Davos Confab

Today the program focus shifts to management practice. I moderate a session on “The Loyalty Effect: Putting People First.” Since this is a concept unknown to modern American journalism (though not, of course, to Microsoft), I worry that I cannot “add much value” to the session, as we say out here on the global frontier. My panelists, though, are a lively group including the scion of a Saudi Arabian conglomerate, which, in its operations in 17 nations and its employment of workers from more than 20 countries, appears to have remarkably progressive policies. Everyone agrees that heightened world competition puts an ever larger premium on recruiting, training, and holding employees. Several members of the audience wonder why “human factors” are given such short shrift in Davos deliberations.

I buy a bus ticket to Zurich; meet with Lyric Hughes, who is running Chinaonline.com, an Internet service that provides news of goings-on in the People’s Republic of China to the wider world; and attend a press conference on Kosovo. A publisher and a radio broadcaster plead with the West to pay some attention to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s harsh crackdown on independent media. This, they say, is impeding public support for the crucial negotiations that the six nation Contact Group hopes to launch this week. I ask them if the threat of NATO force–Primakov and Annan notwithstanding–is essential to bring Milosevic to the table. You bet, they reply.

I head for my hotel to pack. Traffic is tied up by a fire in one of the big hotels (another crack in the façade of Swiss imperturbability). I am ready for repatriation.