The list of public figures at the 2008 Davos Forum include the following 21 heads of state or government. The geographical breakdown: Western Europe (6), Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (5), ASEAN (3), Middle East (3), Central Asia (1), Latin America (1), Sub-Saharan Africa (1); and, of course, Japan(1). The highest ranking US official on the list is the highest ranking Condoleezza Rice*. For Western European heads, Davos is a short hop and a ride from home**. Leaders from Eastern Europe and the former USSR republics were first invited in the early 90s as transition economies, the new thing; apparently, some of them keep coming. Likewise, President Karzai was invited in a show of endorsement from the global community. No doubt parallel invitations to Palestine*** and Israel heads (and their attendance) also have political significance. None of the BRICs are in this group, though Jacob Zuma, the odds-on favorite to become the next President of South Africa, is on the list.
So, why were Prime Minister Fukuda － and Ichirō Ozawa － invited, and why did they both accept? Did Mr. Fukuda go to Davos solely for the purpose of announcing a climate change program? To get an i-Pod from Bono? In the midst of a regular Diet session? And why did Mr. Ozawa keeping dithering, going back and forth on his trip, until he cancelled it at the last minute? Just askin’.
Valdas Adamkus, President of Lithuania (EE&USSR)
Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan (EE&USSR)
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia (ASEAN)
Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands (WE)
Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania (EE&USSR)
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom**** (WE)
Pascal Couchepin, President of the Swiss Confederation and Federal Councillor of Home Affairs (WE)
Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority (ME)
François Fillon, Prime Minister of France (WE)
Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister of Japan
Alfred Gusenbauer, Federal Chancellor of Austria (WE)
Ferenc Gyurcsany, Prime Minister of Hungary (EE&USSR)
Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan (CA)
Lee Hsien-Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore (ASEAN)
Gloria Macapagal, Arroyo, President of the Philippines (ASEAN)
Shimon Peres, President of Israel (ME)
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark (WE)
Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar (ME)
Alvaro Uribe Velez, President of Colombia (LA)
Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, President of Nigeria (Af)
Viktor A. Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (EE&USSR)
* The Secretaries of Homeland Security and Education are on the list as well, but Rice outranks them in order of succession to the US Presidency.
** But is it a coincidence that France is the only representative from Latin Europe?
*** Palestine is not a sovereign state, but I’ve included it here. I would do so if the Chen Shui-bian were on the list, but don’t expect Klaus Schwab to be issuing any such invitation.
**** The UK is also heavily represented at cabinet level, no doubt the result of heavy lobbying by Tony Blair, one of the seven co-chairs of the meeting.