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Davos '09: Less Glitz, More Anxiety

I'm on my way to Davos for this year's World Economic Forum. The theme of this year's conference is "Shaping the Post-Crisis World." Glad to hear the organizers are expecting there to be a "post" to this "crisis."
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I'm on my way to Davos for this year's World Economic Forum. The theme of this year's conference is "Shaping the Post-Crisis World." Glad to hear the organizers are expecting there to be a "post" to this "crisis".

On the one hand, organizers are expecting a record turnout. And a record number of heads of state -- 40 -- are planning to attend, which many are taking as a sign that government-based solutions to the global economic crisis will be front and center this year, with chastened financial types less dominant. Gordon Brown, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and Wen Jiabao are among the world leaders coming to Davos. President Obama is sitting this one out, as are Lawrence Summers and national security advisor James L. Jones -- both had planned to attend but withdrew last week. The Obama administration will be represented by Valerie Jarrett.

On the other hand, the mood leading up to the conference is decidedly -- and appropriately -- somber. Especially for those no longer masterful Masters of the Universe. Citi and Goldman Sachs have cancelled their usually lavish parties. And many top bankers, concerned about appearances, are not even coming.

Citigroup head Vikram Pandit has canceled. Same with Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein. And a number of other financial institutions are scaling back their Davos contingents and sponsorships.

Also sending regrets, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bono.

But there will be plenty of interesting panels, speeches, and roundtables -- and, of course, the unexpected, unplanned, off-the-schedule hook ups that make Davos such a unique gathering.

I'm taking part in a number of panels. Early Wednesday, I will be part of a panel, moderated by Josef Joffe, the publisher-editor of Die Zeit, discussing how the core issues from the '08 election will evolve from campaign rhetoric to government policy now that Obama has taken office. I will be joined on the panel by Jay Nordlinger of the National Review, Lally Weymouth of Newsweek, and Frederick Kempe of the Atlantic Council.

Later that night I will moderate an "interactive dinner session" at the Hotel Waldhuss-Sertig, entitled "Power to the People -- Politics in the Internet Age." Andy Stern of SIEU, William Daley of JP Morgan & Chase, Irene Khan of Amnesty International, Moises Naim of Foreign Policy Magazine, Calvin Chin, the CEO of Qifang in the People's Republic of China, Don Tapscott of nGenera Insight, and Korean newspaper and TV exec Chang Dae-Whan will help lead the discussion.

On Thursday afternoon, I'm taking part in a conversation about how new catalysts -- such as the innovative use of technology and social media -- can be used to stimulate new forms of interfaith dialogue. A cross-section of religious leaders from around the world, including Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations in the United Kingdom, and Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia will be taking part.

Then, on Thursday evening, I am facilitating a dinner discussion about the new world of "media fusion" where traditional American and European media companies are being joined by local media players in emerging markets. The session will feature Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson of HT Media in India, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, Wang Lifen, a producer and TV host from China, and Rodrigo Teijeiro, CEO of Sonico in Argentina.

One of the presentations I'm most looking forward to is a lunch panel on "PhilanthroCapitalism." Matthew Bishop of the Economist will discuss "How the rich can save the world" by taking a businesslike approach to charitable giving. He will be joined by Nancy Lublin, CEO of and venture capitalist Matt Cohler, who will talk about the movement towards not-for-profit IPOs as a way of remaking the impact of NGOs.

More to come once I arrive. In the meantime, be sure and check in frequently with our Davos Big News page for the latest news, commentary, and video coming out of the World Economic Forum.

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