I’m glad I went to Davos, some years back. I went twice, back in the days when I was running Geekcorps and Davos seemed like a great opportunity to meet wealthy and powerful people and raise money for my project. The raising money part never actually worked, but it was certainly good fun to see what sorts of conversations do and don’t take place in a venue like the World Economic Forum.
I stopped going because it’s expensive, even when you’re representing a charity and don’t pay the admission fee. Travel to Davos costs a great deal, and the hotels are so expensive that I ended up staying in a spare room in a hospital the second year I attended. (Yes, they were renting rooms… though getting injured and seeking a hospital room might also work if you’re truly desperate.) And while there’s an undeniable thrill to rubbing elbows with the rich, famous and powerful, the talks weren’t nearly as good as those at TED or Pop!Tech and I never had any luck raising money in the Davos setting. Good fun, but not good for my NGO, so ultimately not worth my time.
But thanks to my friend Loïc Le Meur, I’ve had the chance to have a virtual Davos experience this year. I met Loïc years ago at Davos and we’ve stayed in touch since, which has let me watch him launch the Paris Les Webs conference and videoblogging startup Seesmic. I’m always amazed at his relentless creativity in getting people to play with the tools he’s building. And today he snagged Kofi Annan… and me.
Loïc convinced the former Secretary General of the UN to give him a fifteen minute interview on camera late today at Davos, and then solicited questions for Annan via Seesmic. Below are my two questions for Secretary General Annan and his responses.
The summary, for those not interested in the video conversation: I asked what citizens in wealthy countries should do to support UN efforts in eastern DRC, western Sudan and, perhaps in the future, Somalia. I also asked what lessons the continent could take from Ghana’s elections and how those lessons could be applied in other contexts. His responses? The UN security council needs to stop issuing mandates without resources to carry them out. More than more troops on the ground, the peacekeeping forces need resources to increase mobility – 4x4s and helicopters, primarily, and citizens need to pressure their leaders to provide the resources. Regarding the election, we need to study what worked in Ghana and try to adopt techniques and lessons for other African democracies.
Okay, so it wasn’t quite as exciting as asking Annan these questions face to face, but it beats flying to Zurich. Thanks for the opportunity, Loïc, and Mr. Secretary General. And thank you, internet – the world really does get a little stranger every day.