Saturday, January 31, 2009

Davos: What a Difference a Year Makes

It's been a year since YouTube and the World Economic Forum launched our partnership at the Forum's yearly gathering in Davos. Last year we were asking the 'Davos Question' - "What's one thing that countries, companies, and individuals can do to make the world a better place?" We got answers as varied as the participants in the conference... from Bono to Hamid Karzai to Emma Thompson to Henry Kissinger, world leaders told us about ways to improve the environment, the economy, global cooperation, gender equality, geopolitics, and more.

This year, the Forum has a decidedly different feel. The global financial crisis has crystallized the mood here - almost every perspective we've collected is coming through the lens of how the economy in 2009 will present new challenges to all of the major issues we face. That said, this year's theme - the Davos Debates - has brought some very interesting responses to the four main questions we're asking on politics, ethics, the economy, and the environment. Check out the Davos Debates YouTube channel to see playlists of the themes that have emerged, or search for videos from your country or your leaders.

2008 brought a lot of change to the global outlook... one microcosm of that change can be seen in Arthur Mutambara, a young Zimbabwean political leader who we met last year at Davos, just after the Zimbabwean elections has been called. Mutambara uploaded this video, in which he called for free and fair elections so that reigning President Robert Mugabe (also named one of the world's top tyrants on several lists) would have to face the voice of the Zimbabwean people, who'd seen their economy hit record levels of inflation.

Unfortunately for Mutambara and his countrymen, the elections that took place were not seen as free nor fair by hardly anyone, and after opposition leaders (Mutambara included) were jailed by Mugabe, international pressure mounted for a power-sharing agreement that would appoint Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister next to President Mugabe.

As timing would have it, earlier today that agreement has come to fruition. And Mutambara, a passionate advocate for his country and a compelling speaker, came back to YouTube to upload his reaction. Though many claim the power-sharing agreement won't work and that Mugabe will still rule with the same iron fist, Mutambara's attitude of responsibility and optimism is notable.

We need more leaders with this kind of spirit in 2009, as we face down problems that challenge our trust not only in our global economy, but in each other.


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