasingly ubiquitous, however, and we are hoping that costs for the hardware will continue to drop as new functionalities like photo, video and web access are integrated into the phones. And in places where there isn't the bandwidth, the bet is that wireless will continue to expand its capacity for transmission. But there is no question that we are not there yet everywhere.... More on this later.
I am running to a session on the science of out-of-body experiences! You have to mix it up sometimes.
PS: Hey, BBC, can't I keep doing this forever? What's my traffic like? What's the revenue model?
OK so today is the celebrity blog, because I spent the last 24 hours being with and thinking about "celebrities" and the complexities of their engagement in the issues we work on.
As I mentioned, Peter Gabriel is our founder and we are truly blessed to have such a humble, imaginative, smart and generous soul on our side. Witness was his idea and his involvement has been critical to our creation and continued existence.
When Peter arrives in Davos, we tend to pal around together because I like him... and because the more time I spend with him, the more opportunity I can generate for our work and for the human rights organisations and issues we are trying to get focus on - issues like slavery in Brazil, child soldiers in the Congo, educational desegregation in Bulgaria, the militarisation of the US-Mexico border etc.
I met Angelina Jolie (Angie) last year with Peter, and she has since become involved in our work. We caught up yesterday and I met her partner Brad Pitt (as if I had to tell you, but I hold out some lifeless hope that the BBC audience is a little less consumer-culture oriented?).
Anyway, Angie and Brad are here, genuinely committed to learning and to trying to improve the state of the world. It's frustrating for me, knowing Angie personally and having seen first-hand how hard she works on a range of issues, to see people dismiss celebrity engagement as superficial, or worse yet a play for positive media attention.
The challenge of working with her or anyone at the megastar level is that you simply can't predict or control what the press will choose to focus on. For example, even when they promised us interviews focused on the issue of Sierra Leone at our December benefit in NY, the exclusive focus of the coverage was on whether or not she was pregnant ... and it appears all they were really after was a shot of her midriff!
It's frankly appalling with all that's going on the world and I think the press should stop underestimating their audience and start realising that Angie's enormous fan base actually does care what she has to say, for good reason.
Some high-profile people may dabble, but many others are well served by focused, informed engagement which gets pressing issues to a massive global audience. Bono is a perfect example. He spoke today on a panel titled What's Next for Africa, with the President of Nigeria and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown of Britain amongst others.
Bono is brilliant, funny, tactical, and he knows his issues of debt relief and trade inside and out. (By the way, in response to recent complaints that he shouldn't have accepted the Red card from American Express' offer of 1% of sales in Britain contributed to the causes he is involved in, he is reported to have said "we're not endorsing them - they are endorsing us!")
I'm not the type of person to go running around after celebrities and perhaps that's why I am getting along well with a couple of them. If they're committed, I've got plenty of time. Otherwise, I can't be bothered.
It was funny meeting Michael Douglas last night though - he is receiving a Crystal Award for his work on handgun control and nuclear proliferation. Being just as media-saturated as the next red-blooded American, I confessed that all I could think about when I looked at him was that boiling bunny (for those of you recall Fatal Attraction).
Anyway, we got passed that and I talked the poor man's ear off for a while about US foreign policy... and asked him what fed his soul, which is always of interest to me as my staff will tell you.
And, to conclude my musings on celebrity, I was approached on my way through the metal detector just now by a man I had never met before (Danny Quah from the London School of Economics) who said "Oh, Ms. Caldwell, I love your BBC blog!" I was amazed and responded to say I was rushing to write another entry just now on celebrity - and that his introduction was giving me my first personal insight into the genre!
PS: I forgot to mention that I got Peter signed up to be the musical director for Mel Young's Homeless World Cup which will being teams of homeless people together from more than 40 countries in South Africa in September (he won't be paid to do it, of course).
And I had a good conversation with Gavin Newsome, the mayor of San Francisco, who said he was absolutely committed to transforming the city's juvenile justice system this year and had already allocated the money to do it!
