Swiss protesters to stop lobbying annual Davos Economic Forum

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 19, 2014 1:20 PM

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - Anti-corporate activists declared moral victory over the annual Davos World Economic Forum of global business and political leaders on Wednesday and said they would no longer lobby there after the next meeting in January.

Three anti-globalisation groups that have staged marches and counter-conferences during the gathering over the past 15 years said they took the decision because their aim to raise awareness of misbehaviour by big companies had succeeded.

In a sideswipe at the Forum, launched in 1971 and long a major event on the world economic and political calendar, the groups' statement said Davos was also losing its relevance as a venue to bring pressure on decision-makers.

"We feel the time has come to move on now we are getting nearer to ensuring politically that Swiss-based corporations have to respect human rights and the environment worldwide," Oliver Classen of the Berne Declaration grouping told Reuters.

To mark their "farewell to Davos", they said in a statement, they would use the Forum from January 21-24 to present a final "award of shame" to a major international firms.

The annual award to the "most irresponsible company of the year" - always one with top executives attending the restricted-access Forum - has been a central feature of the groups' highly visible activities in Davos.

In the 1990s, amid global protests against freeing world trade, the usually tranquil mountain resort town was often the scene of anti-globalisation violence, leading the Swiss authorities to close it off during the four-day meeting.

From 2000, the Berne Declaration - with its partners Public Eye and the Swiss branch of environmental movement Greenpeace, who prefer peaceful methods - was allowed to run counter-Forum debates and information booths in Davos to get across its views.

Classen said this had brought the message to a broad swathe of Swiss people, leading to the creation of a Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice and moves in the Berne parliament to bind companies to human rights and environmental rules.

The Berne declaration, which has become one of Europe's major groups campaigning against corporate labour and environmental abuse, now plans to focus efforts on working for the passage of a Swiss law regulating company behaviour.

No comment was immediately available from the Geneva-based Forum, which has long campaigned for member companies to uphold "an exemplary standard of governance."

(Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Tom Heneghan)