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World Economic Forum Opens as Other Talks Seek Syrian Peace

27 January 2013

Against the backdrop of the United Nations–brokered Syrian peace talks taking place about 360 kilometers away, the annual World Economic Forum opened January 22 in Davos, Switzerland, under the theme "Reshaping the World."

The forum will draw 2,500 participants from almost 100 countries, including more than 1,500 business leaders and 40 heads of state, according to forum leaders. Meanwhile, in Montreux, Switzerland, roughly 30 countries are represented at the peace talks, known as Geneva II, between the Syrian government and its opposition. The talks, which began January 22, will reconvene in nearby Geneva on January 24.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (above right, being greeted by U.S. Chargé d'Affairs Peter Mulrean upon his arrival in Geneva January 21 to attend the talks) is scheduled to address the economic forum on January 23 about the U.S. commitment to and engagement in the Middle East.

In a media interview January 20, Klaus Schwab, the forum's German founder and president, said he expected Geneva II to affect the forum's discussions. Topics include climate change, unemployment and the disparity between the rich and poor, which he said could lead to a "lost generation" of youth and social unrest. Also on the agenda is the topic of well-being, mindfulness and what it means to lead a healthy life.

Founded in 1971, the forum defines itself as an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. It is the largest such gathering in the world. Participants can choose from more than 200 sessions of interest to attend.

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