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Have Forum Leaders Learned to Listen to Their Critics, Or Have They Just Learned to Deflectcriticism?

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Today is the final day of the World Economic Forum, held this year for the first time in New York City. Previouslyit was held in Davos, Switzerland.

For five days, world leaders, CEOs, big-name thinkers, and even the occasional rock star have mingled at the WaldorfAstoria to discuss trade, globalization, and international security. The theme of this year’s conference: “Leadershipin Fragile Times: A Vision for a Shared Future.”

Few details of the forum have slipped out to the public, but the media so far is billing the event as a time ofsoul-searching and consciousness-raising. In the words of the New York Times, “the titans of business andpolitics have seized on many of the same socially liberal issues that they have been accused of ignoring at pastgatherings.”

Yesterday, for example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, told participants: “Weneed to move toward a more ethical globalization and find a way to have civic democracy on an international level.”Meanwhile, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates warned that the terms of international trade were too favorable to the richworld. And Senator Hillary Clinton cited a global poll characterizing Americans as selfish and bent on arranging theglobal economy for their own benefit. “We’ve not done our fair share to take on some of the global challenges,” shelamented.

But not all are convinced by these expressions of concern. As protesters outside the forum have described them asmere manipulation, critics inside have decried them as pandering to the left. So which is it? Have forum leaderslearned to listen to their critics, or have they just learned to deflect them? Today, we’ll have a debate.


  • Professor David Henderson, former Chief Economist of the Organization for Economic Co-operation andDevelopment (OECD). He is now Visiting Professor at the Westminster Business School in London. His most recent bookis ??Misguided Virtue: False Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Antonia Juhasz, project director, International Forum on Globalization, and former legislative assistantfocusing on globalization issues. She was protesting the WEF on the streets of New York this weekend.

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