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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Forum to Focus on Globalization

GENEVA -- World business and political leaders meeting in Davos this month will focus on how to ensure cooperation to prevent globalization undermining democracy, organizers said Tuesday.

The gathering, the 30th set up by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, will also look at how NGOs or nongovernmental organizations - many skeptical about globalization - can be brought into the process, according to its program.

While governments and nation states are losing more and more power as the global economy becomes increasingly integrated, the forum's president and founder Klaus Schwab said, business should avoid taking their place.

"What we need is close cooperation between government, business and civil society to meet the challenges we confront," the German-born economist said.

Attending this year's gathering from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1 will be U.S. President Bill Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Malaysia's prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, an outspoken critic of Western financiers. They are among world leaders as well as company executives, bankers, labor union officials and cultural and scientific figures expected to attend the five-day meeting in the Swiss mountain resort.

The gathering comes only two months after the collapse of an effort at a World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting in Seattle to get agreement on the launch of a new round of negotiations to further lower barriers to global commerce.

It also comes just two weeks before a top-level session in Bangkok of the United Nations trade and development body UNCTAD, where ministers from WTO member countries are expected to look at how the damage to the world trading system can be repaired.

Analysts say what has become widely known as the "Seattle debacle" illustrated the depth of concern about the effects of globalization - both among developing countries and many sections of society in the richer economies.

Schwab, in a nod toward some of the concerns expressed there, said the world was so complex "that we cannot create some kind of all-encompassing business-government organization," adding, "It would lack democratic legitimacy."

What could be done, he said, "is create flexible networks where you put together governments, international organizations and business to look at the new issues on the global agenda."

The street battles in Seattle between police and both violent and less violent anti-WTO protesters who sought to prevent the meeting taking place has sparked concern that similar scenes might occur in Davos.

On Monday, the government of the Grisons canton where the usually peaceful small spa-and-ski town is located said it had asked the federal authorities in the Swiss capital, Bern, for army help to guard key installations during the forum.

Extra police have already been drafted in from all over Switzerland to help the local force keep order.

In May 1998, demonstrators closed down much of central Geneva during an earlier WTO ministerial meeting, although police there, unlike in Seattle at the start of last month's gathering, sealed off a perimeter around it from the start.

Grisons officials would like to do something similar, but a ban on demonstrations in Davos during last year's forum brought a rebuke - and a fine - for the town authorities from a Swiss civil court.