Friday, January 30, 2009

The Other Davos-With Attitude, Not Altitude

Davos Man woke up, smelt the coffee and realised the Alps are so last year. It's a wonder anyone bothered to turn up. Real folk are heading for a Brazilian and the alternative Davos with attitude.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. Chancellor Darling's the latest to decide enough's enough and he's not going to join the dwindling band stuck on the top of a mountain, leaving Brown to wander around with a few tired pals from the old New World Order.

Apparently Darling decided "as a number of the people he was due to meet had pulled out, his time would be better spent doing other things," according to a spokesman.

Banana-skin boy, David Miliband, is also not attending, probably a good idea after making rather a monkey of himself as foreign secretary.

That left good ship Cameron and prime minister in-wanting Brown, who's there to "lay the foundations for the G20 summit in Britain in April" according to his spokesman. And to hope and pray Obama will drop by in April for a pre-election photo-op.

What a difference a year makes, when Brad and Angelina were the life and soul of the party, Bono tried to bend everyone's ear and the great and good strutted around as Masters of the Universe.

If there was ever a case of bad timing, Davos and the World Economic Forum takes the biscuit.

Riots on the street of Paris and refinery workers here staging mass walkouts over the use of foreign labour has led to a blast from international labour leaders accusing world politicians of a failure to respond effectively to a deepening crisis of their own making and a warning that the Paris unrest will spread around the world.

Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, warns in the Times: "The current financial turmoil had triggered a social timebomb that would lead to deepening civil unrest and soaring crime." That's a message leaders at the Forum ignore at their peril.

Meanwhile over in Belem, Brazil, five South American leaders are heading to the alternative World Social Forum to join 100,000 activists demanding a long overdue overhaul of capitalism.

The presidents of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela are due to join leftes of all colours and persuasions at an annual protest against the Davos shindig.

The date was chosen deliberately because organizing a mass protest in Davos with tight security was out of the question.

Heading off to the Forum, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said the World Social Forum will show the planet how to make "a better world, distinct from capitalism."

And Brazilian president, the not so leftie Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has given Davos a miss and will making his first social forum appearance in three years.

Organisers hope leaders there will want to do more than just boost their popularity while people suffer and struggle in a global financial meltdown.

"I would hope their coming here is a genuine reflection of their interest in engaging in civil society and not just a photo op," said Gladys Cisneros, from the Washington based American Center for International Labor Solidarity.

it may be a little steamy in the jungle and crammed full of old and new lefties but hey, it beats freezing your socks off at a high altitude Swiss ski resort. And it beats having to get down and dirty with the rich and powerful dumbos at Davos with the economic world crumbles around their ears, hanging around for a photo-op for Brown's Downing Street website album.

Meanwhile over at Davos, Blair is coining it in and best buddy Murdoch is selling newspapers. Mandelson, Osborne, Rothschild and Deripaska will be bitching behind each other's backs. The Forum is conspicuous for the absence of the shamed big international money-men. But that still leaves 1,400 business executives and 41 heads of government to enjoy the power and privilege while they can.

Picture: Real people at a camp site during the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

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