Attending the 2010 World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting is a whirl, and you stay on the move. My first session was on social networking where CEOs and top executives from most major sites – LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter – were answering questions from eager participants on censorship, the value of transparency, and whether literacy, education, and teaching are threatened by social marketing sites. I then hurried to a panel on chronic diseases, where experts worried about the new pandemic of “Globesity,” and an African Minister of Health warned that cancer was now killing more of his countrymen than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. Senior fellow, Jeremiah Norris, and I have been urging the global health community for over twenty years to do more about chronic diseases because they are the largest killers and cancers, cardiovascular disease, strokes and diabetes are a tremendous burden on worker productivity and national healthcare expenditures. It was good to see some serious attention being paid to the no longer “silent” epidemic of chronic diseases.
Topics and events here in Davos range from climate change to energy, nuclear threats, philanthropy, Shakespeare, foreign aid and trade, economic growth, the Great Recession, the economics of happiness, to James Cameron talking about his latest work, Avatar, and Lang Lang, renowned Chinese pianist, playing for us all in the packed Congress Hall.
I participated in a great session on “Rethinking Philanthropy,” with Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Martin Fisher, head of Kickstart, Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief of The Economist USA, Alvaro Rodriguez Arregui, Co-founder and managing partner of ICNIA Partners, and Justice Muhammed Taqi Usmani, Vice President, Darul-Uloom in Pakistan. The focus was on the challenges faced by philanthropy today and the innovations for future. Technology in philanthropy as well as in so many fields discussed here at the WEF sessions, reigns supreme. Former President Clinton, who spoke to us today, said he never realized the extent and importance of technology and how cell phones and text messaging have been essential to disaster management operations and fund raising. The Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, has been featuring new technologies in philanthropy and remittances over the last four years, and it is exciting to see this field continue to grow and improve.
I was especially happy to finally meet Martin Fisher whose project, Kickstart, we featured in our very first Index. Martin’s manual irrigation machine, The Money Maker, is manufactured in Africa, and he now tells me that over 90,000 Africans have bought this low cost, efficient machine and increased their incomes. His plans are to stick with this winning model and scale up in even more African countries.
The WEF has formed a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the UN to address both immediate and longer term needs in Haiti. Former President Clinton laid out the needs and plans for now and the future, citing the distribution system for just getting humanitarian goods to people is the most critical. He cited over 150,000 dead and 200,000 injured with hundreds of thousands still needing shelter, food and water. The focus of all these partners is on, as Clinton put it today, “Rebuilding the country they want to be, not what they were.” With analogies to Rwanda’s recent growth through its good governance, he was optimistic about the chances for Haiti. Whether Haiti can pull this off is of course the big question in a country that has failed miserably over the years. This will be an opportunity to take the lessons we have learned from past development aid mistakes and try to get it right in Haiti. The terrible tragedy of Haiti has brought the Obama Administration and the world’s development aid network a chance to make some lasting changes in a long suffering country.
Director & Senior Fellow
Center for Global Prosperity