This has been a big partnership I have been working on with our colleagues at Books Not Bars, www.booksnotbars.org. You can see excerpts of the video we co-produced called System Failure at www.witness.org.
I forgot to mention the responses to Hamas' election in the Palestinian Authority. It was obviously a delicate question for them, but heads of state from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Jordan all took the position that Hamas had been democratically elected and that of course they must be recognised as the government.
Some felt their election was an indication of the helplessness that the Palestinian people feel in the ongoing context of Israeli occupation and the corruption of their own government. And others pointed out that Sharon was considered by many to be a terrorist before he came into office.
The general consensus was that Hamas should be given the chance to govern and that they may change with this considerable weight of responsibility on their shoulders. Check out www.justvision.org to see what former Witness staffer Ronit Avni is doing to try to highlight people working for peace in the Middle East.
Running to interviews that Peter Gabriel is doing with CNN and BBC about our work.
26 JANUARY 2006
Reflecting on today and the experiences I have had, makes me realise how sensational this event really is. From a breakfast debate on global talent; discussions on the next decade of the technology industry; to evening events such as the India Everywhere reception and dinner with Goldman Sachs - they say variety is the spice of life, and Davos certainly is.
My day began with our breakfast debate on the global talent pool. It was very scintillating to discuss with the likes of Juan Somavia, International Labour Organisation, and David Arkless, Manpower the urgent need to address the global shortage of talent. Turnout was impressive - with the likes of Richard Branson and Rajat Gupta adding to the lively debate this topic deserved.
It always amazes me how many people turn up at 7.30am in the morning (having had a few nightcaps the night before) to discuss such a pressing issue in our global community. However, it signalled that this is a serious problem and unless stakeholders come together, there will be serious implications for everyone.
In the afternoon I met fellow CEOs from the IT and telecoms industry to discuss the future of the technology landscape.
The conversation reinforced that change is taking place and the next ten years for the ICT industry will be more spectacular than the last. However, although everyone had a view, no one could be too sure as to how existing business models will be disrupted by new technologies. This created a real sense of anticipation as to who will be the dominant players in the next decade.
I also met Bill Mitchell, President and CEO of Arrow Electronics. I was utterly captivated by his story of transformation - to me this is what makes American companies great - a desire to adapt to what ever the market throws at you.
The only complaint I have so far, on behalf of my fellow Indian delegates, is the need to increase the variety of vegetarian food.
I attended an intense and interesting set of panel discussions today - the first on "What Keeps You Up At Night?" with the directors of relevant security departments in the US, Germany and other countries as well as the Nobel Prize-winning head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
There was lots of discussion about various threats - chemical, biological, nuclear, conventional etc.
I finally stood up in the Q&A - which caused my heart to palpitate furiously because of the panel I was confronting - and said that what keeps me up at night is the fact that the US security apparatus spends all its time addressing the symptoms of the problem and very little (if any) addressing the root causes through their own agency or others within the government.
I asked what if any discussion and attention is being paid to root causes, to which the reply was that the symptoms kill you and the root causes do not. And further, he said (no attribution allowed per Davos rules), we are doing what we can to address the root cause - which is extremism.
Some other more thoughtful panellists (in my humble opinion) talked about causes including poverty, a lack of hope, the outstanding conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and feelings of humiliation and oppression.
In a second panel featuring the heads of state from Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, and Afghanistan on challenges facing the Muslim world, the moderator asked what one thing they would ask President Bush to do in order to address the challenges facing their country.
The requests included money (and more money) for development, resolution of the problem in Kashmir - and, very astutely I thought, a request that President Bush pay more careful attention to the nuances and complexities of when and where intervention is appropriate, and to the differences between Muslim countries.
In essence, the concern being expressed was that he is playing fast and loose with dangerous overgeneralisations.
Now, off to a dinner meeting...
So I used my better judgment and took the tram down the mountain this morning rather than the sled - I enjoy high speeds but they can get you into trouble.
