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25 janvier 2006

Davos diary 2006

So what is really happening at the World Economic Forum (WEF)? Several participants will send us regular Davos diaries, sharing their hopes, expectations and experiences.

Gillian Caldwell is the executive director of human rights group Witness.

25 JANUARY 2006

Day 1 at the World Economic Forum: I attended a session this morning on how we did as a global community in the last year in the areas identified as top priorities by Davos attendees last year: poverty, equitable globalization, climate change, education, global governance, and the Middle East.

People felt encouraged by the fact that commitments were made by governments to double aid to Africa from $60bn to $129bn by 2010 and that there was an agreement to cancel 100% of the multilateral debt for 18 countries.

They attributed the new commitments to strong leadership coming from the UK in the G8 and pressure from NGOs and global citizens, particularly in and around the Live 8 concerts.

One panellist noted that governments in Italy and Germany weren't responding to calls for increased aid until public opinion rallied them during the concerts. I found that encouraging. While people acknowledged the new commitments, everyone agreed that the challenge now is to make sure governments make good on their promises.

In the area of climate change, there was much less to be hopeful about although one panelist noted that at least we finally have some measure of agreement that we have a serious problem on our hands.

I also sent some e-mails via the internal email system here requesting meetings with the leadership at Cisco, Google and Akamai to talk with Peter Gabriel and I about partnering on Witness' planned web portal.

We're in the early stages of conceptualising this, but the idea is that we would build a web hub to which anyone from around the world could upload video content and photographs via their cell phone, handheld device or computer onto a site which would give them the tools and support they need to propose and self-organise campaigns on pressing human rights issues.

Technology has really caught up with Peter Gabriel's original founding vision for Witness and there is so much we can do to change the world using visual imagery and the internet. You can see a mock-up explaining some of the functionality we have in mind for the web portal here.

We'd love your ideas and since this blog is just going one way, you can reach me at

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