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Gathering of world's rich and powerful wraps up with appeal to help world's poor

Gathering of world's rich and powerful wraps up with appeal to help world's poor

This year's gathering of the world's rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum produced fresh commitments to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, a glimmer of hope on liberalizing world trade, determination to combat global warming _ and emotional appeals at Sunday's closing session to help the world's neediest escape poverty.
The five-day political and economic brainstorming session was less glitzy this year _ no stars like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone or Richard Gere who have stolen the limelight in the past.
Instead, the forum returned to its roots of international problem-solving with 24 world leaders, over 800 top business leaders and dozens of social activists and academics discussing a host of issues from the conflict in Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions to the continuing rise of China and India as economic powers.
The new stars of Davos were the young entrepreneurs _ many whose fortunes have been made on the Internet and with new technology _ like YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley who announced that his wildly successful video site will start sharing revenue with its millions of users.
Hurley and Caterina Fake, founder of the Internet photo-sharing site Flikr, shared the stage with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the world's richest man and now a Davos veteran. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were also hotly pursued for their views on the site's expansion.
The biggest political players at Davos were from the Middle East.
In emotional speeches at the forum, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to forge peace. After a meeting on the sidelines, Livni said they explored "any way to push the process," but she suggested the road to peace would be long.
Jordan's King Abdullah II told the forum that the need for progress was urgent because the Palestinian-Israeli standoff was a "firestarter" with vast potential to destabilize the region. "I believe that time is running out" to solve the crisis, he warned.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and U.S. President George W. Bush's immediate plans to increase troops there. Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said U.S. forces could turn events around _ but many others were highly skeptical.
Blair and U.S. Sen. John McCain, a possible Republican presidential candidate, were both optimistic about global action on climate change _ one of the hottest topics at Davos. McCain said he expects the new Democratic-controlled Congress to take action very soon "on this compelling issue."
On another hot issue, nearly 30 countries met on the sidelines of the forum Saturday to discuss the lack of progress in the World Trade Organization talks. They "expressed a strong wish for a quick resumption" of negotiations _ but stopped short of making improved offers to break a deadlock that has lasted for six months.
Nonetheless, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said there was new energy at the meeting and India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath declared: "Despite the cold outside in Davos, we have been able to defreeze the talks that were frozen."
There were calls from Blair, musician Bono, South African President Thabo Mbeki and Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson to governments and companies to keep their promises of aid to Africa _ and redouble their efforts.
While one of the world's biggest problems _ the four-year-old conflict in Sudan's Darfur region _ wasn't on the Davos agenda, Blair and others raised it and said there must be action to end the violence that has claimed some 200,000 lives and forced 2.5 million people from their homes.
At Sunday's closing session which focused on the right of all inhabitants of planet Earth to live a dignified life, Norway's Crown Prince Haakonen spoke of visiting a poor township outside Durban, South Africa, and speaking to a couple who were both HIV positive and had three children and a disabled sister.
The prince, his voice breaking with emotion, said the man told him "`I'm very concerned. I know that my wife and I will not be here for long' _ and then, he looked me in the eye and said, `Please do everything you can to help people like me.'"
"I think he said this to each and every one of us," the prince said to the several hundred-strong VIP audience, urging them to make dignity "the basic guiding principle of all actions."
The movers and shakers headed home with different highpoints from Davos.
"It's encouraging that some of the business leaders understand that if they want to go forward with globalization, they have to pay more attention to questions of equity and fairness," said U.S. congressman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Kamel Lazaar, president and CEO of Saudi Arabia's Swicorp Investment Bank, said "the great thing about Davos is that in a few days you can do meetings that it takes 12 months to do _ and it saves you all the hassle of travel and organizing."
Psychologist and sex therapist Dagmar O'Connor said her sessions on self-esteem were oversubscribed.
"In Davos, psychologically, relationship-wise, same problems as everywhere else in the world _ but they're under more stress," she said.


Updated : 2021-05-14 16:00 GMT+08:00