IN THE NEWS #464 - The World Economic Forum

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Members of The World Economic Forum are preparing for their yearly meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting will be held from January twenty-fifth through January thirtieth.

Officials describe the Forum as an independent, private group that acts in the public interest. Its aim is to improve economic growth and social progress throughout the world. The group's headquarters is in Geneva. This will be its thirty-first yearly meeting.

Members use the yearly meeting to develop and share ideas about important issues facing nations. The purpose of the meeting this year is to discuss the future of the international economy. The title is "Sustaining Growth and Bridging the Divides." Representatives at the yearly meeting will discuss ways to narrow the differences between rich and poor. Other major areas of discussion will be new developments in technology, problems facing companies, and how to include art and culture in everyday life.

Business leaders from the one-thousand companies that are members of the World Economic Forum will attend the meeting. Officials also expect two-hundred-fifty political leaders, about two-hundred education experts, artists and writers, and five-hundred reporters. National leaders expected at the meeting include President Vincente Fox of Mexico, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori of Japan, and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Representatives of thirty-six non-governmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International also will attend.

Forum officials say no other event brings together leaders from business, government, education, and the media to discuss major world issues. The group says it tries to bring together people who would not normally meet in order to create new ideas.

Protesters have announced they will try to interfere with the meeting in Davos. Activists who oppose the World Trade Organization have formed a group they call the Anti-W-T-O Coordination Group. The activist group opposes opening world markets for freer trade. It says the Forum and its World Trade Organization allies are making industrial nations rich by keeping developing nations poor.

Last year, violent demonstrations took place at the yearly Forum meeting. Activists clashed with police, and attacked stores and cars. This year, local officials in Switzerland have banned any protests while the Forum is meeting. The Swiss government says it will do whatever is needed to prevent violence.

The World Economic Forum says it is always ready to meet critics and to discuss the effects of its decisions on both rich and poor. But Forum leaders say they will not meet with groups that support violence.

This VOA Special English IN THE NEWS program was written by Nancy Steinbach.

Voice of America Special English