Had a good breakfast meeting with Peter Gabriel and Paul Sagan, the CEO of Akamai, about our planned web portal. He was encouraging about the possibility of a collaboration whereby Akamai - which has servers in more than 60 countries - would provide the hosting and delivery infrastructure for all the video that would be uploaded.
As it turns out, Paul has a background in broadcast journalism and founded NY1, a television station that pioneered the use of prosumer Hi8 cameras rather than more expensive BetaCams in a move towards more grassroots journalism.
The CEO of Sony worldwide was so concerned about the trend Paul might be foregrounding that he flew in to talk to him about his decision.
I had a meeting following that with the head of BBC's World News Division to talk about collaboration, and learned that they are in the midst of considering ways to encourage from a more global public in terms of news gathering and distribution.
Open door for more conversation there as well.
Peter Gabriel and I spent some time talking after our meeting with Akamai about something he and Richard Branson and Nelson Mandela are planning, which will be a kind of global council of elders, to utilise the wisdom and experience of elders in the global and local communities to address some of the most pressing problems we are facing in the world today.
I'll get him to post some thoughts to this diary over the next day or two.
Then I attended sessions on stigma as a barrier to HIV-AIDS prevention and a CNN live-to-tape broadcast on "Europe's Identity" crisis, addressing the challenges of growing migration and anti-immigrant backlashes in various parts of Europe.
Quite interesting to hear US Senator Phil Gramm presume to give the Europeans advice about how to address the challenges.
All in all I would say this year lacks the energy and excitement of last year, where Bono, Jeffrey Sachs and Prime Minister Tony Blair amongst others really got the ball rolling again on addressing debt relief and the Millennium Development Goals.
Hoping to hook up with Angelina Jolie later today or tomorrow for a few minutes - she is doing an open forum tomorrow at a local high school on whether human rights have been reduced to a charity case.
25 JANUARY 2006
My day began with the press conference for India Everywhere. I was delighted to see the campaign come to life, given that so much effort has gone into it over the past year, by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Indian business community. Even more so, that people appreciated the holistic branding India can offer.
Whilst doing email I came across New York Times columnist and author Tom Friedman. It was interesting to see how Tom's ideas on how the world is flat have progressed further! This is what I like most about Davos - the serendipity of bumping into people.
I remember two years back bumping into economist Hernando de Soto at the airport and we ended up driving to Davos together, having a conversation on the mystery of capital. It is these brief encounters that makes Davos a special place to be!
One thing that has struck me: unlike previous years - where the world was preoccupied with issues such as Iraq - this year it is back to the basics of business. There is a strong acceptance that globalisation is here and that India and China are at the centre. Rather than worrying about what this means, conversations are more focused on how to adapt to these rising economies.
This was echoed in Angela Merkel's speech today, where she emphasised the need for change by the first world to adapt to the newly emerging world order.
It's late and I have just made it back to the Schatzalp Hotel, perched high above Davos and only accessible via a tram which runs every 20 minutes. Beautiful views in the morning and delays in the darkness when you are wiped out and ready to sleep.
I went to a dinner on The Future of News which was very interesting: largely populated by journalists understandably concerned about what technology convergence means for their readership, their revenue and indeed for their continued existence.
I sat next to the Director of BBC Global News who joked that he had vied for one of the two blogging spots at BBC Online covering Davos (which landed in my lap), and been denied as too "insider".
Things have changed, haven't they, that someone like me with virtually no journalistic training is afforded an opportunity to report via blog on the BBC - still, according to one commentator tonight, one of the most trusted brands amongst all markets in the UK.
People commented that blogs have penetrated because the readers want authenticity, and that means more than a reporter's pedigree. As one BBC staff member commented using a cricket analogy, "the crowd has invaded the pitch, and wants to play in the game."
Nevertheless, speaking of authenticity... as a second-time blogger I notice the instinct to self-censor. Who knows who may read this? When and where?
