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Davos Sound Byte-2

By Matthieu Ricard on February 06, 2010

At the Davos World Economic Forum, I also participated in a session on ‟Lessons from the Past to Redesign Future Values” with Jody Williams. She received the Nobel Peace Price in 1997 for relentlessly and successfully campaigning for a United Nations' treaty banning landmines. She told the UN delegates that they were proceeding in too slowly, ‟You are pondering for hours about where a comma should be placed in the text, but what you need is to first feel and act as human beings. Stop keeping apart the human being you are and the job you are doing.”

To exemplify her words, Jody and her team created a mock landmine field outside the UN headquarters in Geneva so that the delegates had to walk through it to reach the venue. A noisy blast occurred in the hall, in the public section, every 20 minutes to remind negotiators that at each of these moments, a landmine was blowing up somewhere in the world. She brought mutilated live witnesses who had barely survived a landmine explosion to meet the delegates. She reconnected the negotiators with living experience, painful reality, and palpable humanity.

In that session, I suggested that a ‟witness” program should be included in the proceedings of the World Economic Forum. In the case of Haiti, for instance, Bill Clinton made an impassionate appeal for help. The presence by his side of a survivor from the rubble would have struck an even more powerful chord in donors' hearts.  When discussing climate change, women's issues, and other pressing topics, a testimony by someone who is actually suffering from these challenges would certainly put economists and world leaders more directly in touch with the fate of humanity.