And of course I'm aware that I need to make it by the BBC and WED editorial boards, which to their credit (or my discredit) haven't bothered to censor me yet.
A consistent refrain at tonight's discussion on the Future of News was the emphasis on the need for journalists to continue to uphold a standard for generating quality, credible news. As Witness board member Andrew Blau has said, in an increasingly noisy media environment, trusted guides become ever more important.
But my favourite quote of the evening was from a US reporter, who commented that an editor's job is to separate the wheat from the chaff - and publish the chaff. It goes without saying that when we're all busy gorging on chaff, we wind up fat and malnourished.
One of the most interesting realisations for me tonight was that the US press was much more concerned about revenue streams and survival than their counterparts in countries like Nigeria, China, and India, who talked about how readership is increasing, even of print newspapers, as disposable income and literacy grows.
Yet another reminder that we tend to live in our own universe in the US.
Signing off... I think I may need to sled down the mountain at 6.30am in the dark to make it to a meeting on time. No joke!
Day 1 at the World Economic Forum: I attended a session this morning on how we did as a global community in the last year in the areas identified as top priorities by Davos attendees last year: poverty, equitable globalisation, climate change, education, global governance, and the Middle East.
People felt encouraged by the fact that commitments were made by governments to double aid to Africa from $60bn to $129bn by 2010 and that there was an agreement to cancel 100% of the multilateral debt for 18 countries.
They attributed the new commitments to strong leadership coming from the UK in the G8 and pressure from NGOs and global citizens, particularly in and around the Live 8 concerts.
One panellist noted that governments in Italy and Germany weren't responding to calls for increased aid until public opinion rallied them during the concerts. I found that encouraging. While people acknowledged the new commitments, everyone agreed that the challenge now is to make sure governments make good on their promises.
In the area of climate change, there was much less to be hopeful about although one panellist noted that at least we finally have some measure of agreement that we have a serious problem on our hands.
I also sent some e-mails via the internal email system here requesting meetings with the leadership at Cisco, Google and Akamai to talk with Peter Gabriel and I about partnering on Witness' planned web portal.
We're in the early stages of conceptualising this, but the idea is that we would build a web hub to which anyone from around the world could upload video content and photographs via their cell phone, handheld device or computer onto a site which would give them the tools and support they need to propose and self-organise campaigns on pressing human rights issues.
Technology has really caught up with Peter Gabriel's original founding vision for Witness and there is so much we can do to change the world using visual imagery and the internet. You can see a mock-up explaining some of the functionality we have in mind for the web portal here.
We'd love your ideas and since this blog is just going one way, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the key topics that I am going to focus on is related to the talent deficit that will affect the world in different ways in the near future.
While emerging economies like India and China will have to educate and train their youths with the right skills to take on the jobs that are being created, some countries such as Japan and the US will face a challenge in meeting the demands thrown up by the demographic deficit brought about by an ageing population.
Unless these issues are addressed now, they will become increasingly difficult to tackle in the future.
Innovative measures are required and as a firm believer in the utility of public-private partnerships, I feel that the private sector has a critical role to play. Businesses should partner with governments to address these concerns.
I will be hosting a panel discussion to address this issue on 26 January and am looking forward to the outcomes, which can hopefully be applied to solving our problems.
24 JANUARY 2006
I have been in a series of pre-Davos seminars with the other Schwab Social Entrepreneurs.
People like Albina Ruiz who has formed Ciudad Saludable, a organisation in Peru which processes all forms of solid waste in urban slums and has helped create seven profitable enterprises managing the processing and recycling of that waste.
Or Isaac Durojaiye, who comes from a background in security but formed DMT Toilets in Nigeria. His company manufactures, installs and maintains thousands of public toilets through a franchise system that provides job opportunities to unemployed youth and helps address a critical public health issue.
Lest you think all the Social Entrepreneurs are in the waste management business, there is Mel Young who recently started the Homeless World Cup - an annual street soccer tournament uniting teams of homeless people around the world.
Research following the 2004 Homeless World Cup found that 74% of the players made significant changes in their lives as a direct result of their participation in the tournament.
This morning, World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab spoke to us about his inspiration for starting the World Economic Forum. He said he was passionate about creating a global forum for leading decision-makers to meet and discuss the key issues of the day.
He considers himself a social entrepreneur, and described how he met a German financier on a golf course when WEF was just his idea many decades ago. The financier was impressed by Klaus and tried to recruit him to work for his company, but Klaus said he was committed to finding a way to make the WEF happen.
Finally, the financier agreed to loan him the money, saying that if Klaus made a go of it he could repay him -- and that if he did not, he would need to come work for him. Thus, the deal was struck.
Hilde Schwab - Klaus's wife and also a member of the Schwab Foundation board of directors - spoke about how WEF was a gathering of the elite and it was our responsibility to keep people focused on what was happening on the ground.
Registration starts this evening. More soon...
23 JANUARY 2006
So the BBC has offered me the opportunity to blog from this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.
First, a little bit of background, feel free to skip. For those of you who don't know a lot about the WEF, they have provided their own answers to frequently asked questions. Broadly speaking, its a gathering of people with a lot of influence, financially and politically, and has been the subject of considerable debate and criticism over the years which has led to annual protests as well as the founding of the World Social Forum.
WEF is largely populated by the CEOs of major fortune 500 companies, combined with prominent academics, musicians, actors, and a smattering of civil society representatives like myself.
I am here for my fourth time since 1992, when I was first invited to participate as a Schwab Social Entrepreneur. The Schwab Foundation was formed by Klaus Schwab in 2001 - he also founded the World Economic Forum. The Foundation brings several dozen of us here each year as the primary vehicle through which is aims to support our work.
I am the executive director of Witness, co-founded by musician and activist Peter Gabriel (also a regular at Davos and a wonderful man).
We donate video cameras to human rights groups around the world and train and support them to use video to create change. Given what I'm up to, I wouldn't say Davos is a natural fit for me.
Last year my colleague Tamaryn attended the World Social Forum in Brazil and I would feel much more at home there. But I am very appreciative of the opportunity to get an insider's look at the thinking behind decisions that effect us all - whether they relate to trade policy, HIV-Aids prevention, or debt relief.
And in some years I am speaking on panels about issues like business and human rights which is a golden opportunity to be a part of a very influential conversation.
But each year has been different in terms of the opportunities Davos presents for us. Last year I met Angelina Jolie and asked her to join me on a trip to Sierra Leone to do some advocacy work with the President (which she did)... I blogged about that as well, archived here.
She has since become a friend and a strong ally in our work. Hope to see her here again later this week and talk about some new projects we are working on in Asia and Africa.
They asked me to blog about what my plans are and why I come and to be honest I ask myself these questions when I am jet lagged and missing my kids (Tess who is 3 and Finn who is 1) and my partner Louis.
But there are invariably some very magic moments here. This year my plan is to plan less... to spend less time chasing down meetings and more time absorbing information and engaging in discussion.
I'm also looking for innovative thinking on our planned web portal to which anyone can upload video of human rights abuses worldwide into a tactical media interface via their cell phone... More on that later.
I guess it's a perfect year for a web diary. And hopefully it will be more interesting once things get underway... Wednesday.
As I get ready for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, I am amazed at the global changes that have occurred over the past year.
We are standing on the threshold of history, looking at a world that is rapidly globalising. Opportunities are tremendous in a world where national borders are more open.
India and China are growing fast and their rising economic power will give them a larger role and influence in world affairs.
The sessions at Davos will focus on these and other topics of global importance.
I have always treasured my interactions at the World Economic Forum as they are both intellectually stimulating and action-oriented.
The unique confluence of business and society (academics, media leaders, opinion makers and policy makers) makes for serious discussions on issues the world faces and brings back focus where it's required.
Our exchange of ideas helps drive social development elsewhere and I am confident that this year's annual meeting will also drive the global agenda forward.